The role of international standards in virtual education and training systems

Virtual reality technology is used in many learning and training situations to improve business and enhance performance. 

Virtual reality applications are used to train and assess surgeons and hospital staff
Surgeons can train for complicated operations in a safe environment using VR applications (Photo: osso VR)

For example, first responders can prepare for natural and man-made disasters in life-like settings. Surgeons and dentists can practice complicated procedures safely. Learning in virtual reality applications, enables students and researchers to study topics such as science and history from new perspectives and with improved learning methods.

Standards behind VR technology

Software drives components such as displays, sensors, images, maps and tracking technology, which link to the hardware (headsets or helmets). Several IEC technical committees (TCs) produce International Standards which help ensure the reliability, safety, efficiency, interoperability and quality of the components within this technology, such as screens, sensors and audio, video and multimedia systems and equipment.

Additionally, IEC and ISO Joint Technical Committee (ISO/IEC JTC 1) produces standards for information technology. Subcommittee 24 works on interfaces for information technology-based applications relating to computer graphics and virtual reality, image processing, environmental data representation, support for mixed and augmented reality, and interaction with, and visual presentation of, information.

JTC 1 Advisory Group 13 for VR and AR based ICT integration systems, has produced the White Paper on Guidelines for VR/AR Education and Training Systems.

e-tech spoke with Myeong Won Lee, who is Convenor of the Advisory Group to find out more about the White Paper. Lee also Chairs Subcommittee 24 on computer graphics, image processing and environmental data representation.

Why do we need a standards-based design approach for developing virtual education and training systems?

Virtual education and training systems can be used in many application areas, such as medical, heavy equipment, health, architecture and facilities. They provide users (teachers and students) with tools and an environment in which to teach and learn.

Because of the wide range of application areas, without a standards-based design approach, systems would likely be developed without consideration for common usage or information exchange. This would lead to duplication in development efforts and therefore a waste of resources. A standards-based design approach provides a common procedure regardless of application, so that information sharing and exchange can be achieved.

What does the White Paper on Guidelines for VR/AR Education and Training Systems provide?

It describes guidelines for developing virtual education and training systems based on VR and AR technology. It aims to illustrate information modelling with standards that can be used for these systems. It provides:

  • procedures or methods for developing 3D virtual reality systems
  • education and training systems based on ISO/IEC JTC 1 standards
  • a systematic approach to developing applications for systems integration areas.

VR and AR education and training systems are typical examples of systems integration applications. The White Paper also covers:  

  • Definitions of concepts for VR and AR based education and training.
  • Descriptions of software and application development technology required for virtual education and training systems.
  • Description of standards for VR and AR information generation, transfer, and exchange when developing the systems. The information model and architecture of virtual education and training systems are specified as basic standards concepts.
  • Components for organizing virtual education and training systems based on the standards concepts.
  • Description of standards-based application development technology and software interfaces between computers and devices.
  • Implementation components for developing VR and AR based education and training systems.

What types of use cases are there?

Almost all applications of VR-based education and training can be classified and implemented into types of use cases. Education and training systems in the areas of medical, health, heavy equipment, engineering, interior, architecture, and many others can be included in these use case types. Depending on the level of interaction, communication, and immersion, there are four types of use cases:

  • Type 1 organizes a VR scene and interaction for education and training
  • Type 2 includes communication by avatars in addition to the functions of use case type 1
  • Type 3 includes sensors in addition to use case type 2.
  • Type 4 represents the highest level of immersion which includes a VR scene, sensors and communication by avatars.

What are some of the key standards used to develop the modelling architecture?

Many standards can be used for VR-based virtual education and training. Three JTC 1 subcommittees contribute international standards for different aspects:

SC 24 focuses on standards development in ICT visualization and its graphics data processing areas.

  • ISO/IEC 14772 computer graphics and image processing VR modelling language.
  • ISO/IEC 19775-1 Extensible 3D (X3D) is a 3D file format that can be used for generating and exchanging 3D scenes in heterogeneous computing environments for VR and AR applications.
  • ISO/IEC 18023 can be used for representing semantic environments (a description of the real world information including real location, physical functions of each object etc.) for VR scenes.
  • ISO/IEC 18038 Sensor representation in mixed augmented reality (MAR) can be used for simulating sensors in 3D VR environments.

SC 29 covers standards development in ICT data transmission, processing, and encoding/decoding. The White Paper lists many standards which can be used for encoding and compressing still images, compressing and transmitting multimedia. These enable the seamless transmission and exchange through networks, for MAR in VR and AR education and training systems.

  • ISO/IEC 23000-9 can be used for multimedia file format transmission.
  • ISO/IEC 23090 can be used for coded representation of immersive media.

SC 36 focuses on learning, education, and training (LET) and their data processing areas. LET information must be defined in a standardized format when organizing knowledge databases. It should also provide users with interfaces that can manage and control LET interaction in virtual environments.

  • ISO/IEC 19788 covers metadata for learning resources, including specific metadata elements and their attributes for the description of learning resources.
  • ISO/IEC 19778 can be used for developing systems related to collaborative workplaces and defines a data model for describing data elements and their relationships. It provides for the portability and reuse of data in integrated form and allows data model examples to be interchanged, stored, retrieved, reused, or analyzed by a variety of systems.

Find out more about all the standards contained in the White Paper on Guidelines for VR/AR Education and Training Systems.