Quantum VR is a project based on communicating quantum physics through the use of virtual reality. A lot of my design work is based around science and mathematics, and I often incorporate ways of communicating those ideas and concepts to those not typically involved in the area. Science communication is in my opinion very important to spreading key knowledge in a way that it is comprehensible by a wide range of individuals regardless of their educational background. Quantum mechanics is a particularly difficult subject to try to explain. It is also a topic of which I am interested in personally. I decided that I should try to bridge the gap of knowledge and interest by using art and design to perform this role instead.
By using virtual reality I was able to demonstrate ideas in a more visual and interactive format. After research into retention, I discovered that when individuals experience something first hand, they are more likely to retain the information. And that virtual reality was so effective at tricking people into believing its simulated experiences to be real, that it could be used to take full advantage of experiential retention. To trial the project, the headset of which I used was the HTC Vive. The Vive headset is capable of full motion tracking and also has interactive controllers allowing the user to truly immerse themselves in VR.
The experience that I have created is intended to be a demo for future development. I have utilised macroscopic and microscopic scenery to allow the user to comprehend the visuals on both scales. The primary reason for this is, quantum mechanics is usually present in microscopic interactions. Very rarely is is seen in the macroscopic world. Humans being macroscopic tend to comprehend macroscopic interpretations easier. To get around this I replaced a microscopic scenario with a macroscopic one, and by swapping between them both, it is then easier to understand what is going on.
The main point of discussion within the experience is superposition, but I also go onto describing how probability can lead to phenomena such as quantum tunnelling. For the purpose of a demonstration, I kept the theories down to a minimum level starting with the basics. Superposition and wave-functions (probability) are integral to quantum physics. So it is important that the users understand these concepts first. Also it is also a nice fun introduction to the perceived weirdness of the quantum world.
For the most part you can just enjoy being above the Earth in space or observing a visual of a hydrogen atom. Whether the user had science capital or not, they always enjoyed floating a life-size model of the earth. At the start, you can also interact with a qubit model, which has the classic Schrödinger’s cat included correctly displaying the right states. Many users enjoyed checking out the qubit, and often ended up playing around with the zero gravity model.
The experience is quite steady and heavy on information. I added interactive elements to keep the user busy in places. Care was taken to reduce the amount of information being given in a short space of time. However the demo length had to be kept down. This was the draw back of constructing a demo version. Further development would see information being spread out into more manageable chunk and more interactive elements to keep the experience fun and engaging.
My aim is to take this project further and start developing educative experiences alongside scientists to be placed within schools, colleges and universities.