XRLabs: Extended Reality Interactive Laboratories
Chairi Kiourt
1 a
, Dimitris Kalles
2 b
, Aris Lalos
3 c
, Nikolaos Papastamatiou
4 d
Panayotis Silitziris
3 e
, Evgenia Paxinou
2 f
, Helena Theodoropoulou
3 g
Vasilis Zafeiropoulos
2 h
, Alexandros Papadopoulos
4 i
and George Pavlidis
1 j
Institute for Language and Speech Processing, Athena-Research and Innovation Center in Information,
Communication and Knowledge Technologies, Greece
School of Science and Technology, Hellenic Open University, Greece
Industrial Systems Institute, Athena-Research and Innovation Center in Information,
Communication and Knowledge Technologies, Greece
Omega Technology, Greece
Extended Reality, Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality, Mixed Reality, Gamification, Interactive Technologies,
STEM Education, Educational Laboratories.
One of the most challenging tasks in Extended Reality based environments is the creation of realistic, interac-
tive and attractive simulation with personalised content, without overlooking the main purpose of the system,
which, in our case, is education. This paper introduces the XRLabs platform, which is an Extended Reality
platform to assist in the training of students in all educational levels, focusing on the use of simulation for wet
laboratories. Within this framework, the proposed systems are based on cutting-edge Virtual, Augmented and
Mixed Reality (Extended Reality) technologies. We adopted gamification methods and simulation to enhance
the conventional educational practices in laboratories. The highly interactive platform will allow students to
enjoy sustainable edutainment experiences, especially in distance/online learning contexts for Science, Tech-
nology, Engineering, and Mathematics.
Science laboratory instruction is a key pillar of sci-
ence teaching. To achieve effective learning in sci-
ence courses some fundamental requirements should
be met, including basic knowledge and understand-
ing of the experiment tasks and the use of different
types of equipment. Information and Communication
Technology (ICT) systems are very useful as comple-
mentary educational tools, especially in the context of
conducting scientific experiments in a wet lab with
the term “wet lab” usually associated with biology
and chemistry (Karakasidis, 2013; Bonde et al., 2014;
Heradio et al., 2016; Paxinou et al., 018a). Merg-
ing virtual reality technologies with interaction has
shown to be rather rewarding in laboratory training
(Zafeiropoulos et al., 2014).
Several studies reveal the potential benefits of
the use of Virtual/Augmented/Mixed Reality in a
variety of educational contexts, with such benefits
encompassing improvement of users’ achievements
(Estapa and Nadolny, 2015), learning experience (Bo-
gusevschi. and Muntean., 2019), motivation (Ferrer-
Torregrosa et al., 2015), knowledge retention, engage-
ment, and guiding targeted behaviour change to im-
prove the way that various activities are undertaken.
The objective is to allow involved learners to begin
to take the desired actions in a different context while
they experience more fun, enjoyment, and pleasure
in their tasks. These technologies are breathing life to
the notion that edutainment can be accomplished any-
where, and not just within the confines of a classroom
environment. Digital reality is enabling users to bene-
Kiourt, C., Kalles, D., Lalos, A., Papastamatiou, N., Silitziris, P., Paxinou, E., Theodoropoulou, H., Zafeiropoulos, V., Papadopoulos, A. and Pavlidis, G.
XRLabs: Extended Reality Interactive Laboratories.
DOI: 10.5220/0009441606010608
In Proceedings of the 12th International Conference on Computer Supported Education (CSEDU 2020) - Volume 1, pages 601-608
ISBN: 978-989-758-417-6
2020 by SCITEPRESS Science and Technology Publications, Lda. All rights reserved
fit from immersive experiences and Extended Reality
(XR) is undoubtedly poised to change the way users
deliver and acquire new information, knowledge, and
skills, in several playful learning environments (Pena,
Playful learning environments focusing on educa-
tional purposes is a significant and active research do-
main (Brown and Vaughan, 2010; Nicholson, 2011).
