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How virtual reality, augmented reality and mixed reality could be used in education

Christina Mercer | Feb. 1, 2017
The biggest barrier to full adoption of these technologies in education is cost

In most cases, lessons revolve around a certain textbook and augmented reality could enable its images to 'pop out' and make the textbook become an interactive lesson.

Many schools across the UK offer tablets to students and these tablets (or even their own smartphones) could be placed over images in the book enabling it to provide an AR 'video' the student.

For example, biology students studying the human circulatory system could place their device over a textbook image and see the heart move and show in great detail how blood is pumped around the body. And this is likely to improve students concentration and enthusiasm.

Keeping practicalities in mind, AR will offer more accessibility to a broader range of schools, as the technology itself is easier to implement within the classroom. Once established (i.e. sufficient AR-enabled textbooks and apps are created), AR should be much cheaper to implement across schools with limited budgets.

So, AR might be the better choice for schools that don't want to commit to full VR headsets and VR capable PCs.

But AR isn't just limited to the classroom. The potential for its use on class trips and at home is another thing that augmented reality can provide that VR cannot.

For example, teachers could provide a homework sheet with 'markers' on them for students to use with their smartphones at home.

While cost is a running theme when implementing VR, AR and MR, it's an important factor, and in some school the most important metric. Once AR materials (books, task sheets, textbooks and more) are set up and the apps and content is made, implementing AR is a pretty cheap option for children with smartphones or schools offering tablets.

It's likely that a subscription AR package will be used by schools to get curriculum-based AR apps and in theory the benefits to learning are huge. The only question is when is this going to happen?

How could mixed reality be used in education?

Mixed reality, put simply, is a mix between real life and virtual worlds, sometimes described as a mix between VR and AR and augmented virtuality (AV).

Products like Microsoft's HoloLens offer enterprise mixed reality, with HoloLens claiming it to be the 'first self-contained, holographic computer'.

"What we're seeing is a huge amount of interest in how people can learn in 3D. Traditionally the way that people have been learning has been with books and all of that is obviously 2D, and is not necessarily the way that everyone likes to learn," said Microsoft HoloLen's senior director and commercial lead, Roger Walkden.

"What we're doing is giving people the opportunity to see real items and bring them to life in a classroom. That is a very impactful way for people to figure out how they can really get a feel for an item and or to understand more about a real life item like the anatomy of the body," added Walkden.

 

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