Domes and immersive environments are powerful spaces with vast possibilities for learning in a unique space that is designed to aid the comprehension of complex subjects.

In this latest blog, Ian Dyer, international commercial manager at Visuals Attractions, discusses how interactive tools and custom workflows for the management of data and learning materials are transforming the learning experience inside these spaces.

What learning / educational groups are immersive spaces being used for?

Immersive spaces have been used for some time by postgraduate study groups for research applications. In recent years, we have seen undergraduate groups also adopt interactive tools within an immersive setting to view key scientific data, and now study groups of all levels are using these environments for core curriculum enhancement that goes beyond just astronomy or astro-physics.

Immersive spaces are becoming a ‘must-have’ for any enlightened and ambitious college or school – they enable students of all ages to grasp complex data and simulations in a relaxed and informal setting.

We’ve had so many ‘ah’ realisation moments in the dome, which you don’t typically see in mass-participation environments. These unique spaces and methods of learning can aid comprehension of complex subjects with a mix of visuals and verbal, to really get deep inside the topic being presented.

What interactive tools are available for learning in a dome or immersive space?

In terms of interactive tools within the dome software there are vast possibilities when it comes to mixing real-time data, and or near real-time data, or pre-sequenced video vignettes.

In this context, ‘near real-time’ refers to real-time data you can fly-through within an immersive space, as opposed to the ‘real-time’ known from the world of gaming. Mixing and layering simulations, data and models on a timelined canvas for educational purposes brings huge value to immersive environments as we can work with a wide selection of overlays, insertions and live feeds on any subject topic. Using these interactive tools means that educators can pre-script, archive and recall media and data and even change scenarios and outcomes to show test cases and theoretical modelling.

However, that’s not to say that ALL media and data can be shown on the dome in its raw state. It needs to look geometrically ‘correct’, which includes the processing of media and datasets, taking into consideration geometry correction and aspect ratios.

Can students interact with the tools directly, as well as educators?

At the simplest level, we can integrate live-response Q&A or voting systems. This could be in the form of an Xbox controller, for example, that could also be configured to fly through real-time data or alternate outcome simulations. There are more advanced possibilities involving generative outcome models and advanced image generation with graphics layering for simulations etc. That turns the immersive environment into a laboratory and visual mixing tool.

Are there any age range limitations?

Immersive spaces and their interactive tools can be used from kindergarten age. For this age range, we typically see learning taking place within a science centre setting.

Take, for example, the reasons for the moon appearing and disappearing between night and day – visualising and discussing this under the dome can help young minds understand as they virtually ‘go inside’ the concept. And make sense of everyday science and multiple questions.

How can data and content be manipulated and controlled in real time as part of the interactive approach?

Depending on the data and material source, real-time interactive capability and pre-sequenced near real-time simulations can be ingested by the media server system and brought onto the dome, or immersive screen, surface.

Educators and research teams can interact with this data in such a way that alternate outcomes and best-case scenarios can be modelled and visualised within the learning environment – for example, in the case of tropical storm patterns and the simulation of ‘perfect storm’ conditions, researchers can adjust coordinates and create ‘what-if’ analyses to explain the different outcomes available. Taking data points and modelling case studies to understand triggers.

How do we plan and design for an interactive tool approach for advanced learning?

This is a really crucial stage, and one that sees us look at the core mission, the curriculum studies of the facility, and places us working closely with the client team to build a toolbox of educational resources and available data.

During this process, our automation team collaborates with the client team to design the interface that will provide protected access to both live and archived data. Whatever you teach, and whatever your mission may be, we can bring your data, studies, resources and lectures into the immersive space. We understand the importance of being able to digitally archive and recall data and educational materials.

Our approach is always to consult and collaborate with clients and all internal stakeholders – customisation is at the core of what we do.

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