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Memory Recall and the Role of Virtual Reality

It’s no secret that humans have been using technology to help recall information for thousands of years. That technology has evolved from mere paper and pen to a world dominated by digital media, and standing at the pinnacle is virtual reality (VR). Most of us may know VR as a medium to play games or enjoy 3-D video experiences, but the academic community has now recognized its vast educational applications, specifically when discussing the way we recall our information. Over the course of the last few decades, researchers around the world have conducted studies on a wide range of participants to assess the viability of VR as a tool for improved memory recall. To understand the educational and social applications of VR, we need to first understand how our brains normally process and recall information.

Introduction to Memory Recall

The human brain is responsible for a variety of memory recall functions, two of which are recognition and recall. Memory recognition is the sensation you might receive when cramming for a test. Controlled by the visual cortex, it allows us to essentially flag information in our brain so that we recognize it the next time we see it. Recall on the other hand is supported by a different network of synapses in the brain including the temporal lobe and the frontal cortex, which allow us to recreate specific memories. The brain uses a process called “encoding” to store all of this information so that we can have it readily accessible when we need it. The only way for this encoding process to work and move what we’ve learned from short-term memory to long-term memory is to strengthen our neural pathways. We can do that through repetition and the combination of a variety of stimuli such as sight and sound, which is where VR comes in.

Improving Memory Recall

In a study conducted by Eric Krokos, Catherine Plaisant, and Amitabh Varshney, researchers explored the effectiveness of learning in a VR-based environment compared to a traditional platform such as a desktop computer. Participants were fully immersed into a “memory palace”, where they were measured on their ability to recall objects based on the virtual locations. The purpose of this example was to target the way in which the brain spatially organizes memories in an unknown environment. 

It was concluded that participants consistently had 10% higher memory recall ability while using a head mounted display (HMD) in virtual reality. The ability to combine the multiple stimuli in a 3-D space allowed participants to create their own virtual experiences, converting both their recognition and recall of the events into their long-term memory more effectively than those who did not utilize VR. The lived-in experience of a VR environment proved to be a more effective catalyst for encoding as the participants were able to ingest information as if they were experiencing the events in real time.

Due to the fact that younger generations are becoming more accustomed to this virtual world, educators are looking for opportunities to engage with their students and improve their cognitive learning processes. Based on a study from George Papanastasiou, Athanasios Drigas, Charalabos Skianis, Miltiadis Lytras and Effrosyni Papanastasiou, researchers concluded that VR applications provide an effective tool to enhance learning and memory, as they provide immersed multimodal environments enriched by multiple sensory features. Students between K-12 and even through the collegiate level experienced digital-age literacy, improved creative thinking, communication, collaboration and problem solving ability. These are the cornerstone skills identified by a twenty-first century society that helps students analyze and experience their information.

Incorporating the HistoryView VR tours into classrooms have allowed students around the world to experience marvels such as the King Tut Museum and the rainforests of the Amazon. VR simply gives students the opportunity to explore their environments in a way that they have never been able to before. Having a chance to learn about a subject in a classroom setting and then having the ability to physically experience it is an invaluable way to learn. Reading about the battles that took place in the Roman Colosseum and then having a chance to walk through the ancient amphitheater through a VR tour is a way that HistoryView brings these locations to life. Being able to understand where these events took place and having the spatial reference allows students to commit their multi-pronged education to long term memory. This means that instead of having to simply memorize, students are actually able to learn and retain information.

VR tours are not only revolutionizing the educational landscape, the applications for our senior community are groundbreaking. Dementia and Alzheimer’s are two of the most common degenerative brain diseases that cause mild to severe memory impairment. Numerous neuropsychological assessments have been conducted over the years to measure the impact of various learning techniques on memory recall, one of which was done by G. Plancher, A. Tirad, V. Gyselinck, S. Nicolas, and P. Piolino. In their study, researchers targeted patients with moderate amnestic mild cognitive impairment (aMCI) diseases such as Alzheimer’s and attempted to determine whether the ability of their cognitive function and memory recall could be influenced by the type of memory exercise (VR vs standard). The study found that there was a direct correlation between a patient’s exposure into an immersive environment and their ability to encode information. Positive performance scores by their patients indicated that VR-based testing could be used for rehabilitation while also providing insight into early diagnosis.

We have been able to make the world a smaller place by bringing the beauty and culture of museums, art exhibits, national parks, and historical sites to users that would otherwise never have the opportunity to experience them. The accessibility of these virtual learning environmentsin a classroom is what makes HistoryView so unique. We allow our users to take interactive and engaging tours of historical landmarks within the comfort and ease of their preferred environment. 

It’s safe to say that scholars, educators, and users all agree that the application of VR in an educational setting are overwhelmingly positive. The question still stands as to whether or not VR does in fact assist with memory recall. If the data has proven anything, the answer is unequivocally yes. The integration of VR into the educational field and for our senior citizens has proven to have widespread applications. We take great pride in being able to help educate and benefit our users through our VR platform.


