How Augmented and Virtual Reality (AR/VR) can transform Education
Since March, schools have been facing a new frontier — remote learning. After packing up classrooms and settling into new teaching settings like living rooms and kitchen tables, teachers, students and parents are beginning to question whether this is the start of a drastic change in the education system. Although we are probably years away from a definitive answer to this question, it is clear that these challenging times have dramatically increased the interest in remote learning options. Augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) applications are prominent options being considered.
Students have become all too familiar with Zoom classes but some are also beginning to adopt AR/VR applications for an interactive learning experience in the comfort of their own homes. Google’s Expeditions, for example, is working to bring AR/VR content to schools by expanding learning well beyond the classroom walls. While students are learning about a specific region, Expeditions can take the students on virtual field trips and display interesting facts about specific landmarks they come across in their virtual travels. A list of over 900(!) available VR expeditions can be found here.
© Google, Inc
.zSpace, a California based company, is also pioneering AR/VR learning experiences, with it’s all-in-one computers and laptops with accompanying stylus and glasses. The result is immersive and interactive AR/VR applications for K12 education, CTE, medical training, and post-secondary education. Teachers and students also have the option of using any number of AR mobile apps designed for remote learning like JigSpace, Jig Workshop, Assemblr EDU, and Math Ninja AR, all of which are available for download and use on any compatible smartphone. Younger students can even supplement their learning with educational AR games and toys such as PlayShifu.
© zSpace, Inc.
From a cost standpoint, it seems we are still a few years away from schools providing (or students purchasing) VR headsets to be able to engage daily in a virtual classroom. But operating off a regular smartphone or tablet, AR applications have a much better chance of widespread adoption. As with any product offering, it’s important to get the product-market fit right and with many students now learning in a remote environment, there is a cleaner need, and a better opportunity, to examine the compatibility of different AR/VR learning tools with its target audience.
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Also, while video conference calls have done a sufficient job at replacing small group conversations, larger lecture-style classes over video feels less personal and engaging. This is where AR can step in. Imagine dialing into your college class and instead of sitting in front of your laptop with the professor’s video up, you open up your smartphone to see a live holograph of your professor sitting right in front of you. With Omnivor’s volumetric video streaming and AR technology, students in the near future may very well be able to secure a first row seat to their professor’s lectures, who will be lecturing right there in the student’s leaving room.
MobilizAR Technologies Pvt Ltd. (PlayShifu)
Advancements in AR/VR technology could significantly improve the learning experience at universities and schools in a way that could last long beyond COVID19 and the stay at home orders. Events that were previously capped due to room capacity constraints could now be opened up to all interested parties and more. The ability to take attendees to the front row at any event has numerous applications for education and beyond. Conferences could now offer panels and speakers from all over the globe with AR holograms of each speaker. Even weddings, where guest lists are cut short or family members cannot attend, could be experienced via live AR holograms, while long distance calls could be turned into hologram meetings, bringing together friends, family, and colleagues from across the globe. AR/VR provide teachers, students and parents with new and interactive ways of teaching, studying and learning, and the future is bright.
echoAR (http://www.echoAR.xyz; Techstars ’19) is a cloud platform for augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) that provides tools and server-side infrastructure to help developers & companies quickly build and deploy AR/VR apps and experiences.