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Nutrition lessons simplified for VR environments

According to a team of Penn State researchers, virtual reality (VR) technology may give teachers of nutritional studies and dietitians a novel and innovative methodology for catering to practice healthy eating knowledge.

In one of the researches, students got a chance to learn more about nutrition through two different methods i.e. conventional lectures in virtual reality settings and immersive VR lessons. The study also revealed that educators in the nutritional space do not necessarily require to delve into the technicalities of virtual reality-based interactivity for catering lessons that make a considerable impact.

The results suggest that nutrition educators may employ VR settings for offsite training in both immersive and conventional modalities. According to Travis Masterson, Broadhurst Career Development Professor for the Study of Health Promotion and Disease Prevention and Institute for Computational and Data Sciences affiliate, this might prompt the development of an increasingly scalable method of creating and disbursing nutrition teachings, encompassing topics such as portion control.

Masterson, who also serves as the head of the Health, Ingestive Behavior, and Technology Laboratory, explained that one of the things that are discussed within the subject of nutrition is how much time is required for education. He said that although there are efforts to simplify the spread of information to the masses, there is an acute lack of effectiveness.

The team developed an interactive area in VR, which facilitates the creation of three-dimensional virtual environments for users. Relying on these helps students to get a close-to-life virtual simulation experience with food, and consolidate their understanding of how to effectively practice portion control. There is also a lesson featuring lectures, created to mimic the exact way in which an instructor would teach students in real-world settings.

Despite their expectations of the researchers that students would be able to learn better in the research’s interactive portion, the results showed that what they learned in both scenarios was the same.

Pejman Sajjadi, a postdoctorate-level researcher at the Center for Immersive Experiences, who is also the first author of the research paper, said that the capability of virtual reality to instil influences presence and representation. It is the phenomenon where one is occupying a real space with their body, and it can lead to enhanced learning regardless of interactivity options.

According to Sajjadi, the research was conducted on the assumption that factors such as the easy accessibility of VR technology, its intrinsic ability to promote interactivity, and its simulated close-to-reality offerings are what make it a viable mode of teaching. He elaborated further, saying that when the interactivity benefit was tweaked to some extent, the researchers did not take into consideration the changes to the personification and presence impacts.
Participants in the experiments had their headsets on during both the passive and interactive test scenarios and had the experience of being transported to a different kind of reality.

According to the researchers, the research confirms that VR, either interactive or otherwise, is an invaluable approach for learners to study portion control techniques. Portion management and its relationship to eating foods that have a higher level of nutrition and lower calorie counts are among the topics that need to be covered to teach students fundamental concepts of healthy eating.

The researchers’ results have been reported in Frontiers in Computer Science.

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