A New Age of Educational Analytics

Analytics platform from InstaVR highlighting which areas users look at the most throughout a VR experience. | Image courtesy InstaVR

The great thing about immersive media analytics is the amount of information you can derive from user data — because headsets are constantly being tracked, you can tell what users are looking at, when, for how long, what they’re interacting with and even what they’re choosing to ignore.

The next-generation of headsets are expected to include pupil tracking, which on its own will provide creators with another world of information. You may have heard that human pupils dilate on physical attraction: but it goes much further than that.

Pupils expansion betrays not only physical attraction, but also mental strain and emotional engagement. Princeton University psychologist Daniel Kahneman showed several decades ago that pupil size increases in proportion to the difficulty of a task at hand. Calculate nine times 13 and your pupils will dilate slightly. Try 29 times 13 and they will widen further and remain dilated until you reach the answer or stop trying. Kahneman says that he could divine when someone gave up on a multiplication problem simply by watching for pupil contraction during the experiment.

“Pupil dilation can also betray an individual’s decision before it is openly revealed,” concluded a 2010 study led by Wolfgang Einhäuser-Treyer, a neurophysicist at Philipps University Marburg in Germany. Participants were told to press a button at any point during a 10-second interval, and their pupil sizes correlated with the timing of their decisions. Dilation began about one second before they pressed the button and peaked one to two seconds after.

Pupils are accidental windows into many hidden inner workings of the brain.

This is immensely powerful for education, and combining all these bits of data together with Artificial Intelligence will allow content creators to have highly-accurate psychological profiles of students at their fingertips that can be constantly updated in real time, even predicting their actions. This information is so accurate, in fact, that it could render exams obsolete — if you understand a student’s relationship to a subject to an unconscious degree, there’s nothing to test and there’s nothing to fake.

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This can create the foundation for educational software that truly understands you as a student — and while there are several anxieties around the misuse of this data, in this article we’ll only talk about the possibilities and explore the potential issues in another piece. (follow me so you can read it once it comes out!)

All in all, this means that you can measure intellectual and emotional engagement in real time to adapt educational experiences on the go to, automatically resolving student difficulties as they appear and customizing the experience to maximize their interest. Ultimately, immersive education in conjunction with A.I. has the potential to supercharge education, creating truly unique interactive experiences that pave the road for fully automated personalized and mastery-based education.

But how far can A.I. go? Could there be a day where they become teachers?

Continued on Page 3: Artificial Intelligence & The Perfect Teacher »

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Ben is the world's most senior professional analyst solely dedicated to the XR industry, having founded Road to VR in 2011—a year before the Oculus Kickstarter sparked a resurgence that led to the modern XR landscape. He has authored more than 3,000 articles chronicling the evolution of the XR industry over more than a decade. With that unique perspective, Ben has been consistently recognized as one of the most influential voices in XR, giving keynotes and joining panel and podcast discussions at key industry events. He is a self-described "journalist and analyst, not evangelist."
  • 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.