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A. Abdelrazeq1, L. Daling1, R. Suppes2, Y. Feldmann2, F. Hees1

1Cybernetics Lab IMA/IfU in RWTH Aachen University (GERMANY)
2Institute of Mineral Resources Engineering in RWTH Aachen University (GERMANY)
Within the recent years, mixed reality (MR) technologies and devices have experienced remarkable improvements. Primarily, head mounted displays (HMD), offering different virtual reality (VR) experiences, are became increasingly popular in various domains such as private gaming, industrial training, and academic teaching and learning. VR has already proven to be effective in simulating interest, improving skills acquisitions and learning in diverse fields of study; the application of VR enriches didactic approaches used in different learning and teaching setups.

In raw materials education, specifically mining engineering, a broad range of content is taught to students. This varies from geological conditions of the 3D deposits and their structures, to the design of mines planning complex structures of underground drifts and shafts, to the extraction of minerals using heavy operating machinery. Mining education is highly challenging due to the need of demonstrating real processes with the suitable visualizations of far-located mines. Conventional mining engineering education is mostly carried out in a classroom setup, supported often by low-quality 2D images or videos that are lacking a third dimension, which is needed for full understanding.

Empowering educators using VR technology can help them in teaching content in a more effective manner. Using these innovative technologies enables a shift to a new model of what is called Teacher 4.0. The reason for this assertion is that education is a field requiring students to understand complex data and VR makes this task easier. Furthermore, it presents information in a 3D form with the student viewing the world from inside with an immersed viewpoint, in addition to the ability to interact with the information. This style of presentation mimics the ways that we humans have learned to interact with our physical world.

This paper introduces the technical requirements and development steps for the virtual reality mine (VR-Mine), which simulates the learning content of mining processes. The contribution of this paper is focusing on three main aspects:
1) A comprehensive comparison of the possibilities and abilities that are offered by currently available MR devices and how they are utilized in a classroom.
2) A presentation of the specifications for building the educational virtual world based on collected requirements for teachers and students, considering the learning goals for the targeted teaching content.
3) A listing of different visualization and interaction development techniques and software models of the VR-Mine, aiming at providing a basic development kit for shifting education to MR-enabled approaches.

The VR-Mine will be introduced to the students with its final version by November 2019. Using VR-Mine students will get the chance to virtually visit the mine sites and learn about challenges associated with mining. In their future career, mining engineers do not only design future mines but they also create complex work plans and conduct safety checks. It is anticipated that VR training will be a university training tool of choice.