How AR & VR Can Enhance Learning & Visualisation

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  • According to Citi analyst Kota Ezawa, the VR market is expected to grow to a $15.9 billion industry by 2019.

  • VR and AR have enormous potential for making daily lessons more immersive and interactive for children. Learning through VR can open a whole world of exploration and discovery for the child.

How AR & VR Can Enhance Learning & Visualisation

According to recently released TechSci Research report, “India Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality Market By Product Type, By End-user, Competition Forecast and Opportunities, 2011 – 2021”, augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR)market in India is projected to register a CAGR of 55.3% during 2016 - 2021. Rising adoption of AR & VR based products such as head-up display, head-mounted display, etc., among various end users including defense, automotive, consumer electronics, etc., is anticipated to drive the growth in the country’s AR & VR market over the next five years. In addition, a rising number of consumer electronics applications such as gaming, entertainment, etc. are witnessing the increasing adoption of AR & VR devices in the country. According to Citi analyst Kota Ezawa, the VR market is expected to grow to a $15.9 billion industry by 2019. Citi also anticipates that the market for hardware, networks, software and content will reach $200 billion by 2020.

Technology and education have always offered an immense opportunity for transformation. Today, the progressive schools, technology conscious parents and children are slowly adapting to this technology for fast and fun ways of learning. By using VR and AR technologies, students could be involved in the classroom instead of just sitting and watching the board or studying from the textbook or simply listening to the teacher’s lecture. 
Schools in India have realized the effectiveness of AR & VR technology as they feel it can provide a better understanding of complex content and facilitate a tactile experience. This the reason why increasingly tech companies are tying up with publication houses to change the way textbooks are written and presented. Thus, it is also a school curriculum that is being augmented with this technology. For instance, Pearson has integrated its newly developed pedagogy involving Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) with Pearson's MyPedia program. Another publishing house that's betting big on AR/VR is 44-year-old Ratna Sagar, whose books are used by schools across the country.

VR and AR have enormous potential for making daily lessons more immersive and interactive for children. Learning through VR can open a whole world of exploration and discovery for the child. The concepts can be presented through interesting VR journeys - simple exploration-based or game-based. VR can also be used to create environments that are difficult to experience in reality like the solar system) or even the ones that are not real like a maze of words and requires just a VR kit and a smartphone with a VR app.

Similarly, AR allows an individual to interact with computer-generated holograms within their own environment and brings the classroom into your living room. This technology can enhance learning by simulating images, videos, three-dimensional charts, graphs, etc., that otherwise would have simply been drawn on a whiteboard or shown on a computer screen. The interactive aspect of this technology is the key — like VR, it can increase engagement, material retention, and collaboration in the classroom.  

For the large-scale adoption of these technologies, it is imperative to overcome some fundamental challenges, such as the current high price tag of HMDs, a fragmented (but growing) market of developers, and a lack of industry standards. So, it requires better & affordable hardware, better software and more power than today’s phones (and most computers) are capable of producing
Given the flurry of activity in this space, it is important that important issues be tackled effectively to ease the path to widespread adoption. These are 

  • Headsets must be tethered to computers capable of running high-end VR software, which adds to the cost. Cheaper HMDs that use smartphone displays are currently limited by the poor battery life of most smartphones and the low quality of displays (although display manufacturers should close the quality gap over time). 
  • Both VR and AR headsets will have to deal with the fact that one size does not fit all.
  • To enable widespread enterprise and consumer uptake, VR and AR will need similar universal standards that allow developers to make applications that are open and interoperable across different headsets. For VR alone, the current HMD market is filled with companies working on software and content;33 however, there is a mix of proprietary and open approaches.

Moreover, some schools might not want to dedicate a large chunk of their budgets to such an emerging technology while others will not be able to afford it at all. While mobile VR such as Google Cardboard and Samsung Gear VR offer great (and cheap) alternatives to full VR units, the VR apps available are still somewhat limited. On the other hand, augmented reality in theory offer the best learning experience, with AR offering - in the long term - a relatively cost-effective option for schools to provide classwork that can work nicely with AR apps, making the content 'come alive' in the classroom.

Another limitation is content, specifically the applications that will run alongside the VR hardware. While there are various VR videos on YouTube and a lot of apps available for both iOS and Android, a lot of this content is neither high quality nor made specifically for educational purposes. However, there are a handful of companies out there that offer both the hardware and educational content for schools, and it's these companies that could make it more accessible to schools.

Once 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. 

The technology draws its power from three well-established principles:  experiential, self-directed and visual learning.

Students learn underlying principles and master necessary behaviors through active experimentation. Learning in Virtual Learning also can be understood as an everyday field trip where students are “taken” somewhere to better understand ideas. This approach is highly engaging and helps students better connect academic concepts to real life.

These technologies enhance for self-directed learning.  Both - AR and VR, help the learners to explore and discover through self-paced journeys. The scope is vast for this technology to be effectively used in transforming the way learners learn especially in subjects ranging from geography and history to art and craft. AR and VR aid experiential learning in many ways through reinforcing concepts and promoting total engagement in the learning process. Moreover, such technologies facilitate higher learning retention, for longer periods, and take students on a path of discovery wherein they apply the learning to their real life world.

Dynamic visual representations of ideas allow students to process greater amounts of information more efficiently.  Half of the human brain is dedicated to visual processing. Visually, the human brain can process 1,000,000,000 bits/characters per second.  When coupled with a student-controlled environment, students are able to see relationships based on their own actions.

Technology and education have always offered an immense opportunity for transformation but the change has always been slow to come due to institutional inertia and lack of purchasing power. According to Goldman Sacs, the market for AR/VR in education will touch $0.7 billion by 2025. 

India has realised its potential, with few Indian start-ups woken up to the immense possibilities that AR holds. Though we are still far from rivalling the work of Microsoft and its hologram-themed augmented reality glass or Google’s Tango project, there are some Indian firms making a meaningful contribution in the evolution of AR tech.
Article authored by:

Yuvraj K. Sharma, Co-Founder,
Kompanions, An Ed-tech company

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