This has taken either the form of Game-Based Learn-
ing (GBL) or Serious Gaming (SG). Gamification
(Seaborn and Fels, 2015) is the result of applying
game mechanics into diverse domains, in order to en-
gage users and enhance their knowledge and perfor-
mance. The importance of the playing activity has
been emphasized in many studies from various do-
mains. Gamification is essentially the use of specific
game design approaches and techniques in various
environments, in order to attract people in problem
solving and to enhance their contribution (Nicholson,
2011). As an important tool in educational processes,
gamification has been exploited widely in VR sys-
tems(Becerra. et al., 2017; Shin. et al., 2019), with
many future promising results for XR applications.
Extended Reality Interactive Laboratories (ERIL)
are playful, user-friendly, pleasant, safe, convenient,
economic and flexible educational tools, which can
challenge, engage and prepare students for their real
scientific experiment (Lalos et al., 2020). While phys-
ical lab activities offer unique elements in lab learn-
ing, nowadays, educational institutions also design
learning activities with Virtual Reality (VR), Aug-
mented Reality (AR) and Mixed Reality simulations
(de Vries and May, 2019). VR differs fundamentally
from AR; in VR the learners experience a computer-
generated virtual environment whereas, in AR, the ac-
tual environment is enhanced by computer-generated
The main motivation for our work draws on the
investigation and the development of an educational
system for Science, Technology, Engineering, and
Mathematics (STEM) education, for all levels of edu-
cation. We focus on the development of an integrated
system that is not affected by geographical, financial
and time constraints (Reigeluth, 1999), as would be
the case with conventional educational procedures,
which require laboratory equipment.
The main contribution of this paper is the presen-
tation of the idea and the development of a dynam-
ical educational XR platform for wet laboratory in-
struction. With regard to this framework, the pro-
posed platform aims to enhance the educational prac-
tice through a powerful integrated system, encourag-
ing certain activities through dynamically synthesized
and gamified interactive elements, not as a single en-
capsulated event, but through a series of stages, in
which user experience develops gradually as famil-
iarity with interactive features and structure is gained.
The rest of this paper is structured in five sections.
The next section provides a brief background. The
third section describes a high-level system architec-
ture and the adopted technologies as well as the sys-
tems under development. The fourth section provides
a brief introduction to the educational aspects and the
assessment methods for XRLabs. Finally, the last sec-
tion summarizes the key points and sets out future
Onlabs is a standalone 3D virtual reality biology lab-
oratory that provides a high-level realistic environ-
ment. It is developed by the Department of Science
and Technology of the Hellenic Open University
Onlabs simulates biology experiments like the mi-
croscopy procedure, the preparation of aqueous so-
lutions and the protein electrophoresis. When using
Onlabs the learner navigates in the virtual environ-
ment, operates various instruments and conducts bi-
ology experiments (Zafeiropoulos et al., 2014). On-
labs has been used as a supplementary educational
material for students to be prepared for experiments
in their real wet lab. The incorporation of Onlabs into
the educational process already resulted in improve-
ment in student learning outcomes, in terms both of
subject understanding and laboratory skills acquisi-
tion (Paxinou et al., 2019). It is an educational appli-
cation for users of different educational level and pro-
fession, which provides the opportunity to repeat the
process of a laboratory experiment without any spa-
tial, temporal and financial constraints, offering com-
plete safety and privacy. The current version of On-
labs comes with three modes: the Instruction Mode,
the Evaluation Mode and the Experimentation Mode.
The combination of these tree modes offers the user
a complete learning experience. A screenshot of the
Onlabs’ environment is presented in Figure 1.
3 XRLabs
In this section we describe the features of the XR-
Labs platform by highlighting the capabilities of the
dynamic management of the educational content, the
adopted mobile extended reality technologies and the
CSEDU 2020 - 12th International Conference on Computer Supported Education
Figure 1: Screenshot of Onlabs-Experimentation Mode.
Figure 2: Architecture of the XRLabs Platform.
human-computer interaction based on hand gestures
motion sensing system.
3.1 Integrated System Structure
Open linked data technologies (d’Aquin, 2016) pave
the way towards the semantic Web of the future edu-
cation by exploiting the abundance in data availabil-
ity and enhancing the ongoing systems developments
on the Web and computer technologies that bridge
STEM laboratories and education with gaming. The
XRLabs platform combines three main research areas
of Semantic Web, namely: knowledge management
in education, gamification and educational systems.
