23 February 2017

How augmented and virtual reality will change the world of education


Emerging technologies of Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality have enormous promise when it comes to education and training, especially in some very niche areas that are extremely difficult to achieve with traditional means. But before we go on, I want to give you some insight into these technologies.

What is Virtual Reality?

Virtual Reality (VR) is a fully immersive experience in which the user wears a headset that projects an interactive video and audio stream. This is not new technology but Initial versions of the technology required expensive equipment, but since the US$2 billion purchase of Oculus by Facebook, investment in the area has more than tripled as the technology becomes more and available for the end consumer.

So, what’s Augmented Reality (AR) then?

AR is the seamless fusion of the real world with generated virtual artefacts superimposed onto our view through the device. It can be enabled through something as high tech as Microsoft’s HoloLens, or even as simple as interactions with a handheld mobile phone or tablet.

The limiting factor of these technologies these days is our own creativity, especially when it comes to applications for education and training. There are almost an endless number of ways to improve the dated techniques used in Education and we are already seeing the applications being played today.

VR has the opportunity to transport a student anywhere in the world, to a created environment they can participate and interact with. But seriously, changing just the location really is nothing. We can be anywhere, any size, in any systems, in any situation. Imagine a doctor being to visualise the impact of bacteria on cells, or a chemist being able to create complex molecules. Or a firefighter being able to step into a burning building and run through scenarios that in any other environment may put lives at risk. Cortex Interactive has built and developed the application to visual all these scenarios, where it is applicable across all industry sectors for education and training purposes.

The military and aviation industries have known about the economic and safety benefits of simulation for decades. These days, it’s almost unheard of for a new commercial or military aircraft not to be released with a simulator. By providing an opportunity for pilots, for example, to experience life threatening events in a safe and controlled environment, they are enabling their pilots to move past the natural fight-or-flight response and react with the instincts of hours of training in similar situations.

The applications for AR are definitely different than VR. Instead of a completely controlled and simulated world, AR provides you the opportunity to interact with the real world. Imagine a student reading through a book and seeing animated visualisations that make the content come alive. Discovery-based learning enables students to learn more about a real-life object such as at a museum or for new employees in a manufacturing plant.

By integrating AR into the learning process, students find themselves more engaged with the topic and will be excited by the new ideas they are being exposed to. By fostering intellectual curiosity, retention levels are considerably higher and the costs in many situations can be much lower than traditional techniques.

So what’s the big deal with AR and VR?

For both AR and VR, the benefits over traditional approaches are much more than just better retention and a deeper understanding. Because the technology is also interactive, the technology can be used to test and evaluate understanding and reward users who master concepts before moving on. By integrating testing into the environment itself, the content can be highly tuned and even customised based on the learning style, background or even by how fast the student is learning. These technologies are able to see exactly where your eye is looking and even gauge your reaction while interacting with the environment. This allows for the extraction of behavioural based data, not just the basic pass marks we see with traditional learning. It is this type of revolution that our outdated methods needs and why we are seeing an inevitable migration towards these technologies.

Cortex Interactive and Velpic will continue to evolve our capabilities to help organisations navigate this new training ground to produce innovative training and learning experiences for all their stakeholders. Velpic CEO Russell Francis and I invite you to join us on an exciting Virtual Reality Roadshow in March 2017 to discover how we are doing this. Find out more and register now.

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