Virtual reality and immersive technologies
The Learning Environments virtual reality lab allows staff and researchers to explore and experiment with interactive virtual reality applications for use in teaching and learning, research and engagement.
The Learning Environments Virtual Reality Lab was established in 2014 to facilitate the development and application of immersive technologies in teaching and learning, research and engagement. Online consultations are available for academic staff, professional staff and research higher degree students working on virtual reality related projects. Advice related to virtual production using green screen technology and mixed-reality capture is also available. Learning Environments collaborates with researchers across the University on a range of interdisciplinary projects. The lab is currently operating remotely due to COVID-19.
Networked music performance in virtual reality: Comparing the experience of singing in virtual reality with videoconferencing.
Music therapy in virtual environments: Developing a virtual reality platform for telehealth group singing interventions for people with quadriplegia.
Tamplin, J., Loveridge, B., Clarke, K., Li, Y., & J Berlowitz, D. (2019). Development and feasibility testing of an online virtual reality platform for delivering therapeutic group singing interventions for people living with spinal cord injury. Journal of Telemedicine and Telecare, https://doi.org/10.1177/1357633X19828463. Open access version: https://minerva-access.unimelb.edu.au/handle/11343/238828
- Educators in VR International Summit March 2020
- Learning through Immersive Media November 2019
- The new hyper-reality of work October 2017
- Virtual reality in the biology classroom April 2017
- Accessibility of virtual reality environments May 2016
- Using AltspaceVR for collaboration in virtual reality August 2015
- Learning Environments virtual reality research and development lab December 2014
- Creating content for virtual reality experiences October 2014
Activities at the University
- Immersive technologies: Teams group, Yammer Group (University of Melbourne only)
- Virtual Reality Mailing List (Monthly updates about VR news at the Uni and beyond)
- Interaction Design Lab Seminars - Weekly seminars on topics relevant to interaction design.
Other areas exploring new technologies at the University
- Digital Learning Hub (School of Biosciences)
- MakerSpaces (Melbourne School of Design)
- Masters projects (Interaction Design Lab) (opportunities for students)
- Networked Society Institute (no longer an active institute)
Other ways to get involved in the VR community
VR meetups (when possible) are a great way to meet other VR developers and enthusiasts and occur regularly throughout the year around Melbourne.
Getting started with VR
This comprehensive guide to getting started with virtual reality is a great resource for headsets and information. So is this one. For high-volume University events uses such as teaching and learning or Open Day activities we generally recommend the Oculus Quest but there are other good choices depending on your needs and new hardware is always being released. For tethered PC VR options check out this article on purchasing a VR ready system or contact us for assistance.
Online courses (self-paced)
For high-use cases such as public demonstrations or classes we recommend purchasing VR covers. Non-alcoholic antibacterial wipes are also recommended to wipe down the covers between users, alcoholic wipes may be uncomfortable for some people’s faces. Disposable face-masks from VRCover may also be an appropriate option.
Standalone VR HMD's such as the Oculus Quest can be great for an easy to use and support experience. If you require PC-based VR, follow the recommended VR specifications, check out this article on purchasing a VR ready system and choose from a number of pre-built ‘VR-ready’ systems. Charles Sevigny from the School of Biosciences has written an overview of how to choose headsets here: Virtual Reality in Education - Understanding a range of features to select appropriate headsets. You can also contact us for the latest hardware recommendations.
When developing for virtual reality, although different users have varying levels of tolerance it’s important to prevent users from experiencing simulator sickness. This occurs when a user in the real world experiences acceleration beyond a personal comfortable level in the virtual world. This article Keeping Simulator Sickness Down provides an excellent overview of this issues to keep in mind when designing VR experiences.
When recording 360 content or displaying videos in the classroom, we recommend that special care be taken to ensure students are not subject to hardware or experiences that induce nausea (ie rollercoaster rides on a Google cardboard system or 360 videos filmed from a first-person handheld perspective). Commercially available headsets such as the HTC Vive Pro, Oculus Quest and Oculus Rift S are the current recommendations for the best quality hardware. Limiting time for users experiencing 3DoF content (such as 360 photos or videos) is an important consideration since translational movement is not tracked and the effects of this mismatch can build up over time.
Although not everyone experiences simulator sickness in the same way, designing for the health and safety of the audience in mind ensures the most accessible experience for everyone. Furthermore, shooting 360 video using a tripod is also a great way to retain the cleanest image by reduces compression artefacts from camera movement.
Demonstrations of virtual reality experiences need to be accessible for all users since a poorly designed or setup experience will often put people of using VR again. We are happy to assist with consultation on VR demonstration best practices.