The Virtual Arena: Into The Classroom for VR
Kevin Williams looks at how VR is shaping the education of the future at the 2017 BETT show.
In his latest column for VRFocus – leading exponent of the out-of-home entertainment sector, Kevin Williams, starts his New Year coverage with a look at the deployment of VR beyond consumer, in the teaching and educational scene, at one of the largest exhibitions for this sector.
Deploying virtual reality (VR) beyond the hoped living-rooms gets little coverage in the spate of the latest upheavals within the consumer adoption. But our readers will be surprised by the developments being made with VR into the education.
The British Educational Training and Technology Show (BETT) took the floor of the ExCel exhibition space, filled with the latest technology employed in the classroom and teaching the international curriculum. Along with the latest electronic-tables, connected wipe boards, programmable robots, and new 3D-printing systems, the digital classroom is also seeing the inclusion of immersive technology.
The exhibitor AVANTIS showed their world’s first VR headset aimed squarely at the education market, one of a number seen on the show floor – the ClassVR system offering a means for 360’ visualization and VR content delivery. Sold as eight, toughened, wireless, all-in-one VR headsets, specially tailored for deployment in classrooms.
The use of immersive visualisation that is affordable, but also accessible for the whole school; this was illustrated by Google, who promoted the importance of their cost-effective VR solution, with a vending machine distributing Google Cardboard units too interested educationalists.
Google was also promoting their new approach to the classroom, with the first presentation of Google Expeditions – a brand new approach to allowing a class to simultaneously experience exploration of historical and educational virtual environments viewed through mobileVR platforms. The company promoting the
Expeditions Pioneer Programme, for selected UK schools to receive a visit from the team to promote their platform, (offering a virtual-fieldtrip).
As seen with the AVANTIS ClassConnect approach; the Google Expeditions system allows the teacher to direct the students to significant elements of the virtual environment, and can even start and stop the experience simultaneously for a class of users, as well as other elements to steer the narrative, (a unique aspect of the social VR experience, bound to gain traction in the consumer approach).
The exhibitor VEATIVE promoted their approach to the VR Classroom, with both a VR Station and a MR Station, this position using the Microsoft Hololens, promoting the educational curriculum software content.
The company was one of several exhibitors that also presented a simulation of what a VR classroom setup would resemble with a dedicated VR educational experience presented to teachers. The VR headset vying to be as essential in the classroom as the connected tablet.
The creation of educational content that supports current teaching methodology was also a major element on display. The school curriculum has embraced the use of film and video narrative to aid teaching. The use of 360’ degree video content for teach was seen from Discovery Education, with their Discovery VR service. Examples of natural history and national geographic content presented on Gear VR’s.
Developers of award winning video and digital teaching and learning resources for the classroom are also turning their hand to the deployment of 360’ and full virtual experiences – exhibitors such as Twig. The company using several equipped Viewmaster VR headsets, demonstrating a simple solution for content for educational establishments.
This was only a small selection of the many immersive AR, VR and MR technology on display at BETT 2017 – including the latest developments in 3D projection mapping allowing students movements to be represented in floor and wall projected experiences. All this and a greater need to engage with pupils born into the digital revolution; it seems that no matter the stumbling steps in consumer application – the enterprise and education sector are grasping the opportunity of VR with both hands.
Following this brief report, the next big coverage comes hot on the heels of the BETT event, with VR playing a major part in the Gambling and Gaming industry. Europe’s biggest casino and gaming show scheduled to take place this month, with many exclusive launches of VR based applications for this sector – Watch this space for VRFocus exclusive coverage of these developments.