Virtual Plant Cell Lets Users Explore a Microscopic Living World

Researchers want to teach kids about chloroplast, mitochondria and plant DNA using VR.

Science and virtual reality (VR) go hand-in-hand as a means to learn and explore strange and fantastical worlds that can’t regularly be seen by the human eye. Experiences such as InMind take viewers inside the human brain and now researchers from University of Western Australia’s ARC Centre of Excellence in Plant Energy Biology have created a VR app that delves into the cells of plants.

Called Virtual Plant Cell, the smartphone-based app – which can be used with a Google Cardboard head-mounted display (HMD) – allows users to explore the microscopic world of plant cells, watching how chloroplast, mitochondria and DNA all work in unison.

Virtual Plant Cell

To create a more engaging experience Karina Price and her colleagues at the university also put in several challenges for users to complete. These include helping the plant cells survive by either collecting salt or removing it if the plant’s located in salty conditions. While another task focuses on locating the genes within the DNA that help plant’s survive in a mixture of conditions, whether that’s flooding, direct sunlight, disease or drought.

Talking to Treehugger.com, Price said: “This is a great way to help kids and the community understand how plants create and use energy, in order to improve agriculture and ultimately increase food production for the future.”

The team debuted Virtual Plant Cell at Australia’s National Science Week and is now looking for funding to enable a rollout into schools in 2017.

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