Despite the ominous messages that Black Mirror has warned its viewers about the advancement of AR and VR (let’s hope none of us end up in the USS Callister), the technologies are growing and here to stay. AR and VR for education is also a budding field, and we even had the pleasure of sharing ideas with content creators at a recent VR for Education meetup right around the corner from our office in Dumbo, Brooklyn.
With the release of Apple’s ARKit for iOS and Google’s ARCore, AR & VR continue to trickle into the mainstream. You’ve probably already experienced AR/VR in your daily life as well, such as playing the global sensation Pokemon Go or the AR adaptation of one of most beloved children’s book classics of all time, “The Very Hungry Caterpillar”.
But what does the rise of virtual and augmented reality mean for the world of education? More importantly, how can teachers effectively use these tools in the classroom?
We had the pleasure of seeing innovative ideas for the classroom pop up at SXSWEdu, where panelists such as @jlindl, @Garlicsuter, @RafranzDavis @jordanbudi, @unity3d discussed VR content creation by students, and how AR/VR technology can shape the future of the classroom.
Many educators may feel uncomfortable with new technologies, especially with something as complex as VR/AR. However, Jordan Budi, a computer science teacher on the panel reassured concerned educators:
“[…] I don’t know all the words in the dictionary but I can read and write in English. Likewise, you don’t need to know everything about a programming language or emerging technology in order to to start building things.”
Part of what we do at ProjectEd is advise companies in the execution of bringing new technology into the classroom. As educators know, the classroom is a unique and sometimes unpredictable environment replete with its own unique pitfalls and obstacles. Often times these are not rooted in the technology itself but related to the way it’s introduced or used.
Like many edtech companies, we want to put the needs of educators first and suggest practical solutions for the classroom. Here are some useful ways that teachers can use AR/VR in the classroom, making learning more interactive, along with some important developments to look out for in the near future:
1. Turn the classroom into an interactive learning experience.
Teachers are crafty folks and with this year’s introduction of ARKit for iOS and Google’s ARCore, teachers are even more empowered to find creative ways to incorporate AR and VR into their lesson plans and create their own activities. Apps like Aurasma, Aug That and Paint Space AR allow teachers to create activities and turn worksheets and bulletin boards into more engaging learning experiences.
Other apps like Creator AVR are more robust VR/AR authoring platforms that allow a teacher to create their own lessons and content using AVR’s library of assets and tools.
2. Use Devices That Schools Already Have
Since budgets and resources are always a major concern when it comes to introducing products to teachers and their classrooms, developments in AR and VR that expand the capability of mobile devices will outpace their higher end counterparts in schools. Inexpensive devices like Google cardboard can be used along with a cell phone to take students on virtual field trips like Google Expeditions and Learn around the World. Classrooms could also use a standalone phone or iPad to study and dissect human anatomy with apps like The Visible Body AR
At SXSWEDU, we were able to experience the wonders of MergeCube, where users can create unique “holograms” and view the experience through their phones. Students can re-create and explore the solar system or even ancient museum artifacts, all at the palm of their hands.
Here is a first look at Museum Viewer for #MERGECube. You can hold artifacts in your hands and place them in the real world (to scale). What artifacts would you like to see? How will you use this app in the classroom? #AR #arvrinedu #STEMeducation pic.twitter.com/86IU01q0P9— MERGE #SXSWEdu (@MergeVR) March 5, 2018
3. Infrared (IR) motion tracking are coming to mobile phones
In this case, it may not be so bad that a student always has their phone on them. Time to take out the keys to the “phone jail” you have in your desk.
IR tracking may soon be available for mobile devices. Typically, IR tracking involves the placement of external sensors in the play environment that tracks the user’s headset position relative to the 3D environment. This allows for the feeling of true immersion, where you can look under and around objects, in the virtual world. However, one of the big limitations of higher end systems connected to IR tracking devices is its immobility, since the headset must be tethered to a base computer. This separates higher end systems like Oculus and HTC from their cheaper counterparts such as Google Cardboard and Gear VR. Currently, this functionality doesn’t exist for mobile headsets.
This is where IR for mobile comes in handy, especially for the classroom. Mobile phones already have a lot of the hardware and functionality built in. Students would not be restricted to just head motion from a fixed position but they could crawl over and under obstacles to see what lies underneath or roam the class as if in an actual location. This could potentially transform the classroom into a fully immersive environment.
4. Keep your eyes straight ahead: the development of foveated rendering.
Students and teachers can keep an eye on the prize. Literally. Foveated rendering is a technique that takes advantage of eye-tracking technology built into the headset. It reduces the image rendering workload by decreasing the quality of the images in your peripheral vision. Simulating normal vision where the the greatest focus is on the area being gazed at.
This is a quickly moving space and new apps are popping up daily, so download a few, try them out, and stay tuned.
Check out this periodic table shared during SXSWEDU for teachers to try VR/AR.