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XR Research & Resources: Research

Useful links: - News and resources on VR for educators, discusses the possibilities of virtual reality in education, focusing on apps and research-based effective uses of virtual reality in the classroom. - Virtual reality & augmented reality blog hosted through Medium. - An international non-profit with a mission to lift humanity by unlocking intelligence and linking minds to address the pervasive problems of our world. 

Stanford's Virtual Human Interaction Lab - This lab does research and other projects to understand the dynamics and implications of interactions among people in immersive virtual reality simulations. 

→ Go back to the Nevada XR Libraries Initiative page.

XR Research & Resources

Lamb, C., Antomenko, P., Etopio, E., & Seccia, A. (2018). Comparison of virtual reality and hands on activities in science education via functional near infrared spectroscopy. Computers & Education, 124, 14-26.

The purpose of this study, led by Dr. Richard Lamb at the University at Buffalo, was to investigate differences between four teaching methods in life sciences in the rapid delivery of blood to neural tissue in order to activate specific areas of the brain for engagement in cognitive processing. This study found that:

  • Using realistic 3D immersive environments as targeted interventions at critical times may help rebuild the current deficit in science learning.
  • Higher cognitive dynamics, increases in attention, and critical thinking are elicited in subjects engaging in learning through VR.

Merchant, Z., Goetz, E. T., Cifuentes, L., Keeney-Kennicutt, W., & Davis, T. J. (2014). Effectiveness of virtual reality-based instruction on students' learning outcomes in K-12 and higher education: a meta-analysis. Computers & Education, 70, 29-40.

This meta-analysis attempts to examine the overall effect and impact of instructional design principles in the context of virtual reality technology-based instruction in K-12 or higher education settings. Key findings include:

  • Results suggest games, simulations, and virtual worlds were effective in improving learning outcome gains
  • Studies that used simulations to provide students the opportunity to practice a concept that they learnt via other instructional methods were more effective than the studies that used a stand-alone format of instruction

Krokos, E., Plaisant, C., & Varshney, A. (2018). Virtual memory palaces: immersion aids recall. Virtual Reality, 23(1), 1-15.

This paper studied whether using virtual memory palaces in a head-mounted display with head-tracking would allow a user to better recall information than when using a traditional desktop display with mouse-based interaction. This study found:

  • There was an 8.8% improvement in memory recall in virtual reality compared to the desktop display

Casale, M. (2017). STRIVR training demonstrates faster and more accurate learning compared to traditional study methods (report). STRIVR Labs, Inc. [link to study

The VR firm STRIVR tested 711 individuals to participate in a study testing their reaction times in a simulation meant to train professional quarterback football players. The study found:

  • Data suggests those who learned in VR improved their reaction times by 12% vs those who trained with a traditional video
  • Data suggests that VR training led to a 20% reduction in reaction time when faced with a quick decision

How virtual reality can help us preserve the past | Michelle Rebaleati | TEDxUniversityofNevada (2019)

Michelle Rebaleati is a Multimedia Production Specialist in the @One Digital Media Services of the Mathewson-IGT Knowledge Center at the University of Nevada, Reno. In this TedX Talk, Michelle describes how virtual reality is being used at the library to archive digital collections. Her projects include mural tours, anthropological artifacts and first person experiences. These projects have the power to bring people back in time to visit places, interact with things and even relive the memories of people. She believes libraries aren't the only place for cataloging this media. Technology has allowed us all to build and preserve our own digital records for generations to come. 

Can virtual reality change your mind? | Thong Nguyen | TEDxMinneapolis (2018)

Thong Nguyen is an entrepreneur, working with innovative business leaders to apply VR within their organizations to accelerate prototyping and research, embrace learning, and aid in sales development. In this Tedx Talk, Thong shares insights on how virtual reality experiences are impacting training and development, health care, and even our own self perception. Virtual reality even has the capacity to create empathy and strengthen how we understand ourselves - and each other. 

Chris Milk: How virtual reality can create the ultimate empathy machine (2015)

Chris Milk, formerly a music video creator for artists like Kanye West and Arcade Fire, describes how he uses virtual reality to tell human stories, and how virtual reality can make us more empathetic. One of Milk's early VR experiences was "Clouds over Sidra," documenting the life of a 12-year old girl in a refugee camp, developed with the United Nations.

Designing for virtual reality and the impact on education | Alex Faaborg | TEDxCincinnati (2015)

Alex Faaborg shares how virtual reality introduces unique challenges for interface design, and opens up incredible opportunities for the future of art, journalism, and education. Alex mentions Tilt Brush and Google Expeditions


"Isn't virtual reality just video games?"

Although gaming is one of the more visible and popular applications of virtual reality technology now, there are so many other uses for this technology. In the business world, virtual reality has been a game-changer for training and educating new employees. Organizations as varied as Wal-Mart, BMW, Chipotle, Tyson, Nationwide, the NFL, and Fidelity are all using employee training via virtual reality. Additionally, VR is currently in use in health care, the military, professional sports teams, NASA, automotive manufacturing, real estate, and even courtrooms. By making this technology accessible to the public through libraries, we are giving our communities an opportunity to learn new skills and get exposure to developing technologies that will only become more prevalent. 

"What even is virtual reality anyway?"

Technologically, virtual reality is a three-dimensional, computer generated environment which can be explored and interacted with by a person - that person becomes part of the virtual world or is immersed in the environment while there, and is able to manipulate objects or perform actions in the environment. 

In a practical sense, virtual reality is an artificial environment that's immersive enough to convince you you're actually inside of it. 

"Virtual reality is so new!"

Not really. The term 'virtual reality' was coined in a 1938 book on the theater. The very first virtual reality headset was invented by Ivan Sutherland, who invented the Sensorama in 1962 and later renamed it to the Sword of Damocles. Nintendo tried virtual reality with their Virtual Boy in 1995, but that quickly failed. NASA and the Air Force played the biggest role in developing virtual reality, since they had the financial means to devote to it and practical applications for the technology. Modern virtual reality as we know it would not exist without the decades of research and development that NASA and the military spent on it. 

"Virtual reality is just another passing fad, isn't it?"

No. Although VR may seem like just another new thing that'll fade once the next thing comes along, virtual reality has tremendous potential and is already being viewed as the next computing platform. Judging by the integration of virtual reality in gaming, education, healthcare, real estate, marketing, live events, military, entertainment, retail and manufacturing, this technology isn't going anywhere anytime soon. Thanks to this pilot program we get to experience this technology just as it starts to become more integrated into our daily lives, allowing us to give our patrons a leg up. 

"Virtual reality is too expensive!"

There are currently four types of virtual reality devices available to consumers in 2019:

  • Mobile-phone based virtual reality ($10-$40 not including the mobile phone) - If you've got a smart phone you can most likely use it to view virtual reality with an inexpensive headset. Google Cardboard is the most ubiquitous of this type.
  • All-in-one virtual reality (Oculus Go, $200-$250) - Instead of using a mobile phone in the device or relying on a connection to a PC, these devices are self-contained and rely on WiFi and a paired phone to download content. 
  • Playstation 4 & PSVR ($250-$600) - Console-specific virtual reality systems are usually less expensive than a computer based virtual reality device, but have more limited options for content. 
  • Computer-based (HTC Vive & Oculus Rift, $600-$800) - In addition to the cost of the virtual reality headset, these systems also require a gaming PC. The most expensive of the available options, computer-based VR provides the most immersive and presence-inducing virtual reality because it utilizes room-scale interaction. 

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