 

Citations

Krokos, Eric, et al. “Virtual Memory Palaces: Immersion Aids Recall.” Virtual Reality : the Journal of the Virtual Reality Society, vol. 23, no. 1, Springer London, 2018, pp. 1–15, https://doi.org/10.1007/s10055-018-0346-3.

Papanastasiou, G., Drigas, A., Skianis, C. et al. Virtual and augmented reality effects on K-12, higher and tertiary education students’ twenty-first century skills. Virtual Reality 23, 425–436 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10055-018-0363-2

Plancher, G., et al. “Using Virtual Reality to Characterize Episodic Memory Profiles in Amnestic Mild Cognitive 

​Impairment and Alzheimer’s Disease: Influence of Active and Passive Encoding.” Neuropsychologia, 

Pergamon, 13 Jan. 2012, https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0028393211005586

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Guest Blog: Do virtual tours add value to children’s education?

Photo by RODNAE Productions from Pexels

Virtual tours are becoming increasingly popular nowadays. Many organizations, as well as companies, are opting for a virtual tour. However, are virtual tours helpful in children’s education as well? Do they add any value to children’s education?

We will answer these questions and justify our answers as well.

Do virtual tours add value to children’s education?

Yes, Virtual tours add good value to children’s education. They do so in multiple ways, as mentioned below: 

1. Interactive experience

Usual classroom teaching can soon become monotonous for children. You need something that grasps their attention and commands it consistently as well.

With virtual tours, there is always something new to explore. That’s why you can gain children’s attention and ensure that they are fully involved throughout the virtual tour.

The interactive experience such virtual tours provide, coupled with the ability to hold children’s interest, make them a necessity rather than an optional tool.

2. High accessibility

There are many field trips that you might want to take your students to. The problem is that the overall procedure to book a field trip and to organize everything is quite cumbersome.

Not only that, the place where you’re taking your students allows you on a particular date and time as well. There are numerous accessibility issues in organizing the field trip. 

However, there are no such issues while creating a virtual tour. That is because the filming, as well as surveying of the premises, is needed just once. Also, the surveying and the filming are done by professionals rather than 50 young students. That is why; gaining access to the premises is undoubtedly easy.

Thus, the high accessibility that virtual tours provide is another reason they can add enormous value to children’s education.

Photo by Julia M Cameron from Pexels

3. Less cost

While organizing a field trip, you have to arrange transportation, food, guides, and so on. You have to do so for every student on the field trip. The cost can quickly scale up, and you might have to pay a hefty amount for the entire field trip.

Comparatively, you need to spend a small amount on creating a virtual tour just once. You can use that virtual tour for as long as you want.

When you go with a company that is the market leader in creating virtual tours like The Red Marker, you can get a virtual tour designed not only at affordable cost but with excellent quality as well. It could save you a lot of time and money as well.

4. No safety concerns

Have you tried managing a crowd of children on a busy floor? If yes, you would know how much of a hassle it is. Not only that, you have to ensure that every child remains safe.

This requires a lot of effort, planning, and constant monitoring. This is what you have to handle when you take children on a field trip.

On the flip side, when you opt for virtual tours, children can have similar experiences from the safety of their classrooms. Not only that, the teacher can focus on explaining the various parts of the tour rather than worrying about the safety of the children.

Isn’t this a great way in which virtual tours can add value to children’s education?

You bet!

Photo by Julia M Cameron from Pexels

5. Time-saving

Even if the field website is just 20 miles away, the entire field trip will still take a day. Moreover, the planning required will be of weeks as well. It means that conducting a field trip is quite time-consuming.

Virtual tours, on the other hand, are created by experts. You have to play them in the classroom. That’s why, if the virtual tour is of 2 hours, you would hardly need 2 hours in total, including planning and preparation.

It means that you can cover multiple such virtual tours in the same amount of time, which will enhance children’s learning experience.

6. Can work as a prep

Did you know that virtual tours and actual field trips can work in conjunction as well? As we have highlighted above, in a real field trip, the teacher has to monitor the children and explain the various parts of the virtual tour. However, due to juggling multiple things at once, the teacher might not cover everything. 

Children might not be able to grasp everything in real-time as well. This is where virtual tours can come in handy. With the help of virtual tours, you can easily explain the basics of the field trip to the children in advance. 

Once they know the basics, they will be more curious to explore the various parts of the site when they get there. In a way, the virtual tour can also work as a prep for the actual field trip for children.

Photo by Julia M Cameron from Pexels

7. More inclusive experience

Even with your best efforts, some children might not be able to participate in the field trip. However, in virtual tours, all the children can easily take part. It means that virtual tours provide a more inclusive experience for children.

8. Wide range of field trips possible

Teachers truly understand the importance of field trips. That is why they try and organize as many of them as they can. However, some sites are simply inaccessible for field trips.

The problem is, what should you do then? The answer is virtual tours. For example, even with the best efforts, it is impossible to get a field trip on the Air force one, is it?

