Educators have started thinking about Virtual Reality (VR) as a means of creating immersive experiences for students to enhance learning. CNDLS Serendipity Day (inspired by Google’s 20 percent time) provided some members of the dev team the chance to begin exploring VR’s potential for learning. But first, we needed to understand 3D graphics, game development, and new programming languages.

Creating a virtual dog seemed like a good place to start. The scope of the project was manageable and could be completed in a reasonable timeframe. It also allowed us to get to know different platforms, such as Unity, that are commonly used to do virtual reality development.

Using Unity, we were able to import assets, such as the environment which contains the dog. We also were able to insert a dog asset through Unity’s built-in asset store, which means that we imported fully developed 3D graphics. This gave us all the 3D components we needed so all we would have to do is change or create new code to make the dog do what we wanted. We created code so that the dog could jump, eat, run, play and sleep. Getting the dog to engage in these activities was pretty easy. We swapped out the character that came with the environment with the dog and just added more commands for the dogs tricks.

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We concluded that the virtual reality environment could enhance learning. Everyone got absorbed playing with the dog, which came “alive” during the experiment.  Based on our work with the virtual dog, we anticipate that using virtual reality could make the learning experience very enjoyable and encourage active learning.