Delving into virtual reality with Mantis Digital Arts

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Today’s guest post comes from Sam Stauffer, who currently works at Mantis Digital Arts in Brookings, South Dakota. Mantis is a game studio dedicated to creating educational and immersive games for kids. And not the kind of games that turn you into a drooling couch potato; games that can teach you, that can be methods of family bonding. Here, Sam talks about how they are using the capabilities of virtual reality. [Edited by Marisa Jackels]

 

Virtual Reality is rapidly accelerating the world of technology. It has assisted military members through post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), created advancements in healthcare, and trained astronauts. But, perhaps most interestingly, virtual reality provides us with an alternate way to engage with the world.

Due to its side effects, the history of virtual reality has been a bit bumpy. It is known to cause motion sickness, balance issues, and increased heart rate to players. But these negative physical and/or mental reactions do not mean that there aren’t benefits to virtual reality.

Samuel Vauhgan’s reblog comments, “We believe that the Oculus Rift (VR Headset) will expand to other psychological treatments ranging anywhere from people who have experiencing a traumatic event such as a car accident, or other major life change.”

The danger of the “flow state”

Of course, there is the overarching fear behind virtual reality; that it will slowly begin to suck away at real life, that eventually it could become exploited as the ultimate form of escapism. In 2005, artist Eran Fowler created this chilling image:

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Photo courtesy of EranFolio

It is true, from what we know now, that video games are addicting.

In a 2014 article titled “Legal Heroin: Is virtual reality our next hard drug,” Forbes’ writer Steven Kotler writes about the potential for virtual reality to produce states of heightened awareness, or “flow states.”

“When video games start producing full-scale flow states is arguably the point that VR becomes more fun and perhaps more meaningful than actual reality,” Kotler writes. “This could produce a serious real world emigration, where large swatches of society begin to live more in the virtual than the actual.”

There are, however, many positive ways to look at virtual reality — ways that are already in action to create better education and collaboration. As with many things, it’s all in how we handle it.

Virtual reality to enhance reality

Mantis Digital Arts, for instance, is a huge advocate for collaboration through gameplay.

Twitter_Profile“I’m not against VR,” said Coy Yonce III, founder of Mantis Digital Arts. “I think it’s a great technology. I just think we need to be careful about how we apply it.”

Mantis believes that players can learn and retain a wide span of knowledge through gameplay by interacting in conversation with their peers. Even though VR is seclusive to single players, it can be a very educational tool when used properly.

For instance, VR is a great tool to use for class or home-based education. If a class is learning about Egyptian Pyramids, allowing students to use VR for ten minutes to explore the inside of a real pyramid will be much more memorable than just learning at pictures.

VR recreates the experience and engages them to feel like they are actually in an Egyptian Pyramid. This enables them to explore the inside and see details with their own eyes.

VR can also be a tool to assist in the professional field by educating learners to perform surgery for certain conditions. The elements of VR can be used to create a practice surgery allowing the learner to visualize a real procedure and engage in it.

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Coy (far right) at a game meet-up hosted by Mantis.

Using virtual reality in education also creates a way to learn through social interaction, rather than in isolation. Engaging in conversation about the pyramids they saw allows children to maintain a deeper understanding of their studies. Recreating a surgery enables doctors to discuss the practice while visually and verbally communicating ways to solve problems or do a procedure.

Addiction can be prevented by reading how long VR sessions should last, and following the guidelines on how to properly use a headset. Oculus Rift mentions in their safety guidelines, “Ease into the use of the headset to allow your body to adjust; use for only a few minutes at a time at first, and only increase the amount of time using the headset gradually as you grow accustomed to virtual reality.”

Next time you get the chance to use a VR headset take the opportunity to engage with the people around you. Take turns playing a game or watch how it trains astronauts for their first space mission.

Then, talk about it. Engage in a conversation about the experience. Virtual reality is cool, and it’s definitely a neat way to experience modern technology. But the greatest part about it is that it can enhance our actual reality — not replace it.

 

Learn more about virtual reality at the Fargo VR meet-up, Sunday April 27 @ 5:45 PM at the Prairie Den! Sign up here.

Marisa Jackels

Marisa Jackels

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