In order to manage dynamically the content
(Kiourt et al., 2016) of the XR-reality environment,
a web-based interface is being developed, based on
link data technologies (de Vries and May, 2019). Fig-
ure 2 depicts the architecture of the XRLabs platform.
Figure 3: XRLabs Cutting-Edge Technologies/methods.
In this approach, all users (authenticated or not) have
a basic limited access to the systems of the platform.
On the other hand, authenticated users, like students
and teachers, are provided with additional services.
The data interoperability of the platform is guar-
anteed by the open data technologies (Mouromtsev
and d’Aquin, 2016) utilised by the repositories of XR-
labs. The data transfer between the systems of XR-
Labs and the external Web resources is being imple-
mented using the JSON data-interchange format.
The main structure of XRLabs includes cutting-
edge technologies and methodologies focusing on a
user-friendly playful educational platform. For this
reason, several innovative elements are combined to
produce this environment, as shown in Figure 3.
3.2 Extended Reality Laboratory
One of the biggest challenges in XR applications de-
sign is finding the balance of mixing two totally dif-
ferent dimensions, the virtual and the physical. The
challenge of merging virtual and physical worlds is
has been addressed from different points of view and
various disciplines, such as computer science, psy-
chology, sociology and even science fiction, among
others. XR allows the merging of physical and virtual
worlds creating environments where physical and dig-
ital objects co-exist and interact in real-time (Tamura
et al., 2001), and has been applied in various applica-
tions, ranging from entertainment and health to mili-
tary training.
XR may have several similar definitions with few
variations, but its main concept can be described as a
form of mixed reality environment that comes from
the fusion of . . . ubiquitous sensor/actuator networks
and shared online virtual worlds”, to encompass all
the possibilities of reality warping technology (Par-
XRLabs: Extended Reality Interactive Laboratories
adiso and Landay, 2009). Simply put, one may de-
scribe XR technologies as a combination of all reality
technologies, such as VR (Burdea and Coiffet, 1993),
AR (Azuma, 1997) and MR (Milgram and Kishino,
1994), including some additional physical tools (hard-
ware, such as cameras, sensors, glasses etc.) (Paxi-
nou et al., 018a; Mann et al., 2018) that enrich the
interactivity. Within this framework users have the
opportunity to interact with each other within a vir-
tual world and get information from the real world,
receiving thus an enhanced experience.
The name of the XRLabs platform
derives from
the acronym XR (Extended Reality) and the word
Labs (Laboratories). The platform enriches the On-
labs virtual environment with XR technologies, el-
evating the experience offered by the original sys-
tem. XRLabs is an innovative platform that combines
web technologies, XR technologies and educational
approaches for the remote preparation of students in
laboratory experiments with realistic simulation in-
struments and environments. XRLabs enhances the
learning process by combining:
the power of a digital literacy system,
the pedagogical benefits of game-based learning,
the interaction provided through the XR system
with multiple users in a collaborative and/or com-
petitive environment and
the VR, AR and MR benefits that can contribute
to on the job training.
XRLabs aims to be an integrated solution for stu-
dents or professionals who want to be trained in lab-
oratory exercises privately and at their own pace, as
well as being able to interact with others. As any
laboratory instrument, such as a microscope, has sev-
eral manipulation functionalities, through which users
take measurements, detailed descriptions of these
functionalities can be effectively presented through
AR technologies. Figure 4 presents a screenshot of
the AR elements of XRLabs, where a real microscope
augmented with digital descriptive data is shown.
3.3 Motion Sensing System
Real-time interaction with XR environments using
motion sensors’ technologies is one very active field
and often included in educational processes (Bratitsis
and Kandroudi, 2014; Liang et al., 2019) as well as in
many other fields such as the industry (Nousias et al.,
2019; Lalos et al., 2018; Gardelis. et al., 2018), health
etc. Realistic interaction is achieved through a variety
of input devices (Bekele et al., 2018). An example of
Figure 4: AR Applied on a Real Microscope.
