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Husband, wife blaze trail with VR app for physics education in Vietnam

Nguyen Quoc Huy and his wife, Nguyen Thi Hong Nhung.
Nguyen Quoc Huy and his wife, Nguyen Thi Hong Nhung.

A virtual reality smartphone app created by a Vietnamese couple which allows users to put objects through physical processes is earning recognition from Vietnam’s education community as an important addition to the country’s physics education curricula.

Nguyen Quoc Huy, a 34-year-old physics lecturer at the Hanoi National University of Education, and his wife, Nguyen Thi Hong Nhung, incorporated what they call “4-dimensional virtual reality technology” into the app in order to provide students with visualizations of physical processes and objects.

Huy said the current trend in education is providing learners with hands-on experience.

With physics, however, real world scenarios involving atomic structures and nuclear reactions are extremely difficult to create given that they must take place in a state-of-the-art laboratory.

“I’ve taught for many years and have seen many tools that aid in education, but I recognize that Vietnam doesn’t have any technology related to microscopic physical phenomena,” Huy said.

The couple spent over a year reading relevant materials, designing a detailed plan for the product, and working with a software company to develop the programming.

Since its launch, the app has earned praise from educators and students across the country for its combined use of virtual reality and augmented reality to produce simulated models related to physics and chemistry.

Nguyen Quoc Huy shows off his app by scanning the chemical symbol for lithium.
Nguyen Quoc Huy shows off his app by scanning the chemical symbol for lithium.

Using the app is quite simple: point a smartphone camera equipped with the program at an image, for example the symbol for the element lithium (Li), and the app will produce an image of the element’s atomic structure which can be rotated and viewed from different angles.

“The simulations currently used in Vietnam are two- and three-dimensional but don’t allow the user to control the movement of images on the screen. My app can do that.” Huy shared.

Huy plans to sell the app commercially for VND500,000 (US$22) and allow the buyer to install it on five smartphones for each purchase.

“When he first got the idea, I was quick to share my doubts. Eventually we talked it out and encouraged each other to give it a shot,” Nhung, a former physics student herself, recalled.

The couple worked as a team to research the physics and chemistry they would need to include in their project outline and in the app’s knowledge database. They then contacted a software company to write the code.

When the stress of developing the app became too much, Nhung would leave Huy to his work and take their child out to play.

Huy said he intends to develop visualization programs for biology and history, a school subject often taught straight from a textbook, often generating more boredom than interest to younger generations of Vietnamese students.