ALIVE: Avatar Learning In Virtual Environment


ALIVE (Avatar Learning in Virtual Environments) was a series of experiments investigating the cognitive and neural mechanisms of learning that occurs in virtual reality (VR) environments. First, we established that the implementation of classic behavioural techniques for memory enhancement could improve learning outcomes in VR in similar ways to real world experiments. Next, we examineed the neural bases of these improvements using MVPA (multi-voxel pattern analysis) of fMRI (functional magnetic resonance imaging) data. The findings have profound implications for many endeavours involving human learning and memory—from personnel training, to academic scholarship and late-life career re-education.

Virtual Reality and Education

In the past century, cognitive psychologists demonstrated the counterintuitive nature of human memory and introduced techniques that improve learning outcomes. Unfortunately, they are rarely translated into pedagogy because cognitive learning techniques and educational techniques have different aims. The former exploits quirks of human memory to enhance learning, while the latter strives to make information comprehensible. With VR, these aims can converge. With increasing use of VR-learning, this effort is extremely timely.

The VR education community is inventive and open to scientific input, creating a rare window for collaboration. Educators know how to make material understandable; cognitive scientists know how to make it stick. Using cognition-based pedagogical techniques, I aspire for students to recall and use information years later, rather than retaining it solely for exams. Moreover, this project has implications far beyond contributing to scientific knowledge. It has the potential to impact the broader educational system by bolstering support for implementing cognitive techniques, and providing a tool that especially benefits learners with scant resources.

“Rissland”: Our OpenSim Virtual World

Rissland was a virtual environment created for learning and memory research in the Behavioural Neuroscience Area of the Psychology Department of UCLA.

The project was sponsored by DARPA. It was conducted in Dr. Jesse Rissman‘s Laboratory, by his graduate students Joey K.-Y. Essoe and Niccolo Reggente.

Rissland was created and maintained by Joey Essoe utilising OpenSim’s Diva Distro, customising various free contents courtesy of the OpenSim community.

Custom Contents Developed by JubJub Forder

Our wonderful contractor, JubJub Forder, had created much original content for OpenSim.

Post publication, we will make this content freely available to the OpenSim community.

OpenSim Free Contents Utilised in Rissland

Rissland would not be possible without the generous and extremely creative community of OpenSim users. All utilised content has CreativeCommon License. See a (partial) list of contents modified for research in Rissland.


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