Forcasted to be a $108 billion industry by 2021, VR/AR is expected to infiltrate across industries and many are continuing to realize the impact and value mixed reality technologies will have on our society in the near future. More so now with the recent announcements by Facebook and Snapchat to add AR functionalities to their platforms.
One impacted industry will be education. AR, with it’s ability to combine the digital and physical, and VR, with it’s ability to completely immerse users in new environments, will bring new dimensions to teaching and learning.
This impact to education has not escaped the notice of governments across the globe and many, through their Education and Technology Ministries, are taking initiatives to encourage advancements and usage of AR/VR. Let’s see what steps are being taken by governments all across the world to strengthen the presence of AR/VR in the education space:
In November 2015, the U.S. Department of Education first announced the EdSim Challenge calling on developers and the education technology community to explore new ideas that will benefit next-generation learning through the use of simulation technologies such as augmented reality and virtual reality. The Challenge encouraged applicants to seek simulations that strengthen academic, technical, and employability skills in students.
Just this week, the Department named the five finalists who will each receive $50,000 as well as prizes from Oculus, Samsung, and HTC Vive. The finalists will have the opportunity to go through the Virtual Accelerator to further develop and improve their ideas with guidance from mentors from the technology and education industries and a chance to win the grand prize of $430,000.
The monetary awards as well as the execution of the Challenge itself, reveals the Department of Education’s understanding of the value of AR/VR in future of our education system especially in the training of a skills based workforce.
As the EdSim Challenge in the U.S. was just being announced, the French Ministry of National Education was also expressing their support of augmented reality technologies in the classroom. In their revised national curriculum, the Ministry included AR as a recommended technology to be used in middle school technology courses.
The aim of these courses is to give students experience in the process of problem solving with the help of technology. Students are encourages to identify a problem, to design solutions, to collaborate with others, and to iterate on their previous ideas. Emphasis is placed on process more than the realization of the prototype and augmented reality is recommended as a tool to assist in this process, encouraging design, innovation, communication, and creativity.
Many schools and teachers in France have turned to Augment as their go-to AR solution for it enables users to visualize their ideas and 3D designs in and out of the classroom and therefore, allows for users to communicate their ideas quickly and conveniently. Over 1,000 teachers in each of the 17 academic regions of France have signed up for Augment to use in their classroom.
In late 2016, the Ministry of Science, ICT and Future Planning in South Korea reported that the South Korean government will invest a total of $363 million in the AR and VR marketplace in the next 5 years. The government stated its aims to encourage more research in these technologies, such as 3D sensors, motion tracking, and expression and motion recognition, to use across industries.
While the political turmoil in South Korea over the last few months has resulted in a reduction of that investment, they are continuing to charge ahead with the recent opening of a new space in Seoul called the Korean Virtual Reality – Augmented Reality Complex (KoVAC). KoVAC will provide resources and support to a wide range of fields in AR/VR, in particular, education. For part of KoVAC’s plans is to run an education center across 20 campuses by the year 2020. These campuses will onboard 2,200 students students in the field of augmented reality and virtual reality to continue to train the next generation of entrepreneurs and industry leaders in this sector.
The Ministry of Education of the UAE recently initiated a pilot project to teach students through virtual reality. 17 science-stream public schools have been chosen to incorporate VR headsets to immerse students in situations that are either too difficult or dangerous to explore. From explorations of the effects of climate change to a tour of the International Space Station to a walk through a historical site, these VR headset’s allow for students to view and learn about these “impossible worlds”.
The Ministry hopes to expand the use of VR, along with its benefits of greater engagement, eagerness to learn, and development of empathy, across all schools.
China, through municipal and national governments, has been investing heavily in the augmented reality and virtual reality sector, far outpacing that of many other countries.
On a national level, the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT), in partnership with over 170 private companies and research institutions established the Industry of Virtual Reality Alliance (IVRA) to grow the ecosystem and enhance advancements. The alliance includes many academic laboratories and research centers including the Beijing University of Aeronautics and Astronautics, Beijing Institute of Technology, Columbia University and Stanford University.
On a local level, the Shenzhen Municipal Government, in partnership with HTC, is developing a new China VR Research Institute to boost the VR ecosystem in it’s city. And the Beidouwan Virtual Reality Town is also being developed in the Guizhou Province backed by the Guian government to develop their own city’s VRAR ecosystem. Each initiative will dedicate funding and resources to researching, developing, and building partnerships to advance training and education using ARVR.