How VR can transform education

May 11, 2016 16:16
Virtual labs will allow students to do all sorts of experiments, including those that are dangerous to perform in real-life environment. Photo: TED

My dentist is a tech aficionado. He has a pair of Google Glass and he is also the proud owner of a drone -- which he uses for aerial photography to capture images of him playing with his daughter.

During a recent visit to his clinic, I found him engaged in animated discussion on another new thing-- virtual reality (VR).

Well, I was not really surprised about his latest fascination, given the buzz surrounding VR in recent months.

Almost all the top consumer electronics firms in the world have said that VR could be the next big thing for the industry.

With a new growth segment opening up, Hong Kong is also seeing some initiatives. 

A local startup room3 recently jumped on the bandwagon and developed a VR-based technology that allows people to view property units through smartphones, making them feel as if they were really walking through the homes.

The device will be targeted at real-estate developers and agents, which can use it as an additional tool to draw customers and promote sales.

The company deploys 14 cameras to take 360 degree pictures in apartments and stitch the images together to create a virtual experience, an executive told StartupBeat. Certain interactive functions are also included.

We can expect that more companies will discover fresh applications for VR in their businesses.

It's not difficult to see the gaming, entertainment and business potential of VR in the near future.

But what really convinced me about the huge possibilities of the new technology is a presentation I witnessed from tech entrepreneur Michael Bodekaer on the knowledge sharing platform TED.

Boedeker first talked about a real-life problem facing science education: that is, students are often bored and disengaged in class.

The entrepreneur then came up with the idea of a virtual lab, which works somewhat similar to a flight simulator, to let students do all kinds of virtual experiments on a computer.

He also brought game experts on board to create fun and compelling stories to make learning more interactive, task-oriented and appealing.

For instance, students can learn how to use core science knowledge to solve a murder case.

With upgraded hardware, Bodekaer’s VR teaching software can be used by inserting a smartphone into a VR headset. Putting that on, students will feel like they are moving around in a laboratory, using different equipment, such as electronic microscopes, to do experiments.

Inside this VR world, students can also access related content through a VR tablet, and there is a VR teacher walking students through.

Bodekaer told the audience that in the future, teachers can even teleport themselves into the VR environment.

If teachers and schools worldwide embrace this kind of technology, the world can train up more young scientists to solve growing problems such as global warming, epidemics and other threats.

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EJ Insight writer