Figure 5: Interaction with Motion Sensing Controllers.
the XRLabs platform equipped with motion sensing
controllers (tangible input devices) is shown in Fig-
ure 5, where youngsters interact with an object of a
virtual laboratory.
Tangible input devices, such as gloves, gamepads,
joysticks, mice, touch screens, wearables and wands
are very effective interaction interfaces, with impor-
tant positive impact on education (O’Malley and Stan-
ton Fraser, 2004). On the other hand the utilization of
contact-free motion sensing controllers (motion track-
CSEDU 2020 - 12th International Conference on Computer Supported Education
Figure 6: XRLabs in Action through a Smartphone.
ing systems) (Bachmann et al., 2014), input devices
such as gesture sensors (e.g. Leap Motion), haptic
sensors and cameras, instead of tangible motion sens-
ing controllers, can be much more effective, since
users feel more comfortable when their hands are free.
In addition, the handling of virtual objects (in our
case laboratory equipment) with bare hands is much
more realistic and allows to encounter higher qual-
ity immersive experiences (Pavaloiu, 2016; Ebner and
Spot, 2016). Camera-based motion tracking methods
are popular and widely exploited, despite their lack
of high accuracy, due to the low-cost of the required
In order to increase the wide acceptance and ex-
ploitation of the XRLabs platform, the XR elements
of the system are based on mobile device capabilities,
such as those offered by modern smartphones. Fig-
ure 6 depicts the XR elements during a microscopy
training session, in which a 3D model of a microscope
is shown on a real desk; additional descriptive data
are superimposed over each part of the instrument.
Each interactive component of the instrument has two
states. The first is the description state during which
information about the component is displayed and the
component is highlighted with red colour, as shown
in Figure 6 top-right. The second state is the ma-
nipulation part, during which the component is high-
lighted with green colour and can be interacted with,
as shown in Figure 6 top-right. During the manipu-
lation stage, two virtual buttons are placed on the op-
posite sides of the instrument, which enables to han-
dle the active component with simple hand gestures.
The real-time interaction is based on the smartphone’s
hardware. Figure 6 bottom-left, shows an example
of a stereoscopic view, displayed by the system. The
user just needs to insert a smartphone in a low-cost
VR headset (like the Google cardboard – see Figure 6
bottom-right), install the appropriate application, and
automatically experience the AR/MR content over the
appropriate marker on the desk. By using hand ges-
tures over the virtual buttons, the user interacts with
the laboratory instrument.
Simulations and gamification are extensively applied
in higher education as an attempt to improve students’
learning experience in Biology, Chemistry, Astron-
omy, Geometry, Cultural Heritage, etc. (Garz
on et al.,
2017; Sypsas et al., 2019). Based on the relevant lit-
erature, virtual laboratories demonstrate a positive ef-
fect on students’ cognitive load, skills development
and motivation (Xu et al., 2018).
4.1 Educational Activities through
The gamification aspects of XRLabs are offered by
the development of educational scenarios, playful and
educational rules, storytelling, content personaliza-
tion elements, strategies, timers, rewards, badges,
leaderboards and many other elements that increase
the engagement and the motivation of the learners,
without overlooking the main purpose of the system,
which is education. Within this concept the XR en-
vironment is obtaining the sense of a playful educa-
tional system. For the purpose of representing the
meaning and the value of gamification, an interest-
ing formula has been presented in (Nicholson, 2012)
to show the association between the terms game, play,
goals and structure:
Game = Play + Goals + Structure (1)
By following the main idea and the principals of
gamification XRLabs aims to address the following
learner engagement
remote practice in laboratory equipment
performance and skill assessment
The features that provide dynamical content
management, provide trainers important capabili-
ties for the customization of the educational scenar-
ios/procedures or the development of new ones. Addi-
tionally, trainers may exploit the XR system as a lab-
oratory procedure presentation that offers enhanced
experience through a screen sharing plugin of the mo-
bile device. This leads to a worldwide real-time con-
nection among trainers and learners. On the other
hand, the exploitation of XRLabs in educational pro-
cesses focuses on four different stages:
XRLabs: Extended Reality Interactive Laboratories
Home practicing: as a preparation tool before
the interaction with the physical laboratory instru-
Instrument usage enhancement: during the real
experiment in the laboratory with the help of the
Learners’ assessment: evaluation in laboratory
procedures or instrument usage through auto-
mated evaluation modes.
