Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality are two of the hottest technology trends in development right now. Though its most visible commercial applications are in the realm of gaming, there are a wealth of companies testing the waters for virtual reality in education for a myriad of ‘serious’ uses. Its potential has already been well exploited in situations such as aviation and flight training, healthcare and medicine, policing and military exercises, but with increasing urgency for practical experiences in education as well as these highly specialized fields, the demand is dictating the future.
Certain technologies are poised to rise above the rest, based on their ability to deliver a visually precise experience that is more easily transferable to the real world. Developers that can leverage key skills in design, motion sensing, image processing and speech recognition will lead the charge.
With online education and e-learning already moving into the mainstream, it seems logical that VR and AR are the next step. The need to improve training environments and to be able to provide the flexibility to change without driving up overhead costs is a major factor in the adoption of VR in training situations. With the ability of VR and AR software to deliver increasingly richer, more detailed environments, it is now possible for industries to offer training that is more affordable for the trainee as well as for the training provider, minimizing risks, reducing costs and ensuring compliance across the board.
One field where virtual reality and augmented reality hold an enormous amount of potential is in educational technology (EdTech)...
The rising accessibility of VR hardware and software can only lead to wider adoption. VR is already finding solid footing in higher education, and is seen as an inevitable next step in the progression towards a more efficient, risk free classroom environment. Growth in the VR software sector alone has shown a massive upward trend, and is forecast to expand from its current valuation of $6.7 billion in 2016 to $70 billion by 2020. In this sense, it stands to reason that developers wishing to expand into this market will have a ready audience.
Technology and Accessibility
Currently, VR software provides vital support for a myriad of high tech industries, and in some cases has completely revolutionized their training model. Being able to provide practical training without the added expense and administration of a classroom is just the tip of the iceberg. Additional advantages can be found in the ability to standardize training, continuing education and compliance on a wide geographical scale. The case for VR in this sense is compelling, and will almost certainly change the way we approach all education, training and certification in the immediate future.
Some examples of industries that already include virtual reality education in their business model include:
Flight and Transportation Simulators have been in use for decades, and are a safe and cost-effective way to train users to operate highly specialized aircraft, race cars and spacecraft, presenting clear advantages with regard to safety, liability and equipment wear and tear.
Military Training uses virtual reality to accomplish a long list of objectives that include battle simulations, cultural situation training, counter-terrorism and para-trooping.
Mining is one of many potentially dangerous industries that use VR for high-risk situational training.
Surgical and Healthcare: while the field has made efficient use of the technology for various treatments (especially in the psychiatric realm), surgical training via VR provides experiences that aren’t easy to come by in the real world.
Engineering is another industry whose education relies heavily on theory and lacks a great deal of hands-on experience in the course of classroom learning. The opportunity to optimize and test systems in a virtual reality environment promotes collaboration and innovation.
Education. A virtual classroom setting opens up the playing field for high-demand courses, allowing schools to accept more students, and providing candidates with more learning opportunities.
Hardware and Software
The most successful educational experiences are ones that capture the attention of those being taught. By engaging with students on a visceral level, it motivates them to learn, and then introduces them to content relevant to the process. The attraction is its immersive nature: imagine students in small town USA being able to visit an exhibit at the Louvre, for example.
There are several VR headsets currently on the market, and even more coming on board as the technology becomes more accessible. Many integrate smartphones as their screens, such as Oculus, which uses a Samsung Galaxy. The consumer release of Oculus is set for the spring of 2016.
Google Cardboard is a cheap example that also uses a smartphone as a screen, and as its name implies, is actually made of cardboard. Designed specifically for school applications, it is featured for Google Expeditions, which presents teacher-led field trips to various locations.
OSVR, or Open Source Virtual Reality is just as it touts – both hardware and software are open source.
FOVE promises a more precise VR experience by making use of advanced eye-tracking technology rather than relying on physical movements or other hardware to control the action. Set to start shipping to developers in 2016.
Alchemy VR is a software package that originally marketed itself as the world’s first virtual communications coach, purporting to boost employee presentation and engagement skills. As a recent feature, they have released Alchemy Learning, a collaboration with International Neuroscience Network Association that is aimed at providing accelerated learning through interactive experiences.
In some ways, you could see educational VR as the gamification of learning, but when what a student loves the most is brought into the classroom as part of their curriculum, amazing things can happen, including heightened engagement and a measurably more effective and efficient learning experience.
The biggest obstacle to advancement in this realm is the shortfall of developers who possess talents in key areas, but with the current surge in demand, the industry will eventually find a balance. VR development in high tech industry training has been dominated thus far by academic R&D, along with a handful of privately funded initiatives, but making the lateral move from gaming into training isn’t yet foremost on the minds of most developers. More and more, however, the rapid advances we see in the gaming realm will find their way into learning environments, and by proxy, the developers who have mastered the key skills will be at the forefront of this movement.
How AppReal Can Help
AppReal is a software company that specializes in virtual reality development and augmented reality development. We have in our DNA experienced specialists in the realms of precision 3D modeling and photorealistic design, gyro and accelerometer integration (for motion processing and interpretation), image processing and speech recognition – the core competencies that will drive custom VR solutions for education, training and industry.
Being able to design an educational experience that is as close to reality as possible takes a developer with a deep understanding of these key areas, and AppReal fills that need. Having identified a rapidly growing trend towards VR training in education and industry, we are ready to leverage our skills in order to provide real solutions, now.
Though VR technology is not new, the number of developers who have dedicated human capital in order to respond to this are few and far between. Recognizing the need for flexible, scalable and highly detailed solutions, AppReal is poised and ready to disrupt, committed to leading the charge and helping to develop benchmark solutions that will change the way the world learns.