I have been a gamer for 35 years, a childrens user interface developer for 15 years, an immersive environments user interface and platforms developer for around 10 years, and the chief designer of the Edusim project (more on that here) . Needless to say I’ve seen quite a few iterations and generations of immersive environments and virtual reality platforms, so below are a few of my observations regarding where I see them heading (these questions were posed to me for an interview of EdTech magazine and I am sharing them here.).
* What’s on the horizon for K–12 virtual education?
# I believe the gap between real and virtual educational content will close to the point of being insignificant, and extremely rich educational experiences will become a daily opportunity for students to learn and understand at a very deep level. The day where every student can take a virtual field trip to the moon to understand its makeup and importance, virtual trips to the inside of a volcano to understand how and why they function, floating through a virtual kidney to understand how it works. The educational opportunities will literally only be limited by our own imaginations.
* How might we see it evolve over the next five to 10 years?
# I think with projects like Google Cardboard, Oculus Rift, & Microsoft Hololens we can expect the gap between our perceptions of what is real and what is virtual to shrink dramatically. I can imagine a time within the next 10 years that virtual reality goggle are as common as wearing earbuds connected to our smartphones, and the interaction with virtual objects, overlaid onto our real world objects (via our goggle/glasses display), is relatively common. Which will make education an extremely interesting field to be in in the coming years. Virtual field trips, data visualization, seeing “inside” objects as you look at them to understand how they work, step by step tutorials that walk students through a process superimposed onto the real life content itself as they are working with it (a breakout image of an motor as its being taken apart)
* What are some of the barriers?
# Schools traditionally lag several years behind the technology curve and tend to lack imagination when it comes to providing rich educational experiences. These barriers become less obvious with school leadership that truly understands the powerful role technology can play in the educational setting, but without a doubt the “traditional” school setting is the primary barrier to leveraging the tremendouspower of the immersive educational technologies that are coming our way relatively quickly!
* What examples do you have of K-12 doing great things with VR?
# In Colorado (Southpark Elementary) they have been using CAVE visualization technology with their students for 4-5 years – https://www.youtube.com/watch?
v=bdtAxATOemw … Whats going on here in the Czech Republic -http://tinyurl.com/ot8uwq5 … Schools are leveraging MinecraftEDU in interesting ways as well, several with Oculus Rift head sets … There are also some really cool ways Opensim environments with Oculus Rift displays are being leveraged for deeply immersive educational experiences.
* What flavors of VR are out there and which seem to be the ones that will actually be important?
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# Without a doubt an entire industry will soon sprout up around the head mount displays and virtual learning content for K-12 education (no doubt many of these emerging companies will leverage the power of the Unity3D platform & its developer community) , but the projects I find most interesting are what some of the open source groups are doing, in particular the Opensim community, and the Google Cardboard Community.