2016 research

Robot Mediated Interactions

Dr. Michael Vallance Ed.D, MSc., PGCE, BSc(Hons)

Research funding from Science Connect, UK Prime Minister’s Initiative 2 (PMI2), JAIST Japan kakenhi, DAIWA and Future University Hakodate.

Keywords: Information science (情報アーキテクチャ学科), OpenSim; Unity; LabView; LEGO; Mindstorms; Japan; Wales; collaboration; communication; futures; simulation


Computational Thinking enabled by Robot-mediated Interactions in a 3D Virtual Simulation of the Fukushima nuclear power plant.


SUMMARY: The aim of this research is to quantify task difficulty and subsequent learner solutions when engaged in problem-solving, computational thinking tasks in 3D virtual spaces. By implementing increasingly complex 3D virtual world telerobotic operations and the collaborative programming of LEGO Mindstorms robots, we collect, collate and analyze three-dimensional data of (i) problem task complexity, (ii) programmed robot solution complexity, and (iii) learner immersion as a partial proxy for computational thinking. For instance, Task Fidelity is a useful indicator of the complexity of a task. A cognitive determiner of Task Fidelity is immersion or flow. Utilizing a flow criteria of task challenge versus students' skill, data is collected from students in Japan and UK collaborating in the programming of LEGO Mindstorms robots to solve realistic problems by utilizing the multi-modal communication tools available in 3D virtual worlds. Tasks are conducted in two scenarios.

Scenario 1. Robot Mediated Interactions in a virtual power plant as Training Area

Scenario 2: Recovering illegally dumped radioactive bins in virtual Fukushima nuclear power plant using the Oculus Rift headset.


A disaster simulation has been designed in Unity 3D and viewed via Oculus Rift. In this immersive 3D space, students must use a robot to locate radioactive bins. Declarative, procedural and meta-cognitive knowledge are being researched.


Students are remotely located so communicate in our OpenSim 3D virtual space. Students in UK can control our LEGO EV3 robots in our Japan lab by manouvering the virtual robot in the 3D space. Our research is concerned with remote collaboration.


Task metrics are determined by Circuit Task Complexity and Robot Task Complexity. The TKF model is used for task designs: Tsukutte つくって (Create) – Katatte かたって (Share) –  Furikaeru ふりかえる (Reflect).


Dr. Michael Vallance is a Professor in the Department of Media Architecture (previously Director of the Center for Meta-Learning - CML) at Future University, Japan. He has a Doctorate in Education from Durham University, a Masters Degree in Computer Assisted Learning from Stirling University, UK, and a BSc(Hons) Degree in Mechanical Engineering from the University of South Wales, UK.


In 2012 Michael was awarded second place  in the GameTech Federal Virtual Worlds Challenge by the USA Department of Defense (DoD).


International collaboration and multi-disciplinary cooperation are essential for success in 21st century education.

JAPAN: Future University Hakodate (公立はこだて未来大学)

Dept: Dept. of Media Architecture (情報アーキテクチャ学科)

BRITAIN: University of Hull.

Dept: Centre for Educational Studies

BRITAIN: University of South Wales.

Dept: Centre for Excellence in Learning and Teaching

Virtual Fukushima Dai'ichi nuclear power plant

USA: Appalachian State University.

Dept: Leadership & Education Studies