We recently covered a (at that point unnamed) VR project by developer Tomáš “Frooxius” Mariančík, the mind behind the stunning ‘Sightline’ VR series of demos. The project fused Leap Motion skeletal hand tracking with Oculus Rift DK2 positional tracking to produce an impressively intuitive VR interface. Now, a new video of the interface shows impressive progress. We catch up with Tomáš to find out some more about this mysterious VR project.
Enter the ‘World of Comenius’
The virtual reality resurgence that is currently underway, necessarily and predictably concentrates on bringing people new ways to consume and experience media and games. This is where virtual reality has the best chance of breaking through as a viable technology, one that will appeal to consumers worldwide. But virtual reality’s greatest impact, at least in terms of historical worth to society, could and probably will come in the form of non-entertainment based fields.
Using the power of VR to teach is something we’ll see more and more of, primarily because it addresses the age-old duality between a Teacher’s ability to teach and a pupil’s capacity to be engaged with and grasp the subject. Also, the capacity VR has to convey difficult concepts is an excitingly untapped spring, that could help people understand things they’d previously found difficult to grasp. A good example is the now classic Oculus Rift demo Titans of Space, an application that succeeded in presenting the vastness of celestial bodies been so eloquently and effectively.
World of Comenius aims to draw on the legacy of a 17th Century Czech teacher (the titular John Amos Comenius), to demonstrate how future educational applications might present and allow users to interact with teaching materials. It’s the name of a new project Mariančík is working on. As we featured recently, it uses the innovative motion controller Leap Motion mounted on the face of a DK2 to detect the user’s hands and fingers, interpreting the gestures as input to control the virtual environment.
What’s it All About?
The project has intrigued us since we first saw it, so when Tomáš sent us the new video we asked him to tell us a little more about the project’s origins and its goals.
I’m working on this teamed up with some people from VR Union – people behind the RiftUP [project] (also working on [a] 5K HMD now), with me doing most of the design and development at the moment, but we’re looking to expand the team.
The project, called “World of Comenius” is an educational software that aims to utilize the VR to show people things that weren’t possible before: Play around with atoms and get intuitive “feel” of their behavior on the quantum level, swim in the cell or meet with people from history and explore the environment they lived in, while having feeling that they’re actually in there.
There’s a lot more to it though, but we’re keeping the best bits under wraps for now.
So, when will the project see the light of day?
On October 20th we’re launching a pilot project (for which this demo is built for) on a progressive secondary school here in Czech Republic: Mendelovo Gymnázium in the city Opava. We’ve got various media invited to the event as well as people from the Czech government (institute of education), so hoping something good will come out of it.
A commendable aim then. So, where does he see the project going from here and into the future?
We’ve also applied for grant from EU [European Union] in the EU Horizon 2020 project, thanks to another person we’re working with, doc. Petr Klan, who has been doing educational projects for over 30 years and helping get young people into science and engineering (including myself, which is how I met him).
Now we’re also cooperating with Mechatronic Education, a company which does educational robots (like the one in the Comenius demo which we put there) and helps us get in touch with other important people in the educational system.
Back to the ways in which virtual reality can improve the education process for those who traditional methods may lack efficacy:
But most importantly, we’re developing World of Comenius because of personal experiences with educational system (especially myself and Karel Hulec – the guy who started the RiftUP project) – we love learning, but not the way most schools teach and we want to provide something that allows people learn more naturally and intuitively and make it fun even.
So it was born out of the passion for VR, making new unique things and learning.
World of Comenius seems to be that rarest of projects, one that takes new technology and harnesses it to break ground in areas that may prove beneficial to society in general. It’s the first project of its kind that has demonstrated to me a killer app for Leap Motion in VR and at the same time shows the possibilities for VR outside of traditional games and media consumption.
What’s more, Tomáš is becoming a leading light in the VR development community, demonstrating seemingly endless creative ability and inspiring new developers entering the field. For these reasons, Tomáš “Frooxius” Mariančík is a name to watch in the coming months and years as VR gains momentum. We can’t wait to see what he comes up with next.