HoloLAB Champions is a virtual reality (VR) experience that transports players to a virtual lab where they learn the basics of chemistry experimentation through a series of mini-labs and final challenges. The experience is set up like a game show, complete with a holographic host and an audience of floating blue brains. It’s designed for the HTC Vive and Oculus Rift VR headsets, and is best suited for middle school and high school science classes.
HoloLAB Champions is a truly immersive, fun, and challenging VR experience, and I learned a lot of information that I had completely forgotten from high school chemistry. The game is split into a series of mini-labs and final challenges that you can play on either practice mode or game show mode. The mini-labs require players to conduct simple experiments that teach them some of the basics of chemistry. These include tasks such as weighing different matter on an analytical scale, lighting a Bunsen burner, discovering whether chemicals are soluble, and learning the physical properties of various elements. Using two controllers, the player gets to use both hands to conduct each experiment, which makes the actions feel more real. At the end of each challenge, players are scored based on their accuracy and safety. I got a lot of points docked in the latter category for spilling chemicals and throwing equipment out of bounds (I was curious!).
Although the individual player gets a truly hands-on experience, HoloLAB Champions could easily captivate an entire class if the gameplay is broadcast on a monitor or TV screen. Students can help the player figure out the solutions to different problems and can learn about the chemicals and processes while they watch. HoloLAB Champions also provides educators with an online breakdown of each experiment and worksheets to supplement students’ learning.
There were a few gameplay details that seemed almost too difficult to perform. In a few mini-labs, you have to measure out an exact weight or volume of a substance into a beaker to complete the challenge. Although the online instructions indicate there is a substantial margin of error acceptable, I found it incredibly difficult to pour the correct amount into and out of each beaker, again and again. A few times, I simply couldn’t get it and had to exit the experiment. If I’m missing something, clearer instructions from the host would be helpful. If not, providing a small spoon or pipette in these situations would make the player feel more in control of the situation and less frustrated.
HoloLAB Champions considers itself to be a replacement for actual labs, but I don’t think this could actually be the case. Even a fantastic VR game cannot replace the actual feeling of pouring substances into a graduated cylinder or lighting a Bunsen burner. HoloLAB Champions would be an exciting supplement to a science class, but not a replacement for physical materials.
HoloLAB Champions is an exciting, challenging, and fun VR experience that teaches players the basics of chemistry experimentation. It would be fantastic as a shared experience among an entire class of middle or high school students, but its gameplay still can’t replace the learning experience of working with physical lab materials.Image: via HoloLAB Champions