Future Ready: VR, AR, and MR in the classroom beyond the novelty.
Classroom level application of VR, AR, and MR content is a form of job readiness. These emergent technologies are fun and exciting, they can be used to captivate students but what’s the learning value beyond that? As educators we regularly asking ourselves what is the educational value, how will this help me achieve my content goals and prepare my students for the world that awaits them. Fair and valid concerns that I hope this blog post will address.
AR has been around since the early Nineties1 but until recently it was slow to be adopted by the masses as a useful technology. One exception would be video games which have heads-up displays (HUDs) in car games, war games, in just about everything with a live score (constant feedback). These entertainment venues have now informed the real world, one example is John Madden Football being used by the NFL to create a better viewing experiences (augmented experience) for viewers.3,4
We should define VR, AR, and MR, since the purpose of this blog is to explore career readiness I will use the definitions as explained by the AREA (Augmented Reality for Enterprise Alliance), the only global member-driven trade organization focusing on reducing barriers to, and accelerating the smooth introduction and widespread adoption of Augmented Reality by and for professionals.
Virtual Reality (VR) – technology that relies on software, hardware, and content but without the physical world and is 100% imaginary or “synthetic.”2
Augmented Reality (AR) – always involves adding digital information in a manner that’s tightly synchronized with the physical world. Augmented Reality is the suite of enabling technologies and the resulting experience of a user when highly contextual digital information (in the form of text, images, graphics, animations, video, 3D models, sound or haptic stimuli) is presented in a manner that’s synchronized in real time, and appears attached to physical world people, places or objects.2
Mixed Reality (MR) – On one end is the physical world without any digital enhancements and, on the other, the purely digital world (Virtual Reality). Augmented Reality is a form of mixed reality that is closer to the physical world than the purely digital world.2
At the AR in Action Summit (MIT Jan 17-18, 2017) vendors, academics, and industry professionals gathered to share AR experiences and develop a future for AR. AR’s application across many different industries was prevalent.
I learned about how architectural firms are regularly using AR and VR to illustrate designs and models for their clients. This powerful example shows AR and VR applied in the workplace, here is one example from Arrowstreet.6
And another example from Balti Virtual (http://baltivirtual.com/) showing their work with Baltimore’s Port Covington project.
These examples allow architects and developers to have meaningful discussions with clients about the projects that they are working on. In both cases, these companies have found that AR/VR opens the door to discussions with clients that were previously much harder to attain and that lead to a higher quality end product. Visuals of doctors with an Oculus headset connected to a live camera reminded me of FPS gameplay.
Medical practitioners shared examples of enhanced Spinal and Lung Surgery all aided by VR/AR/MR applications. Doctors reported more effective and efficient surgery aided by these technologies, leading to higher quality medical care.
During the summit Fire Department Captain Kirk McKinzie gave a call for help to industry professionals to continue to develop AR hardware to support the rapid rescue of victims in emergency situations.
Among the vendors were HoloTats & UA Play which offer an AR experience for consumers.
PTC’s Thingworx demonstrated how manufacturers and servicemen can repair and build products aided by AR visualizations of tasks and steps for a wide variety of projects.
Further, in the workplace it became clear that subject matter experts are now able to work at a distance and can guide lesser skilled/qualified people through complex tasks all through AR.
The emergent fields of VR, AR, and MR are rapidly expanding and are among the few technologies that we can most definitely target as relevant to our students’ future workplace. Our students will be called upon to leverage this technology and to improve it in their future careers. Recent predictions state that by 2025 14 million workers will use AR in their workplace, up from 400,000 presently.7
So what can we do in the classroom? We need to share our experiences with AR to better inform educational applications on their creation and development of student learning experiences. Current research states: “While AR technology has been improving, it can still be difficult for students to use; therefore, more studies related to the development and usability of AR applications are needed. Within this line, learners’ opinions about usability and preferences must be examined in AR based learning environments.”8 These “studies” can include our classroom experiences as a form of action research to promote meaningful change in practice and use of innovative technology.
- “Augmented Reality in Education” http://www.arined.org/?page_id=43 retrieved 1.25.17
- “Augmented Reality Defined“ http://thearea.org/augmented-reality-defined/ retrieved 1.25.17
- Gordon, Bing “Gamers know AR“ Lecture at AR in Action (MIT, 1.18.17) www.arinaction.com
- Pierce, David “25 years of Madden, the video game that changed football forever” (2014). http://www.theverge.com/2014/1/31/5365700/25-years-of-madden-the-game-that-changed-football-forever retrieved 1.25.17
- “The AREA Faq” http://thearea.org/area/faq/ retrieved 1.25.17
- Arrowstreet www.arrowstreet.com retrieved 1.25.17
- Gownder, J.P. (2016) “How Enterprise Smart Glasses Will Drive Workforce Enablement – Forecast: US Enterprise Adoption And Usage Of Smart Glasses” published April 21, 2016.
- Akçay, M. and Akçay, G. (2017) Advantages and challenges associated with augmented reality for education: A systematic review of the literature. Published in Educational Research Review 20 (2017) 1-11.