On 18 March 2022, the school Virgen de Europa with a capacity of more than 1500 students located in Boadilla del Monte, 25 km west of Madrid, Spain, hosted a special CHIC augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) demonstration. During the CHIC Days event, around 40 students in total, aged 16-18, from the Bachelor of Sciences and the Bachelor of Technology, were introduced to the CHIC project’s aims and objectives. For two hours, they had the opportunity to learn about New Plant Breeding Techniques using two different types of immersive technology games, augmented reality MyCHICFarm and virtual reality CHIC-Bubbles. The Interactive Systems Research Group (DEI-Lab) at UC3M in Spain developed both games and conducted the CHIC Days session.
MyCHICFarm is an AR game developed for the CHIC project. It allows students, and the young generation, to learn more about new genome editing techniques and, of course, to learn more about the CHIC project. The game allows users to grow chicory crops and make the most money by planting chicory using Microsoft’s Hololens. In short, a farmer (user) starts with a fixed amount of money to buy chicory seeds, plant them, grow them, collect them, and then sell them in the market. The price of the chicory crops fluctuates based on the quality of crops, which can be affected by unexpected events such as droughts, rain, and insects. The game also includes a way to utilize CRISPR/Cas technique on plant DNA. CHIC-Bubbles organize relevant topics related to the project in a VR hierarchical space or taxonomy. The VR world allows students to explore and acquire knowledge related to the NPBTs technology in a non-conventional and exciting way.
Students enjoyed dissecting the DNA in a lab using AR. They were able to play with plants’ DNA using this immersive technology that is not readily available everywhere. They certainly enjoyed the life-like experience of modifying a virtual chicory plant DNA with their own hands using Microsoft Hololens. At the same time, the CHIC-Bubbles game was also a ‘hit’ with the students. They found the game fun and useful, especially compared to the 2D presentation. They enjoyed playing the games that students had to ask them to give other students a chance.