Virtual reality (VR) and related technologies such as augmented reality (AR) and mixed reality (MR) have already begun to see significant use in the field of education and training. Though language teaching doesn’t initially appear to be a natural fit for a primarily visual medium, two companies in China and Canada are exploring its advantages.
MRC Education Services Canada has embarked on a joint venture with JIAHE Technology Company to test out a new approach to English language learning. By integrating mixed reality technology with other technologies such as voice over IP, students in China can engage with native language tutors in an immersive environment which can provide several opportunities and advantages.
As the economy of China continues to grow and its develops into a significant world power, demand for English language tutors continues to rise. By using MR, tutors can communicate one-on-one with students without needing to travel. In addition, it has long been recognised that one of the best ways to gain fluency in a language is to be immersed in the language and the surrounding culture, using MR offers a substitute for this, allowing students and tutors to engage in natural dialogue about the virtual environment around them.
The project offers diverse environments with which to set a lesson, such as the base of the Eiffel Tower, the pyramids in Egypt or the Colosseum in Rome. The developers of the project hope that this will allow for a diverse range of conversations and thus improve learning outcomes.
By using full-body avatars, more subtle aspects of conversation can be conveyed. Body language can play an important role in ‘filling the gaps’ when learning a new language and culture, and being able to see body language and hear differences in tone using the MR approach to natualistic dialogue can make a significant difference.
Further information can be found on the MRC Education Services Canada website.
VRFocus will continue to report on new developments in mixed reality.