USU using virtual reality programs for research

Several researchers at USU are collaborating with Intel Labs to conduct their research in a 3-D virtual environment.Biology doctoral student Arron Duffy is using ScienceSim, a “virtual land-grant” program offered by Intel, to model how population genetics are affected by the unique life cycles of fern plants.Intel hosts hundreds of virtual acres of land on its powerful servers through a Web application called OpenSim, which is an open-source version of the popular social media video game “Second Life.”Lee Mason, coordinator for the Office of Special Education Programs and a Ph.D. student in curriculum and instruction, is working with Peter Blair, Ph.D. student in instructional technology and learning sciences, to develop a program to train special education student-teachers at distance education sites throughout the state.Mason and Blair plan to use OpenSim as a way to role-play common, but sometimes difficult, situations that special-education teachers encounter.”We found that we could give student-teachers experience that they would not have otherwise received in distance learning sites, like Blanding or Toole,” Mason said.The OpenSim technology will be used to simulate meetings that teachers would have with parents and other educational professionals to coordinate their efforts in individual special-education students, Blair said. Mason and Blair initially used “Second Life” to remotely train tutors for the Bridgerland Literacy program. They are now in the pilot stage of their special education application for the technology.

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