• Chemical Process Engineering and Virtual Reality at Surrey
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Faculty staff wearing HTC Hive headset and navigating the simulation with the 3D software showing in the background

Our new AR & VR in Education network visited our in-house processing plant in Chemical and Process Engineering: http:// https://www.surrey.ac.uk/features/new-chemical-engineering-facility-replicates-industrial-experience-students-0 The students manage the plant which processes chemicals including all the health and safety requirements. They also need to manage the environmental impact including the real CO2 emissions generated by the plant.

The Director of Learning and Teaching for Chemical and Process Engineering, Professor Esat Alpay won a HEFCE grant to develop a virtual reality simulation to enhance the plant. A research student completing a PhD about virtual reality in engineering education has been developing the virtual reality in Unity over the last two years – Jiri Motojlek. 3D cinematic animations have also been added. The PhD student has discovered that to stop students feeling sick when they wear a virtual reality headset (HTC Hive and I think an Oculus headset as well), you need 90 frames per second instead of 60 frames per second. They are also looking at working with our computing science and research centres to add in artificial intelligence. One of our CVSSP whose research area is 3D and vision said it was the best VR simulation they have tried.

It has been very popular with the students and they contribute to the future development, but the biggest challenge is evaluating its effectiveness as a learning enhancement. It is also not something that could be instantly be resuable by another faculty or school because most of the development is relevant content creation specific to that area and this takes the bulk of time. However some of our faculty staff may be able to find students willing to learn Unity and develop their own simulations. Hospitality and Tourism have already been linking up with the department and also Biosciences are investigating options.

This was a hectic visit because they have students evaluating the plant, the 2D training simulation and the virtual reality as part of the research project and for their final year projects.

If you’d like to know more or have questions about the visit, please contact me or leave a comment below.