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VR Interfaces: HOPSCOTCH


Overview of HOPSCOTCH
The Hopscotch system is based very much on the childhood game of the same name. A combination of that, the design of the keypad from a modern mobile phone, and the link between physical exercise and learning is what makes HOPSCOTCH the physical-based teaching aid it is.

Created by Media scientist Dr. Martina Lucht from the Fraunhofer Institute for Digital Media Technology in Ilmenau, Germany, this exergaming interface was designed to remove as much of the tedium from computer-based learning as possible.

“I found my inspiration one day when I saw a hopscotch game drawn on the sidewalk,” she recalled. “It suddenly occurred to me that learning has to be combined with movement to make it fun.”

We saw a two-and-a-half year old girl start playing with the program. She had learned the entire alphabet by the end of the day. But we have also found that senior citizens enjoy it, too, as we saw in their interest in our history quiz.”

The learning game consists of a sensor mat divided up into nine fields. Each field contains letters and a number, arranged like the keypad of a mobile phone. The user is supposed to complete tasks in certain subjects as these appear on a monitor, such as “What is the English word for 'plum'?”

To solve the question, the user must step on the right fields in the correct sequence to enter the text. As with a mobile phone keyboard, this means stepping down the right number of times to choose the appropriate letter, as 26 letters into nine fields demands multiple letters per field. They pause for a second after choosing a letter and it registers. Whilst doing this, they must keep their eyes on the screen as the interface device itself is passive – it does not show which letter or number is currently active – only the monitor screen does that. As a result, the user cannot look at their feet during the process, but must hop around without looking down, except to check which pad they should be using next.

The learning system capitalizes on children’s enjoyment of playing and movement. Ms. Lucht can also make the most of her skills as a media psychologist: For example, there is no negative feedback telling the user he or she is wrong. If an answer is incorrect, the user simply receives no confirmation message. So they have to keep trying until they get the right answer. “We have built in a kangaroo that jumps up and down and shouts ‘Yippee!’ when you have solved a task. The children love that.”

Initial tests at an elementary school have already demonstrated that all children were enthusiastic participants, particularly hyperactive children.

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