Today’s educational system is static, generalized and puts less focus on individual self-development than it perhaps should. To make matters worse, students often don’t understand why they are learning the things that they’re learning, which makes certain classes feel arbitrary and purposeless in the face of their personal ambitions.

Lucas Rizzotto

Guest Article by Lucas Rizzotto

Lucas Rizzotto is an award-winning XR creator, industry speaker, and entrepreneur working on the the realities to come. You can follow his creations and thoughts on FacebookTwitterMedium or Instagram.

What could be done to fix these issues and take education to a new level? What could make education more exciting, fun and practical? I believe it comes down to three simple ideas (that aren’t new by any means) which can finally be fully explored with smart use of technology.

These keys are personalized learning, experiential learning and mastery-based learning. In Part 1, Today’s Problems we talked about the challenges of implemented these education concepts (we recommend reading it before continuing with this piece). Here in Part 2, Tomorrow’s Solutions we’ll explore a possible path for education in the future, mixing Artificial Intelligence, Immersive Technologies and several new design paradigms that could change education forever.

The Dawn of Immersive Education

Technology has continuously revolutionized modern society for the past two centuries, and it shows no signs of stopping — if anything, it’s speeding up. How we work, learn, play and connect with each other is redefined almost every decade, and much of it has to do with the advent of new computing platforms: first with personal computers, then smartphones — and now with Immersive Technologies.

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What do I mean by Immersive Technologies? Virtual Reality headsets, Augmented Reality glasses and everything in between — if you’re new to these concepts, hop over to this article real quick, because they’ll be a big deal moving forward.

Get ready to start wearing computers… on your face! | Image courtesy ODG

There’s no doubt in my mind that immersive tech is the world’s next big computing platform — it does things modern computers can’t do and completely redefines our relationship with information, much like the revolutionary platforms that preceded it. Suddenly you can physically interact with the digital world (with your actual hands) and have it live all around you instead within the confines of a screen — and while we’re still in its early days, much of the promise it holds can already be seen today.

When it first appeared, Immersive Tech was thought of as a gaming-centric medium, but ever since its mainstream introduction with the Oculus Rift, creators begged to disagree. Today we have a variety of VR applications focused around productivity, art, data visualization and much more. Similar immersive technologies like Augmented/Mixed Reality have also been on the rise, giving us new mind-bending ways to display and interact with information in our real world like it’s actually there.

Image courtesy Northway Games

The Microsoft HoloLens is a great example of this —now a two year old device, it’s still one of the most impressive pieces of technology existing today. Not only it can create holograms that look and feel real, the HoloLens understands your environment — it knows where your furniture is, your walls, and everything else, and uses that information to seamlessly blend digital and physical worlds into your perception of reality.

Immersive content is not bound by the laws of physics — educators can create ‘impossible’ experiences that engage students in all-new ways.

Couple that with all the other advancements the technology is having with hand-tracking, haptics and deep learning and you can see that it’s only a matter of years before we’re touching holograms in our own home with devices more reminiscent of glasses instead of silly looking headsets. This is huge. Immersive technologies are inherently experiential, built from the ground up to convince humans that what they see is real — at the same time, immersive content is not bound by the laws of physics, meaning that creators can orchestrate ‘impossible experiences’ at relatively low costs — be it taking the viewer to the moon, to a beach in California, or a castle 500 years in the past, all costs about the same to create. For education, this could be everything.

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Biology, for instance, is usually taught through textbooks, slides and drawings. But some start ups like The Body VR are taking an immersive approach to education, letting you travel the human body in person and actively interact with it instead of just looking through images on a book.

Image courtesy The Body VR

Along similar lines is the start up Medivis, which is redefining anatomy learning. Usually medical students are forced to learn human anatomy through several illustrations, having to desperately combine all the 2D images they see in their head to attempt to get a sense on how it all comes together in three dimensions — but MediVis is building an entire learning platform that allows you to visualize the human body a fully 3D, life size, holographic format, accurately tagging every single piece of your body — no need for books, drawings, or expensive cadavers.

Image courtesy Microsoft

Other examples include MyLab (which I designed), a mixed-reality Chemistry app that gives students a holographic periodic table they can use to spawn and combine elements on the go, and Universe Sandbox, which allows you to navigate the Universe as you visit physically accurate star systems and also create your own.

