iVirtualWorld – Building Virtual Chemistry Lab
iVirtualWorld has been extended to a domain-oriented end-user design environment for building 3D virtual chemistry experiments for introductory level chemistry education. For the old version of iVirtualWorld that is used to build virtual exhibitions, please click here.
Three-dimensional virtual chemistry experiments have advantages over real-world experiments with respect to safety, flexible accessibility and cost efficiency. But these advantages have not been taken very well by educators so far because the technical barriers of 3D virtual world technologies. VITAL Lab researches on a solution that can lower technical barriers for chemistry educators and can make building 3D virtual chemistry experiments easy.
Current virtual world building tools expose relatively low-level 3D design and programming interfaces to end users, which causes learning barriers to them. So the key idea to overcome these barriers is to hide low-level programming interfaces of these virtual world building tools, and instead design high-level abstract representations and interfaces of concepts with which end users are familiar. To prove the effectiveness of the solution, VITAL Lab developed iVirtualWorld as a prototype that provides end users a library of chemistry instruments and chemicals. End users create a virtual experiment by selecting all instruments and chemicals they need and by configuring interfaces to control the status and behaviors of these objects.
iVirtualWorld is presented to end users as a web application. The back-end is composed of a MySQL database and a translation module written in C++ converting domain-oriented concepts into the language of a virtual world building tool named Unity. Figure 1 displays the web-base domain-oriented interface. This web page has three parts. Inside the box on the left are chemistry oriented classes, such as beaker, Bunsen burner, test tube, and balance. In the center is a laboratory desktop onto which end users move items they need from the library on the left. Inside the box on the right are interfaces for each object, including status and behaviors.
Figure 2 shows a 3D virtual experiment, running inside Unity 3D web player plug-in for web browsers, generated using iVirtualWorld.