25 February 2012

Virtuality for Language Learning

Merging the real world with its mirror in a virtual world so that students can be immersed in a hybrid learning environment that permits improved language teaching: that is the objective of scientists at the Universidad Carlos III de Madrid (UC3M) who have developed the first prototype that demonstrates how a platform of this type works. These researchers have used an open code platform to create distributed three-dimensional virtual worlds (OpenWonderland), and they have made use of geolocalization, which is already incorporated in smartphones. The purpose is to take advantage of the immersion characteristics that virtual worlds offer along with the interaction of these three spaces (reality, the virtual world and the hybrid one) in order to create e-learning activities in the field of languages.

The researchers have recently carried out a pilot test of the prototype in the center of Madrid in which Spanish was taught to foreigners. They created a mirror of the real world, in this case of the Gran Via in the capital, and they superimposed digital information on the reality that the users observed through a camera and a mobile phone screen. This way they were able to create a world of enhanced reality and the users who are walking along the street can see the avatars that represent the participants in their smartphones, which are connected to the platform via Internet. With this system, students who are inside of the system can see the movements of the avatar who represents the teacher, who may really be in the street, and who can, in turn, interact with the students by means of his/her mobile phone.

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