Researchers from the University of Reading brought a variety of haptic devices into school this week to demonstrate them to staff and students and for staff to offer feedback on the potential for using haptics to support classroom learning.
Haptic devices offer real sensory feedback on a virtual environment, meaning that by running a cursor over a virtual object by means of the haptic-enabled device, the operator can 'feel' the texture of the object and experience the effects of exerting pressure on it and the resistance it offers. The applications for such technology range from gaming (perhaps the most familiar to anyone who has used a Wii controller) to surgery, training in areas such as dentistry, and injury rehabilitation.
Although hard to describe, the best way to understand haptic technology is to try it out, and certainly staff and students were delighted with the possibilities of the virtual world. Using an Oculus Rift virtual reality headset they were able to travel around a virtual room, while another device enabled users to feel the texture of a tooth, a textured cube and a sphere. The virtual drum kit was also a hit!
Our Science team certainly felt that there could be distinct applications of the technology for the teaching of cell structure and we look forward to hearing of more developments from Reading University in future.