Labster’s educational Daydream VR lab simulation app is now available for download from the Google Play Store, meaning Daydream users can now gain access to a variety of free and accurate simulations covering a wide range of science topics and experiences held within a realistic virtual lab setting. For the time being, those general center around biology, giving users access to repeatable experiments and conceptual guidance, casework for applied learning, real-world lab techniques, quizzes, and advanced laboratory machinery. The experiences are guided by a virtual lab assistant and are intended to help users develop the skills needed to work in a real-world lab environment. For example, one of the free beginner experiences is a guide through proper lab safety. However, those who purchase a subscription – which cost between $23.99 and $199.99 via in-app purchase – will have access to much more content and more advanced lab experiences.
At the same time, it also offers some capabilities that wouldn’t be possible in a real-world setting. Users can, for example, zoom in on various VR elements to get an immersive perspective at the molecular level. Experiments can be sped up or rewound in order to correct mistakes, reperform an experiment, or view the results of an experiment more quickly. In addition to giving students more control over their interactions, that means they can get comfortable with proper procedures and begin to understand the consequences of their experimentation in a risk-free environment. Moreover, additional content is planned for the future. That will expand the studies to areas of ecology and animal physiology. In the former, students and users will be able to explore a fictitious planet called Astakos IV, filling in the role of an ecologist in order to learn about realistic dynamics between environments and inhabitants. The latter will be a comparative study examining how human physiology and various animal physiologies differ. Beyond that, users will be able to walk through labs associated with the endocrine, digestive, and osmoregulatory systems. Lastly, Labster plans to add more content with a specific focus on K-12 education so that school-age children can take part as well. Education departments across the board will also receive special pricing, the company says.
The company says the project has been in progress since 2015 but recently got a boost from a partnership with Google, revealed during the search giant’s I/O Developers Conference back in May. While that partnership focused on technology and bringing the experiences to the platform, Labster has been working with Arizona State University to ensure that its virtual education environment and lab experiments simulated within those are accurate. Now that those have been validated, several universities will be adding the tool to their own curriculum in addition to helping further research its use in other areas of education. ASU will be the first to kick that off with its online biology degree program this fall. A total of 30 Labster VR simulations will be used in that course, ranging from molecular biology simulations to others in ecology and physiology. Other colleges to follow will include Denmark’s Roskilde University, McMaster University in Canada, the University of Texas at San Antonio, and Roger Williams University in Rhode Island.