Sunday, May 28, 2017

Fostering Creativity and Innovation Through Virtual Reality in Design

One of the promises of many stellar schools is an emphasis on developing the Whole-Child for a life of purpose. In our design department, we want students to be more creative and innovative in their thinking.  Good designers are dreamers who are courageous and willing to take risks to make products and solutions that are different.  Building this type of culture and ethos is never easy.  Yet, with the right tools, students in design can grow more comfortable making mistakes and learning how to build on them to keep the project moving forward toward excellence.
One such tool that fosters a sense of resilience, fortitude, and supports a culture of courageous creativity is Virtual Reality.  VR devices like the HTC Vive are incredibly immersive, realistic, and engaging.  When students don a headset, they feel like they are in the real-world.  One of the benefits of VR is that the user can interact with the virtual environment. The scope of these environments is as deep as your imagination.  Students can paint, sculpt, build and design in a surreal context.  Student models can be changed and adapted based on iteration and feedback from others.  This new stage or step in the design process gives students more freedom to make mistakes, learn, grow, and be bold and brave as they are creating solutions to complex design challenges.  For example, students in Grade 9 re-designed passenger train cars to hold more people and combat overcrowding.  Before they built their wooden prototype, students used VR to conceptualize their models and revise.  Many noticed small mistakes in measuring and aesthetic features like the shape and location of their seats.  This important step in the process minimizes fear of making mistakes along the way before printing.

Because of it’s fully immersive nature, VR has enormous potential in education. Virtual Reality is currently used in construction, architecture, house sales, film, health care, marketing, and fashion. Here are some of my favorite VR applications that I use often in my design classes with the HTC Vive:

1. Fantastic Contraption-this is a building game, whereby students must design a cart to transport a Jelly-Ball to a certain location.

2. Bounce-this is a problem solving game whereby students use pipes and planks to get a ball from one location to another in various rooms.

3. MakeVR-this allows users to design, adapt and make objects and then send them off to be 3-d printed.

4. Prospect- this program allows students to example their CAD files and make changes and adjustments.

5. Keep talking and Nobody Explodes-this is an amazing team building and communication game. One student (wearing the headset)sees a bomb in a room and everyone outside the room has a bomb manual and must provide information to the person that sees the bomb to help cut wires and solve clues on the bomb to diffuse it.

What are your thoughts on the use of virtual reality in education?

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