Walking with dinosaurs. Using VR and AR in education

Roger Laing

Monday 3 September 2018

Immersive technologies – like Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) – promise fun new ways to engage the smartphone generations and create the workforce of the future.

Immersive technologies – like Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) – are playing an ever bigger part in our working lives. They’re changing the way business looks from healthcare to construction, and creating virtual, collaborative spaces where we can work together, wherever we are in the world.

As they are rooted in video game technology, it’s not surprising that AR and VR should also be used to engage and teach the smartphone generations and create the workforce of the future.

It’s a type of learning not possible in the past. Where teachers may have struggled to make experiences outside the norm seem real, immersive technologies can bring things to life. Instead of reading a text book about dinosaurs, students can walk beside them. They can travel to the bottom of an ocean, experience life in ancient civilisations and visit the tallest building in the world, all without leaving the classroom.


The learning game

Gamification of learning means also makes it more fun to study. Research commissioned by Lenovo shows that almost all teachers (94%) in the UK think that VR will benefit the classroom. Nearly half (42%) estimate it will be commonplace in the next five years.

As use of these immersive technologies grows, they will be crucial in fostering the digital skills of tomorrow’s workforce.

The most immersive of the technologies is VR. Users enter a simulated world by wearing a headset VR system, like Lenovo Virtual Reality Classroom. Introduced this year, this is the world’s first standalone headset. It comes pre-loaded with Google Expeditions VR field trips and exclusive content. Now, the school field trip goes virtual, providing a true-to-life way of visiting places that wouldn’t be possible otherwise – because they are too far away or risky or expensive.

Although less immersive, Augmented Reality (AR) also makes lessons more interactive. AR apps add computer-generated images and videos to a real environment. They are triggered by a marker, such as a movement, object or barcode, and displayed through mobiles or smartglasses.

So, for example, with the AR-enabled textbook, students using a tablet or smartphone can roll over an image to see a video pop-up, such as footage of a dissection in a biology book. This rich, extended content captures students’ attention, increases their understanding of complex events and provides a fresh, different view that improves their motivation to learn.


Fourth wave of consumer technologies

Together, AR and VR make up the fourth wave of consumer technology, believes AR/VR consultancy Digi-CapitalTM.

In particular, they predict there will be a rapid increase in the adoption of mobile AR, across industries and schools, thanks to the ubiquity of mobiles and low-cost AR apps.

They forecast an installed base of three and a half billion for mobile AR and smartglasses by 2022, compared with an installed base of 50-60 million for VR. And this is ‘only the start of what the wave could achieve’.


Virtual problem-solving

This rise in AR and VR is because they are empathy technologies. They allow us to understand each other better and improve collaboration among a diverse mix of people.

The importance of such empathy extends from the classroom to the boardroom. AR and VR technologies are being used for creating virtual worlds that simulate tough everyday working situations. Now, education and business leaders can practice their people management and develop their interpersonal skills in a virtual world – before trying it for real.

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