Students learning about animation and computer games at Weston College are developing a virtual reality training scheme for learner drivers.
S & B Automotive Academy asked students on the FdSc Games and Animation Production course and the BTEC Extended Diploma in Animation for Game and Film course to develop a proposal for supporting people to learn to drive in a safe and controlled environment.
The project brief was aligned with the students’ curriculum, and provided learners with experience of working on an industry-specific project and interacting professionally with a client.
The brief asked the students to create an environment for virtual reality (VR) training in areas with risky, difficult or costly training. The aim was to improve training response times and learning, to reduce training costs, and to provide a safe and realistic environment helping with health and safety.
Once completed, the VR project will allow learners to practise driving in various environments, such as high streets, urban areas, countryside and hilly areas, prior to driving in a real car in these environments.
For example, learners can gain ‘muscle memory’ for steering and changing gear prior to doing this in a real car – hopefully speeding up the learning process.
Other advantages of VR training is that learner drivers can practise driving on a virtual motorway, which you can’t do until you have passed your test. This will help learner drivers familiarise themselves with motorway driving prior to driving on a motorway for the first time – hopefully improving safety.
The VR programme created by the Weston College students (using programs such as Maya, Mudbox and Unreal), aims to mimic the real world graphically and will feature a voiceover giving step-by-step instructions on carrying out different tasks.
Pop ups on screen direct a learner driver to where they need to look and check, including physically moving their head to check blind spots and mirrors. If these checks are not made it is recognised by the software.
Jon Winter, Chief Executive of S&B Automotive Academy, said: “S&B is proud to have Weston College as a development partner. The students are designing and building a virtual reality vehicle driving simulator while S&B will provide the hardware and commercial software development licenses.
“Weston College games students are experiencing real life design and development challenges while achieving the goals of their qualification.”
Mr Winter added that a client presentation and feedback session would be held when the project concluded at the end March.
Dr Paul Phillips OBE, Principal and Chief Executive of Weston College, said: “We are delighted to have been given the opportunity to work on such a creative and innovative project. Our learners benefit hugely from project briefs such as the one which S&B Automotive has set, as they gain invaluable experience of working with a client, designing and delivering a project to meet a clients requirements, and ‘softer skills’ such as working as a team, setting deadlines, taking responsibility completing individual tasks and project management.
“This particular project is running from January to 9 May and will showcase the talent, skills and innovative new ideas our learners can offer businesses and industry. For example, having been set the project brief, the learners have pushed the boundary of the brief to ensure that the product they will be delivering will be unique. It will offer the first VR learner driver experience which offers motorway driving experience, along with other aspects of driving such as hill starts, parking bay experience and town driving. With a real steering wheel, pedals, clutch and gear stick, learner drivers with gain ‘muscle memory’ as well as virtual experience prior to driving on the road.
We are immensely proud of the calibre of learners we have studying at Weston College and this project highlights the impressive technological, innovative and creative ideas our learners can bring to a project. The project is also an example of how we can work with businesses to ensure that our learners leave the college with not only qualifications, but with skills, knowledge and experience which is of benefit to businesses and industry.”