People Recall Information Better Through Virtual Reality
Maryland,USA: While the use of virtual reality (VR) for gaming and entertainment continues to grow, the technology also shows promise for changing the landscape of industries such as medicine, education and workforce training.
With this recent emphasis on the use of VR in high-impact areas, University of Maryland researchers conducted one of the first in-depth analyses on whether people learn better through virtual, immersive environments, as opposed to more traditional platforms like a two-dimensional desktop computer or hand-held tablet.
The researchers found that people remember information better if it is presented to them in a virtual environment. The results of the study were recently published in the journal Virtual Reality.
"This data is exciting in that it suggests that immersive environments could offer new pathways for improved outcomes in education and high-proficiency training," says Amitabh Varshney, professor of computer science and dean of the College of Computer, Mathematical, and Natural Sciences at UMD. Varshney leads several major research efforts on the UMD campus involving virtual and augmented reality (AR), including close collaboration with health care professionals interested in developing AR-based diagnostic tools for emergency medicine and VR training for surgical residents.
In addition to Varshney, the paper's authors include Catherine Plaisant, a senior research scientist in the University of Maryland Institute for Advanced Computer Studies, and Eric Krokos, a doctoral student in computer science.
For the study, the UMD team used the concept of a "memory palace," where people recall an object or item by placing it in an imaginary physical location like a building or town. This method -- researchers refer to it as spatial mnemonic encoding -- has been used since classical times, taking advantage of the human brain's ability to spatially organize thoughts and memories.
The results showed an 8.8 percent improvement overall in recall accuracy using the VR headsets, a statistically significant number according to the research team.
In post-study questionnaires, all 40 participants said that they were completely comfortable -- and adept - in navigating a desktop computer to access information, yet all but two said they preferred the immersive VR environment as a potential learning platform. The questionnaire also found that only two people said they felt "uncomfortable" using VR.
Many of the participants said the immersive "presence" while using VR allowed them to focus better. This was reflected in the research results: 40 percent of the participants scored at least 10 percent higher in recall ability using VR over the desktop display.
"This leads to the possibility that a spatial virtual memory palace - experienced in an immersive virtual environment - could enhance learning and recall by leveraging a person's overall sense of body position, movement and acceleration," the research says.
The UMD team believes this study will lay the groundwork for other scientific inquiry on the value of VR and AR for education.
(Indebted to various sources)