Inspiration

Virtual Reality offers the potential to experience wonders like never before. In a matter of seconds, one can emerge in other worlds, vast landscapes, surreal environments, and even inside of a human cell. Our team decided to create this project for HackingEDU in order to showcase the power of Virtual Reality to immerse and educate users at the same time. VR has the power to inspire joy, captivate audiences, and blend the wall between fiction and reality. We sought to use this capability for a greater purpose, and developed for education, hoping to encourage a love for learning while simultaneously granting a truly unique and enjoyable experience. And thus, Cell VR was created!

What it does

Cell VR offers the chance to deeply explore and interact within a human cell. Your job is to connect different resources inside a cell in order to simulate how an actual cell may work. Simply drag glucose into mitochondria in order to create ATP, which can then be thrown into the nucleus for mRNA in return. The list goes on, and through Cell VR, one can both learn about the cell and experience a unique and innovative educational game.

How I built it

Cell VR was built using the Oculus Rift, the Sixense Razer Hydras, the Unity Game Engine, and Autodesk Maya for 3D modeling. In fact - all models were made by the team, and no external models were used. The Oculus Rift was our VR hardware, and the Razer Hydras were our chosen input mechanism, and they allow easy grabbing and moving of cell parts. The Unity Game Engine is our teams favorite engine, and the one we use the most often.

Challenges I ran into

Our greatest challenge was deciding whether or not we were qualified- or knowledgeable enough- to teach Biology. We had to do the required research and make sure that we were getting our facts correct, since this is an educational project. When it comes to using hardware like the Razer Hydras and the Oculus Rift, it's hard to divide work efficiently. What one person builds for the project may not work on someone else's computer, simply because VR plugins are not supported. As a result, collaboration involves quite a bit of messy GitHub interaction and file transferring that often resulted in frustration.

Accomplishments that I'm proud of

Our team was able to successfully make a full educational game in 36 hours, and felt accomplished that we created something that may truly make a difference. Virtual Reality has incredible amounts of potential outside the gaming industry, and we believe that we can set standards in a field that has hardly been developed. We were able to make the first step in making a difference.

We also discovered that there is such a thing as caffeinated cereal. I'm pretty proud of that.

What I learned

User interaction is extremely important, and we discovered that it's important to consider how someone else may interact with our game. Should we add instructions? Should the user pull or grab objects? It's sometimes hard to consider what might happen in the game before we demo it to the public, but we learned a lot about differing perspectives, even among each other.

What's next for Cell VR

We hope to create different kinds of cells, such as liver cells, muscle cells, and maybe even plant cells that the user can explore and interact with.

EDIT: See our updated Vive version of Cell VR! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QoPGzdVlx3M

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Updates

Connor Smith posted an update

Thank you so much to all those at HackingEDU who supported the project and helped us become Top 10 Finalists! We worked hard to create something that could really change the future of education, and it was incredible to be able to have that recognized in demos and on stage. You rock!

We hope to continue development even now, as we work to integrate even more types of cells that the user can choose from. Stay updated!

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