Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) were once considered the preserve of the luxury entertainment market. But other applications for VR headsets were quickly identified for training military and airline personnel, as well as allowing people with profound disabilities to have the sense of ‘freedom of movement’ by providing an entirely simulated environment in which to interact, while AR technology adds virtual objects to a real environment. Both AR/VR however, provide an all-encompassing lifelike experience in which activities can take place safely. Now, owing to the 2020 post-pandemic urgency to find safe, new ways to educate our children, it is estimated that the global market for AR/VR is expected to be worth $209 billion as early as 2022 (Statista.com).
With the advent of 5G which is predicted to enhance the use of such immersive technology in our classrooms with real-time interactive learning experiences, some experts believe the adoption of VR technology within the education sector will become mainstream by 2025.
The reasons behind AR/VR being pulled into the post-pandemic world of education are mainly owing to their ability to morph into several types of delivery systems filtered through headsets worn around the eyes of students. These lifelike images alone should help concentrate young minds who might otherwise be disengaged from learning owing to boredom, as the VR headsets take them into another dimension of ‘reality’, while avoiding the distractions of smartphones and the interruptions of peer groups altogether.
For example, 4D anatomy is a subscription-based app which allows the exploration of the human anatomy in a 4D interactive experience. Wild Eyes has developed an AR/VR immersive experience to mimic school fieldtrips, capturing natural habitats in 360° which would fully engage pupils in learning.
‘Time Travel’ will be possible for immersive history lessons, and visiting cultural events ‘abroad’ in real time will prove almost as engaging as the actual event, but without any air travel involved.
Classes introducing the presence of famous scientists, film stars or writers will become the norm as they join pupils in their AR/VR worlds, enhancing the experience of each child as they engage with experts they recognise and respect.
Boredom and disenchantment with lessons could be banished forever as technology adapts to the reduced attention span of modern smartphone savvy children who are capable of flitting from app to social media to real-time conversation within seconds.
AR/VR is only part of the story, however, as it needs to be used in conjunction with other modalities of educational delivery, otherwise the obvious benefits can be lost if it is the only system relied upon by teachers.
As with most things in life, moderation is key, as it is easy to see how and why the escapist thrill of AR/VR technology could become as addictive to young minds as the buzz currently obtained from chemicals, sugar and alcohol today.