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Bridging the Gap between Virtual and Reality

Virtual and Augmented reality (VR/AR) is also starting to be incorporated into educational settings. Virtual reality is a computer simulated reality in which a user can interact with replicated real or imaginary environments. In augmented reality, virtual 3D graphics are overlaid onto our real world. Research suggests that students remember 20% of the information they hear and 30% of the information they see but 90% of the information they receive through activity or simulation.

VR/AR makes it possible to visit ruins or other famous sites, look around museums, get transported under the sea or to outer space, all while sitting in a classroom. As VR/AR imparts a greater feeling of reality than photos or a two-dimensional video, a student can look up across China’s Great Wall and get a true sense of its size. A student can also obtain a three-dimensional understanding of structures such as the human body and buildings.

Because VR/AR responses to the student’s movements and actions, it relies on the student to discover information. It also provides an environment where students will want to come back to discover and learn new content.

Some examples of companies that have made significant breakthroughs in this area include zSpace, a company founded in 2007 and based in Silicon Valley. zSpace installs virtual classrooms that are designed specifically for elementary to high school students. In these virtual classrooms, students wear 3D glasses and can project as well as rotate images of three dimensional objects into empty space, examining them in close proximity. To date, around 100 school districts in the U.S. have installed zSpace’s virtual classrooms and the company’s products are scheduled for introduction in additional countries in the future.

Another company, Nearpod provides content that enables students to go on field trips in virtual space. Teachers can also easily create their own VR teaching materials, enabling them to incorporate their teaching objectives and feedback from the students. Yet another company, Immersive VR Education, teaches students through role-play. For example, Immersive VR Education allows students studying history to experience being part of the Apollo 11 crew and to be the first person to land on the moon.

This does not mean that there are no challenges to VR/AR in eduation. It is reported that small children are at risk of becoming cross-eyed if they look at video on a twin-lens VR viewer. This problem may be difficult to solve quickly since it is closely related to the mechanics of VR/AR. In the near term, we think AR/VR may have to be viewed as an education tool for students above a certain age.

There is significant opportunity in using technology to redesign educational processes. Citi analysts believe that technology will continue to transform education by personalizing the learning process, causing the content to become more engaging, thus making learning much more flexible.