Exploring Gamification in Virtual Reality Training of Bioreactor Operations
conference contributionposted on 25.03.2022, 08:58 by Su Ann Jeannie LeeSu Ann Jeannie Lee, Wei Jie KwokWei Jie Kwok, Chek Tien TanChek Tien Tan, Choon Kit WongChoon Kit Wong, Liat Wen Bernard LooLiat Wen Bernard Loo
The use of virtual reality (VR) in educational contexts has been often explored in different subject areas, but less so in chemical engineering. An immersive virtual reality (VR) simulation of a real-world industrial bioreactor setup was initially developed  to allow training of biopharmaceutical engineering processes for undergraduate students in pharmaceutical engineering. A bioreactor is an apparatus for growing organisms such as animal cells or bacteria under controlled conditions, used in industrial processes to produce pharmaceuticals, vaccines, or antibodies. This is intended to mitigate limited access to equipment for hands-on training opportunities especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. Students learn how to identify and assemble the bioreactor parts as well as to set-up and operate single-use bioreactors. The creation of experiences and authentic contexts similar to the real world enables situated learning , and transfer , where users are easily able to apply the knowledge to the real world task. In the application, users interact directly with a 1:1 scale single-use bioreactor (SUB) model within the 3D environment using the HTC Vive or Oculus Quest 2 head-mounted display (HMD) and controllers. Users manipulate the environment and equipment directly, specify values and parameters for the apparatus, chemical reactions and the cell culture environment. A Heads-Up Display (HUD) in the form of a translucent grey panel is provided for users within the virtual environment. This allows users to check key information and instructions while not obstructing their view. Users are also guided audibly through the use of narration and text-to-speech (TTS). Gamification is the application of typical elements of game playing to other areas of non-game activity . To better motivate and integrate students’ theoretical and practical understanding, certain gamification attributes were then further explored and introduced within the VR software implementation, examples of which are different difficulty levels (challenge), a science-fiction storyline (game fiction), review questions (assessment), and leaderboard (interaction), based on the frameworks proposed by Landers and Bedwell  . The gameplay is divided into three main lessons, each with three levels of difficulty: Bioreactor component identification, Bioreactor setup and Aseptic transfer operations & cell cultivation. At the highest difficulty, users can interact freely with the 3D environment with no instructions or restrictions. The implementation of the VR application was performed in two main steps, primarily the modeling of the apparatus in 3D and implementing the various interactions in the VR environment. The 3D models are created based off similar apparatus, along with the associated chemistry laboratory environment. The 3D models of the bioreactor and the laboratory environment are then combined into a 3D virtual reality scene using the Unity3D engine. The Virtual Reality Toolkit (VRTK) is used to develop the interactions through the controllers. A pilot qualitative study was conducted with 7 volunteer participants, primarily pharmaceutical engineering undergraduates, where they were requested to use the application and evaluated using a think-aloud protocol , followed by semi-structured interviews to understand users’ attitudes and perceptions towards the VR application. The responses revealed high immersion and absorption during sessions, which is beneficial to focusing on the presented environment and training materials. Participants also felt in control and sufficiently challenged by the activities, with sustained interest and repeated replay requests. The positive qualitative feedback suggests that the VR application is beneficial to supplement conventional bioreactor laboratory training methods.