Project Background & Aims
Language and cultural differences can be a barrier for ensuring best-as-possible care for patients. In Germany, for example, where the demand for doctors is greater than the number of these national professionals , it is often the case of hiring doctors from other countries with no prior knowledge of German. In some cases, the language learning takes place when they are already practicing medicine in German hospitals, which creates a demand for fast and efficient learning. In the other way around, many German health professionals are dealing in a daily basis with foreign language patients, specially in the case of refugees. Therefore, language learning for specific purposes has in Virtual Reality a combination of a more realistic environment, task performance training, voice recognition and feedback of virtual agents. In the case of language learning, this can reduce learners’ anxiety of speaking in the real world and motivate them to practice the target language. This project is part of an ongoing PhD research that has been investigating VR potentials for second language vocabulary acquisition at Universidade Federal de Juiz de fora, Brazil. As a result of a successful VR environment design and implementation, a lower cost for language learning can be implemented in hospitals and care centres in order to allow them to address common issues and worries in other languages and within the context of multiculturalism.
The VR environment to be developed with this project will combine language vocabulary (reading, speaking and listening) with task performances, such as clinical history (anamnesis), examination, diagnosis explanation, prescription administration and replying to patients’ questions and recognizing different cultural modes for these interactions. This VR experience does not aim to be a replacement for other language learning methods, but to provide a quick, realistic and enjoyable training where language is directly related to how well a task is performed. This project will implement virtual agents (acting as patients) with voice recognition and proper oral and gestural responses. Although a VR environment can be appealing, in the current academic literature, sense of presence is not always associated with memory retention, embodied learning and audio-visual clues in VR do not help in short-term memory of vocabulary items. However, the role of affect and how to better achieve it in VR are not being studied, even though it has been pointed out, in other cognitive research areas, its importance for memory and problem solving. Therefore, in this project the interaction among user and virtual agents will be carefully planned and executed according to theories in sociolinguistics, multimedia learning and aesthetics. A comparative study (between the VR environment and a desktop application) will also be needed. For the experimental group, HTC Vive headsets and controllers will be used. In both cases, participants will explore the environment in first person and have tasks to perform (which involves patient – health professional interaction – manipulation of objects). Vocabulary learning will take place implicitly during the user-patient interaction, but the scene will contain links to words pronunciation and definition, as well as a demonstration on how to use the target vocabulary. If successful, the project methodology could be applied for other fields of vocabulary acquisition.
The core/required features of the setup for the project are:
• A simple and relatively high-quality virtual environment that promotes an aesthetically pleasant and non-distracting user experience;
• Intuitive interactions with the system;
• 3D modelling of health care related objects;
• Sound recording
• Evaluation of the system (comparison study)
This project should be implemented in Amazon Sumerian (those with practical knowledge of Unity will find Amazon Sumerian similar and simpler in terms of interface. Amazon Sumerian develops only for the web.