However, History View offers a virtual tour of the Air Force One.

Similarly, History View offers a virtual tour of the Air Ambulance Eurocopter ec135

The point is, virtual tours make a wide range of field trips possible right from the comfort of the classroom. This is one of the primary reasons why virtual tours can add enormous value to children’s education.

So, yes, virtual tours do add value to children’s education. They do so in numerous ways. When you understand the potential of virtual tours, you will find they are a necessity rather than an additional tool.

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Case Study: Northfield Public Schools Monitors Construction and Showcases New Buildings Safely and Remotely with Matterport

Minnesota has long been a leader in public education with many school districts earning top marks compared to other districts across the United States. Northfield Public Schools, located less than an hour from Minneapolis–Saint Paul, is no exception and ranks as one of the state’s best.

The community recently decided it wanted to replace Greenvale Park Elementary, a school built in the early 1970s, with a more modern structure better suited to serving the needs of today’s teachers and students. At the same time, the school district decided to consolidate its early childhood program since the licensed daycare, early childhood family education, early childhood special education, and preschool buildings were dispersed across multiple sites.

“We wanted to provide a world-class early childhood education experience in one facility to benefit our families and the entire community,” says Northfield Public Schools Superintendent Matt Hillmann. “We knew we could serve the community better with everything under one roof.”

The district hired Minneapolis-based Knutson Construction, which specializes in both education and health care facilities, to build the new school and the community buildings. All was going well, but then COVID-19 struck when construction was only half-finished and the inability to visit the site threatened its completion.

Unexpected Ways to Collaborate and Share

Thanks to Matterport, Northfield Public Schools was able to collaborate with Knutson to complete the job during the pandemic and plans to use it to improve review processes on future projects as well.

Knutson Construction used Matterport Pro2 cameras to continuously capture the project’s progress so that Northfield’s stakeholders could remotely monitor job sites in 3D anytime from anywhere. “Matterport allowed us to share progress with board members, our leadership team, and others as the building was constructed,” says Hillmann. “Many people were unable to tour the site because of the pandemic but needed to see what was happening. The feedback was terrific.”

Since Knutson recaptured all 90,000 square feet of the facility once construction finished, Northfield plans to use the scans to showcase the new buildings to the broader community.

We haven’t been able to have a celebratory ribbon-cutting ceremony or bring our community members through the school,” Hillmann says, “but the Matterport scan will allow us to have a virtual open house and bring the new school safely into people’s living rooms so they can experience it without risk of illness.

The district also plans to share the Matterport scans with local law enforcement and emergency personnel. That way, they’ll know what the buildings look like in advance in case they need to enter a building during an emergency, which is critical, for example, if halls are filled with smoke.

A Time Capsule with X-Ray Vision

Because scans of buildings were done throughout construction, Hillmann expects the Matterport scans to come in handy even after the facility is fully operational. “The ability to see what is inside the walls is incredibly helpful,” Hillmann says. His teams will know exactly where water pipes, electrical lines, and other elements are. They’ll also know whether or not they can drill a hole into a wall without creating a problem.

In addition, heating system leaks and plumbing problems will be easier to find. “I’m looking forward to having our custodians and maintenance staff use Matterport,” says Northfield Public Schools Director of Buildings and Grounds Jim Kulseth. “Having the flexibility to see what’s inside walls will help us prevent problems or at least address them sooner and minimize damage.”

The ability to view the facility’s construction over time won’t just be useful for maintenance teams. It also is valuable to the community, acting as a 3D yearbook for the building. “The Matterport scan provides a wonderful visual record for now and the future to see how the school might continue to evolve over the years to address changing needs.”

Recruiting Students and Staff

Matterport will help Northfield remotely showcase its schools even after the pandemic ends. Prospective employees from outside the area will be able to see where they’ll be working without having to travel long distances. “We can use the Matterport scan as a recruitment tool to show off the new facilities and get prospective employees excited,” Hillmann says.

Families considering a move to the area can benefit in precisely the same way. They’ll be able to virtually tour their children’s next school just as Northfield’s parents did during the coronavirus pandemic. “We see the Matterport scan as an effective, flexible way to promote our school district and give prospective families an experience that feels almost as real as being there,” Hillmann says.

ABOUT NORTHFIELD PUBLIC SCHOOLS

Northfield Public Schools serves Northfield, Minnesota, a city of around 20,000 people less than an hour south of Minneapolis–Saint Paul. Ranked the thirteenth-best school district in the state, it serves the community with three elementary schools, a middle school, a high school, and an alternative high school. It also sponsors a number of charter schools.
https://northfieldschools.org/

HEADQUARTERS
Northfield, Minnesota

INDUSTRY
Education

CHALLENGE
Create accurate 3D scans of construction projects to monitor progress during the pandemic and give virtual tours to the community.

PRODUCTS
Matterport Pro2

SOLUTION
Matterport creates immersive 3D digital spaces that can be visited and explored remotely, anytime from anywhere.