Continuous knowledge update/lifelong learning:
without any restrictions, out of courses or train-
ing sessions.
4.2 Learners Evaluation
The evaluation of learners by non-automated methods
(systems), is a very challenging and multidimensional
procedure (Wang, 2018), usually relating to learning
analytics. In order to ensure the high quality in sci-
ence teaching, educational XR applications are being
assessed based on the learners’ ability to respond to
the requirements of science courses. Learners in this
context are evaluated by real-time evaluation algo-
rithm using conceptual tests, practical examinations,
questionnaires and combinations. The conceptual
tests are based on Web-based assessment technolo-
gies, for fast collection and analysis of data, or class-
room written paper tests. Both are to grade learners’
improvement regarding a specific science topic, based
on a pre-test, which sets the baseline knowledge and
preset criteria (Makransky et al., 2016). The practi-
cal examinations intent on evaluating the learners’ ob-
tained experimentation skills. Through the question-
naires, that usually have a 5 or 7-point Likert scale,
the learners’ express their opinion on satisfaction, in-
terest, confidence and understanding regarding the in-
troduction of the XR educational application in the
teaching procedure (Paxinou et al., 018b).
In order to assess XRLabs, a combination of the
above strategies will be used to compose a specially
designed educational scenario adapted to XR technol-
ogy. Students with previous knowledge or students
with minimum or zero training in the scientific prin-
ciples and techniques will join the control and exper-
imentation groups. Main objective is to investigate
whether students, who use XRLabs as a complement
to more traditional learning methods, gain easier sci-
ence knowledge and experimentation skills or they are
cognitively overloaded by the large amount of infor-
mation, the multiple technological devices they are re-
quired to use, and the complex tasks they have to deal
The aim of this paper is to introduce a dynami-
cal interactive Extended Reality environment as an
open technological framework to allow the easy cre-
ation of educational procedures with simulated STEM
laboratories for all levels of education. Interactive
XR laboratories, are convenient, safe, economical,
rapid, flexible and user-friendly educational tools that
challenge, engage and prepare students for their real
scientific experiments. Apparently, they are an in-
evitable component of remote education and distance
The expected societal impact of XRLabs is rather
significant. The students are developing a positive at-
titude towards the laboratory education. Also, their
safety is improved, and also their awareness of the
laboratory hazards (including equipment and consum-
ables). The laboratory equipment is protected from
misuse and malfunctioning due to the multiple educa-
tional repetitions of the experiments. In addition, the
cost reduction in terms of the usage of consumables
can be significant. All these benefits give educational
institutions the opportunity to invest on new educa-
tional products and scientific directions towards the
improvement of the quality of life.
In the future we plan to develop a suite of tac-
tile and visual experience optimization for mobile and
standalone XR educational systems. More specif-
ically, the suite will comprise of: (i) an AR SDK
for supporting illumination consistency and device-
perspective rendering mechanisms, which will be in-
tegrated with a smart sensing module in order to allow
robust pose estimation against sensing drifts and oc-
clusions that occur in complex motion patterns and
(ii) novel ultrasonic based hardware solutions and a
novel software SDK for offering emerging haptics to
virtual objects, developing touchable holographic in-
terfaces, and augmenting gesture control with natural
tactile feedback. In addition, development of an up-
grade system exploiting markerless XR techniques to
eliminate the need of special printed image markers is
also in the future plans.
This work is supported by the project XRLABS -
Virtual laboratories using interactive technologies in
virtual, mixed and augmented reality environments
(MIS 5038608) implemented under the Action for the
Strategic Development on the Research and Techno-
logical Sector, co-financed by national funds through
the Operational programme of Western Greece 2014-
CSEDU 2020 - 12th International Conference on Computer Supported Education
2020 and European Union funds (European Regional
Development Fund)
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