Mind you, this is just the start, and most of these projects are being built by a small number of people without any external funding at all. Now, with only the work associated with creating a small 3D game, we have the ability to take students anywhere and teach them about virtually anything from a completely different and fully participative perspective. And because the cost of creating these experiences is so low, we’re bound to see a number of innovations in design and interaction that introduce new ways to learn we haven’t even conceived of before, especially as creation tools becomes accessible to the point that anyone can bring the experiences they imagine to life.

The beauty of software is that once you get it right, the whole world can have access to it. You just have to copy it.

In the long term, we’re looking at education being approached not as a series of bullet points, but as interactive worlds that students can navigate at their leisure, marking a huge design-shift for education as it proceeds to become more akin to entertainment than a passive obligation. Now, concepts can become characters, ‘exercises’ and ‘exams’ can be seamlessly embedded into worlds and storylines as activities, and students are free to literally explore and immerse themselves in the subjects they’re learning.

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Universe Sandbox provides beautiful opportunities for learning — and chaos. | Image courtesy Giant Army

And there’s more: the kind of data you can collect from Immersive Experiences is the stuff of dreams for personalizing education like never before.Given the degree of creative opportunity and how immersive education plays with the human brain, I believe it’s reasonable to assume that immersive education will become the norm one day. A number of studies are being conducted today to assess the full effectiveness of this new approach, but the potential is here: immersive education can be visual, social, magical, interactive and emotionally engaging — all while it sticks to your brain like a fully-textured memory.

Continued on Page 2: A New Age of Educational Analytics »

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  • Honestly, this article didn’t excite me.

    First of all, you’re underestimating the problems of costs. Doing a 3D application is super-expensive. If you want to immerse your students in an ancient battle, this requires an enormous amounts of 3D models and animations and this is damn expensive. Schools have always too little money and this is a big issue.

    Then, the idea of my teacher having a psychological profile of myself scares me a lot. There’s a big privacy issue.

    What I liked instead of the whole article has been the dream of an AI teacher: this is a smart thought I honestly never had. This can really be important for education… even if this would mean that all teachers will lose their jobs.

    • Lucas Rizzotto

      Thanks for the comment, Tony! I’m sure that the cost of 3D application development will plummet in the years ahead. This is being pushed by all major tech companies right now (and making 3D creation tools easily accessible is in their deep interests) as well as game engines, so I don’t think it’s that much of an issue in the future. Additionally, lack of resources also spurs innovation – I’m sure we’ll see new creative ways of teaching all types of content in the years to come without the need for photorealistic AAA productions.

      The analytics portion is supposed to be slightly worrying and there needs to be a discussion about how that data is used, although in my opinion there’s no way tech companies and developers will let that data go, so it’s a matter of how more than if. Regardless, it’s important to highlight the value that the data can potentially have for creating dynamic and personalized educational experiences.

      Glad you liked the bit about A.I. teachers! (:

    • PS Vita Roundup

      If you want 3D battles, you license the Total War series, a PC game that has been used for historical reenactments on TV shows for years. Patch in a VR mode and multiple perspectives, which I’m sure the developers Creative Assembly would do quite cheaply for the extra exposure and educational sales… and there you go. There’s little need to start from scratch with most of these ideas.

  • I love this, and have had many similar thoughts! Very exciting. Also totally fascinated by the pupilometry concept and how it could enhance student profiles and guided learning. Galvanic skin response might also be helpful, but I can totally see pupil size being great. It would have to be calibrated based on the amount of light delivered to the eyes (which also impacts eye dilation) but luckily that is easily captured in a VR headset. I have seen eye trackers out there for headsets, but haven’t seen any which say they track pupil size specifically.. I’d be curious if they are missing out on tracking this!

  • Augmented reality can be used in the study of any subjects – from history to physics. This year, a “virtual teacher” was patented: students listen to a lecture, perform assignments, everything as usual, and the teacher is physically located elsewhere. Moreover, he can interact with students in real time, give them assignments, navigate the class. From these examples it is clear that what still seemed fiction today is already widely used, it concerns the role of augmented reality in education ( https://bit.ly/2EAFoGO ). You can easily find out what kind of constellation you see, or solve several examples with a funny dog. And similar applications are released more and more – if only the children at least somehow motivate to study.