Virtual Reality Learning Studio (VRLS)

Upcoming Events

VRLS Official Launch Virtual Reality Workshop

Time: Tuesday, 15th May 2018, 12:00 - 1:30 PM

Time: Wednesday, 30 May 2018, 12:00-1:00

Location: VRLS- Level 3 North, Medical Building 181

Location: VRLS- Level 3 North, Medical Building 181

Experience Virtual Reality first-hand in the largest room scale Virtual Reality teaching space in Australia.
Lunch and champagne provided

Interested in using virtual reality in your curriculum? Come along to discuss the advantages of VR education, explore existing software, and learn about developing your own.

For further details about either of these two events contact us:

What is so special about virtual reality

Virtual Reality provides an unparalleled sense of immersion and connection with the content. The user is instantly transported to an operating theatre, a bushfire, a museum, or even inside the body, enabling students to visit places and interact with scenarios which would otherwise be inaccessible or too dangerous. Rural students may visit state-of-the-art laboratories; medical students can see virtual patients with diseases that may not regularly appear in hospitals; paramedics can practice life-saving techniques without the risk of harm. In addition, immersive animations and simulations enable students to interact with a beating heart, or shrink down to assemble large molecules from individual atoms.

VR content development: The Human Heart

The VRLS was founded in the Department of Physiology by Dr Charles Sevigny (Senior Lecturer) and Mr Jairus Bowne (Senior Tutor). It began modestly with two Oculus Rift’s for development, but as interest and enthusiasm for the project grew, that expanded to six and then 16 setups thanks to seed funding from the Faculty of Medicine, Dentistry, and Health Sciences, Prof David Williams, and the David White Award for Teaching Excellence (received by Dr Sevigny).

The Department of Physiology’s Virtual Reality Learning Studio is the largest room scale Virtual Reality learning space in Australia. Currently there are 16 Oculus Rift stations, each of which allows the user a 4m2 space in which to interact with their virtual world. The VRLS is designed to enable immersive education for large cohorts using both existing content and learning tools we have developed within the Department.

First Project - Virtual Human Heart

The project first began with the creation of the Virtual Human Heart (animated by Mr Bowne) as a tool for learning the intricacies of cardiac function in a virtual space. In collaboration with Unity developers at the Networked Society Institute (University of Melbourne), a  highly detailed interactive model of the human heart is being developed. This model enables the user to hold a beating heart in their hand, disassemble parts or make them transparent, and slow down the cycle to get a clear vision of all the moving parts. Ultimately, students will be able to view electrical overlays and physiological readouts, apply a variety of pathologies to view functional changes, and more.

The model is highly detailed and accurate, representing the collaboration of cardiologists, anatomists, and physiologists. We strive to make the model relevant for students ranging from first-year undergraduate through to graduate medicine.

The virtual heart will be deployed to a test group of students in spring of 2018, with full-scale deployment in undergraduate Physiology scheduled for semester 1, 2019.

Current projects

Physiology Students Overcome Acrophobia Using Virtual Reality

Undergraduate students in the subject Experimental Physiology are harnessing the power of virtual reality (VR) to make life a little easier for those afraid of heights. In an experiment to test the efficacy of VR in exposure therapies for phobias, students recorded physiological responses to stress such as heart rate and cortisol levels at the top of Melbourne’s Eureka Tower Skydeck. Students then subjected themselves to a VR height simulator program called Richie’s Plank Experience which takes the user to the top of a skyscraper with only a small plank on which to walk out over the street far below. After several weeks of VR exposure, students ventured back to the Eureka Tower to see if the therapy reduced their stress response compared to control (the same VR program, except the control group remained on the footpath at the base of the virtual building). The results? A significant reduction in the stress response elicited by heights.

Now that VR is becoming more readily accessible to consumers, therapies such as this become more practical for those suffering from phobias to treat themselves from the comfort of their living rooms. Afraid of spiders? There’s an app for that too...

Future Directions

The VRLS is currently available for any educators within the University of Melbourne interested in deploying VR teaching methods to their students using either our content, or the many pre-existing simulators available.

Our vision is to enable Virtual Reality simulations to students across the Biomedical Sciences at the University of Melbourne both in undergraduate and graduate programs such as Medicine and Physiotherapy. Our expertise and infrastructure are in place to enable immersive education on a large scale to enhance the learning experience for all students in our courses.