‘SuperChem VR’ Shows Impressive, Engaging Gamification of Chemistry Lab Education


I Expect You to Die developer Schell Games have released a trailer for their latest project SuperChem VR, an incredibly fun looking way to teach chemistry and perhaps a glimpse into the potential future for VR in education.

We’ve seen a lot of application attempt to capture some of the potential VR enthusiasts of immersive computing know VR can deliver. But Jessie Schell’s studio, responsible for the ingenious Bond-esque VR puzzle title I Expect You to Dieseem to really be onto something with their latest title SuperChemand I think it may be one to watch.

SuperChem’s concept is simple; Utilise the immersive properties of virtual reality to provide students with both a safe and fun environment in which to learn about chemistry. Doing this in VR means there’s no danger of harm from caustic or corrosive chemicals, no risk or accidental fire damage and, perhaps most importantly, you can give the user access to infinite resources and ensure maximum engagement by designing the setting to be fun and to encourage curiosity.

Designing a VR Escape Room Puzzle Game with 'I Expect You to Die'

“Teachers report that learning about chemicals, lab equipment and how to use the equipment correctly can be a slow process,” says Jessie Schell, CEO of Schell Games, “So SuperChem VR is designed to allow you to learn about these concepts in a safe, interactive and immersive way.”

The application as it stands puts the user in a futuristic space laboratory, surrounded by chemical dispensers, but also very un-futuristic, very familiar conical flasks and measurement cylinders. You can access different chemicals which are virtually synthesised on command and then mix any of them using the same physical actions you’d perform in real life. You can mad scientist your heart out, analysing the results as you go and, should you get stuck, there’s a friendly assistant to guide and prompt you in the right direction and to set you individual tasks and experiments to carry out. “This combination of an immersive and engaging environment with scaffolding for exploring chemistry allows you to have fun while learning,” says Schell.

The project was created with support from the Institution of Education Sciences (part of the U.S. Department of Education) along with the Small Business Innovation Research although it’s not clear if or how it’ll be rolled out for actual use in educational institutions. From my perspective however, the format seems like a winner and for someone like me who really struggled grappling with some aspects of science at school, despite having a keen interest, I think something like SuperChem VR would have been a real help in earning my engagement.

What do you think of SuperChem VR‘s concept and its practical uses for programs like it in education today and in the future?

This article may contain affiliate links. If you click an affiliate link and buy a product we may receive a small commission which helps support the publication. See here for more information.

Based in the UK, Paul has been immersed in interactive entertainment for the best part of 27 years and has followed advances in gaming with a passionate fervour. His obsession with graphical fidelity over the years has had him branded a ‘graphics whore’ (which he views as the highest compliment) more than once and he holds a particular candle for the dream of the ultimate immersive gaming experience. Having followed and been disappointed by the original VR explosion of the 90s, he then founded RiftVR.com to follow the new and exciting prospect of the rebirth of VR in products like the Oculus Rift. Paul joined forces with Ben to help build the new Road to VR in preparation for what he sees as VR’s coming of age over the next few years.
  • Wednaud Ronelus

    I am a science educator and research scientist. I am to test this app and share my thoughts with yiu via this portal.

    • Carey Tordsen

      Please do! I’ve set up a VR lab in my school with a Vive, and my science teachers have been begging for something just like this!

  • CazCore

    awesome work guys.
    this kind of thing needs to revolutionize our schools

  • The game elements seem fun (Why do I need to learn chemistry? To save the space station!) But I don’t see how a Vive setup for each student is cheaper/faster/more-space-efficient than a bunch of glass beakers, some chemicals, and a half-way decent teacher. I’m interested to see further development, but this feels like another VR solution in search of a problem.

    • Carey Tordsen

      There are two factors that make this very exciting for me. First, a chemistry lab is JUST a chemistry lab, while a Vive lab can be anything. It will work for more than just a few science lessons. The more educational software that is available, the more likely schools are to invest in VR tech, the more educational software gets made, etc.

      Second, gamification and virtual reality are things that students respond positively to, while glass beakers and dusty textbooks don’t tend to elicit much engagement these days. Students will line up to put on a Vive.

  • Lucidfeuer

    Well if it’s Jessie Schell’s, I trust it’s very well done, curious to test.