Project Night at the School (Udacity Nanodegree project)

Introduction

School Museum is a virtual reality app designed for Android smartphone, built using Unity Engine, which features a school in a virtual setting, consisting five rooms. Each room showcases different applications where VR technology could be used in the education sector. Among the 5 showcases, one of them is an idea and the other four are already pursued and developed by different VR companies.The purpose of this app is to bring awareness that VR could play a very important role in strengthening the interactive learning and many schools, libraries, universities and other institutions focusing on educations can make full use of these applications.

Features in the app

Once the app is run, the app places the user at the entrance of the school. Using waypoints placed at specific dedicated locations, the user can navigate to all five rooms. Here are the features of the five rooms:

Room 1 is a classroom with tables and chairs and a chalkboard.

Room 2 is a library with shelves filled with books and user can access a book in the table and listen to the contents in the form of an audiobook.

Room 3 is a board game room with a chessboard.

Room 4 is a movie room with a projector.

Room 5 is a dark room with a floating Earth with a background speech describing the Earth.

Story of the process of making the app

The main goal was to bring awareness that VR technology can help improvise learning. So, in this case, I initially created a sketch layout of a school containing five rooms. The diagram is given below:

Based on the figure above, I have looked up online and searched for companies who are already building VR educational solutions. Here are my findings:

  1. Immersive VR Education has a product called Engage platform, that simulates classroom environment in a virtual reality setting. It can accommodate 35 users and although the app has got classroom environment, it also provides added effects only possible in virtual reality setting. Also based on subject matter, the lecturer can change the overall environment of the classroom.
  2. Unimersiv and Within develops educational content on different subject matters, which are more individualized and immersive.
  3. Catan VR is a game development company which built the Catan board game in virtual reality setting. The users can enjoy different changing environment while playing the board game.
  4. Nearpod is a company that combines VR and AR technology with traditional lesson plans. It also embraces 360 photos and videos in their lesson plan.

Consideration

While building the app, the following considerations are taken:

The game should not make the user have motion sickness.

The user should be able to fully understand how to use the app

The contents displayed in the app should be clear and concise.

User testing and outcomes

Initially I have tested the game with a family member of mine. Here is the first outcome.

Test 1, User: Rafid

He was not sure what he was supposed to do. I had to tell him to click on the floating boxes to move around. In some cases, he could not access the waypoints and move around.

My solution: I have improvised the app, by adding voice guide to specific waypoints and also added a voice introducing the school museum and asking the user to click on the waypoints. I also added more waypoints to reduce the distance between the waypoints so that user can easily click the waypoints.

Test 2, User: Rafid

He could not see some texts because it was too small and the video was very small.

My solution: I had to increase the UI Canvases that held the texts, images and videos. I also added a waypoint to bring the user closer to the UI Canvases.

Test 3, User: Rafid

He could not hear the sound of the voice that described Earth.

My solution: The audio source that I used for the voice talking about Earth is a different one compared to all other audio sources. The Earth one used 3D spatial audio to simulate a voice coming from a speaker in a room and is looping constantly. I had to tweet the volume and range setting so that the user can hear the voice, once he/she enters the Earth room.

Final piece

The following video shows the user navigating and interacting with all the features in the game. As stated above, the final pieces contains five rooms, which showcases five different applications used for educational purposes. Most of them are there for a show and cannot be interacted, unless improvisation is done to add more interactions (possibly building the app for Oculus or HTC Vive).

Conclusion and future plans

This is an Udacity project and I have been asked to build this system for Google Cardboard and I hope further improvisation can be done when it is built for Oculus or Vive. For example, the user can use his/her hand to turn pages of books and read its contents if they do not prefer audio. The user can use their hands to move chess pieces. Multiplayer options can be added so that more users can get in the same app session. Users can access the Earth and click on different parts and research even deeper. Right now, my biggest concern would be improving the graphics of the game to make it more natural and add doors and windows.

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