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Sol Bianca: The Legacy Take on Virtual Schooling

Sol Bianca: The Legacy is not a VR series, nor in the main, related to realistic technology at all. It takes place on a futuristic starship, long after the fall of our civilisation, when man's greatest technological achievements, are nothing but mysterious artifacts which defy current science.

However, despite these problems, there are two elements to the series which are very relevant to actual science and interaction with VR or AR systems. Both occur in episode three of the series, with the Virtual Schooling aspect spilling over to episode four of the series as well.

There are six episodes in total, all released in 1999, and no others have anything pertinent to our fields of interest within them.

Sol Bianca has an interesting take on the concept of virtual schooling, which is not all that dissimilar from how it has been envisaged in our world. The Sol Bianca is a spacecraft, and one of its crew is a young girl. She needs schooling, and interaction with kids her own age. There are no other kids on the ship, and none of the (pirate) crew are suitably qualified to tutor her in any event.

Fortunately, their technological age has a solution to such circumstances. The child, May Jessica, enters a special chamber on the ship, in which she is isolated from the rest of the crew. This is so outside sounds do not affect her whilst she learns. After all, this crew are not exactly quiet at the best of times.

This holodeck-style chamber has no couch or visible interface. Instead it functions quite a bit like the Star Trek Holodecks - except her physical body does not move. It is edited out of her senses, and her avatar moves instead. This allows actions that would otherwise be impossible, like sitting down in class or being pushed over. The interface keeps her physical body still, even as it redirects her senses.

The interface is full sensory, tying her muscle control and all her senses into the virtual reality construct that forms about her. Senses such as her natural hearing are not blocked off so that she can still hear emergency alerts and the like. As this is a pirate ship, the concession is more than understandable, and is a good safety concern in any case. It certainly explains the isolation.

She switches the system on, and the virtual environment unfolds about her. She is given an avatar body which looks just like her, and materialses outside in a playground of a small school complex. There are no other buildings of course, just the school. However, unlike modern-day virtual reality schools, the whole campus is here, not just the classrooms.

The school campus begins to materialise around May's avatar form, spreading out around her, starting with objects closest in, and moving outwards.

The reasoning for this is May needs social interaction with other children just as much as the other aspects of the curriculum and she is not alone in that. With a lot of spacecraft, they only have one or two children on board. On the planets likewise, there will be many homesteads where the colony only has a few children, or they are prospecting away from the rest of civilisation, so linking these isolated children into a single school is a great idea.

In the VR, May can run around with the other kids, and because the simulation is full-body, even play pranks, and laugh around in class when she can get away with it. In other words, she can be a child, interacting with other children. Something that is not possible in her physical world. Without the full-body sensory stimulation, it would not be possible here either.

Distance Questions

The distances involved are immense, and so that does make the fidelity of the system questionable. In the series, they get around this by using faster than light space travel, and of course, faster than light data transmission. So, interactions are instantaneous even though they may be hundreds of light years apart.

In our world, that is of course not possible. However, it is also not necessary, as we are all on the same planet together. There are ways to disguise the signal propagation delay that can of course be utilised as distances increase, but still the idea is perfectly workable for isolated individuals on our world, and for those who are not isolated, but have no specialists locally for their chosen subjects.

It is an ideal we have been striving towards for some decades, and one of the goals of all VR work. It was nice, if surprising, to find such a great example of the possibility in practical use, in this old Japanese anime space opera.

The final school buildings, with a pleasant environment, sights, sounds and smells, and of course, the avatar forms of the other kids attending the school, who may physically be anywhere in the star system.

There is a very slight, but noticable lag in their reactions. This is a nod to their sheer distance away.

Further Reading

VWN Resource Category: Teaching and Training Via VR

Sol Bianca: The Legacy Take on Gaze-Directed Neural-controlled Weaponry


Sol Bianca The legacy at IMDB

Sol Bianca: The Legacy was a 1999 release by Geneon Universal Entertainment. English dub versions are available, however the series is not currently in production. At time of writing, still had six used copies.

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