The recent democratisation of virtual reality (VR) technology suggests that we have reached a point where this could be a viable technical intervention to support bodily learning at home. After all, VR training systems have a history of use in high-risk fields, as well as physiotherapy rehabilitation for patients. But when it comes to remote learning, 2D pre-recorded videos and live teleseminars are still the convention; the widespread lockdown restrictions placed as a response to the Covid-19 epidemic have made this indisputable. While these technologies can still be helpful for non-bodily subjects like language or history, they leave much to be desired for bodily disciplines like performance arts or sports. This is because the spatial complexities of movement make some physical techniques difficult to learn and teach through a flat surface. Furthermore, the vast differences in individuals’ learning conditions, such as their physical qualities or training environment, call for adaptations, making the nature of bodily learning highly personalized. Even in a private session with an instructor, the ability to discern crucial details of what the other isdoing is limited when observed through a screen.
To address the shortcomings of current models, this proposal suggests designing, deploying, and studying VR prototypes that support remote bodily learning, providing a tailored experience based on the users’ personal movement data recorded and displayed in a 3D environment. This data could then be shared without requiring colocation, such as an instructor sending their movements to a student as reference material, or vice versa so that a student could have their movements evaluated by an instructor. Contemporary applications of somaesthetics suggest that a “body-centric” approach to design might offer a promising methodology to explore this challenge, and recent work on sensory (mis)alignment suggest a potentially applicable approach. In doing so, this research would explore the significance of personal movement patterns and how they are communicated, as well as their changes over time as expertise develops. Additionally, the findings from this research could ultimately help bring people closer to new tools and interventions for web-based learning, personal fitness, rehabilitation, digital entertainment, and beyond.
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This author is supported by the Horizon Centre for Doctoral Training at the University of Nottingham (UKRI Grant No. EP/S023305/1).