Applications of VR and AR in Education
As far as the professional world goes, here are some of the most interesting applications of virtual reality in the education industry. The space is moving fast, and this is only a taste of what is possible.
Previously a repository of reviews of VR educational experiences and tutorials, startup firm Unimersiv has recently launched a virtual reality education app of their own. Available for Oculus Rift and Samsung Gear VR head-mounted displays, the app promises a new educational experience each month.
At the time of this writing, three experiences are available. Users can virtually travel to Stonehenge, the International Space Station, or inside the human body. Along with the ability to freely look around the environments, the app provides educational content in the form of narration, pop-up text, and images. All three experiences are well-written and developed, and provide a fascinating and very effective new way to learn about the various subject matters.
Unimersiv is committed to the promotion of VR as an educational tool, and at least the first three experiences are completely free to enjoy. The company is founded on the principles of education researcher Edgar Dale, who put forth the idea that the human brain “tends to remember 10% of what it reads, 20% of what it hears, but 90% of what it does or simulates.” Learning by doing has long been known to be one of the best ways to retain knowledge, but until the advent of VR, it was simply not feasible for most subjects. Magic School Bus aside, it is simply not practical to take a classroom around the world to different environments, much less to space. Until now, when virtual reality has given us the next best thing.
In the public school system, financial resources are often scarce. Purchasing decisions are made extremely carefully, and the budget for new programs and technologies do not allow much in the way of risk-taking and experimentation.
That’s why EdTech firm Nearpod has embraced virtual reality by employing on Google Cardboard, the ultra-low cost VR headset solution that relies on ordinary smartphones to provide a still-serviceable VR experience. Nearpod is currently in use in a number of public school districts around the country, and K-12 students at the participating schools enjoy virtual field trips all around the world.
Nearpod has created lesson plans ranging from the Egyptian Pyramids to the Great Barrier Reef, and even Mars. The tours are built from high-quality panoramic images with educational narration, text, and study materials added. Nearpod was built from the ground up to serve the public school sector, leveraging the experience and expertise of its founding members paired with the resources and guidance of several large venture capital firms.
Another startup, EON Reality is taking a very different approach to the educational space than Nearpod. Where Nearpod focuses on producing and supplying tailored VR experiences to the classroom, EON Reality prefers instead to “teach a man a fish”. They provide the tools for educators to create their own applications.
Using the EON Creator, educators can select from a vast selection of 3D models and place them within a virtual environment. Text or interactive elements, including content taken from online sources like Wikipedia, are added using simple scripting and drag-and-drop tools from within the virtual environment. The platform supports a wide array of specialized VR and AR hardware developed and deployed by EON.
Targeted at higher education and carrying a higher price tag, EON is leagues beyond Nearpod in its potential to create truly amazing experiences. Most impressive is the EON Idome, which utilizes a geodesic dome and specialized 3D projectors to create 3D illusions for up to 24 people in a dedicated room. The technologies employed by EON are bleeding-edge and enterprise-level, not meant for purchase by the average consumer. Nonetheless, they are well worth watching for anyone interested in virtual reality or technology in general. One truth about bleeding-edge technology is that it eventually finds its way to the consumer market in one form or another.