Virtual reality can take students to the edge of an erupting volcano or into the inner workings of the human body.

“We can create all kinds of immersive environments that are difficult or impossible to have in the physical world,” says Ali Arya, associate professor at Carleton University. School of Information Technology.

Professor Ali Arya

“Virtual reality gives us the flexibility to create realistic as well as unrealistic visualizations. These can help students grasp concepts that are complex and abstract, or difficult to visualize. »

Consider the human brain. With nearly a hundred billion neurons activated in more than 150 distinct areas, there’s a lot going on in this inert mass of soft tissue. The brain is not only the most complex organ in our body, it could be the most complex structure in the entire universe.

“You can’t actually see how the different parts of the brain work, but with the support of cognitive scientists and artists, we’re able to create a virtual reality environment that’s a stylistic representation of it,” says Arya.

“It’s not a realistic representation of physical space. It allows students to explore the brain as they would a building, i.e. going to different rooms and floors to see how they work. This visualizes the brain in a much easier to grasp way.