Is Virtual Reality the Next Step in Immersive Learning?
It’s always exciting to be at the dawn of a new technological era, and to know you’re witnessing it. EMC has enjoyed an up-close vantage point to several, leading innovations in dynamic areas such as Cloud and Big Data. The latest disruptive technology – virtual reality, or “VR,” as it’s commonly known – is no exception.
For many people, introduction to VR as a viable commercial technology came with the debut of the Oculus Rift headset, as a Kickstarter project in 2012. While the concept of immersive technology has existed for decades, the general consensus among the tech community that the age of VR was finally, truly upon us crystallized when Oculus Rift was acquired by Facebook in 2014 for just over 2 billion dollars. Not only did Facebook have the financial muscle to develop a virtual platform, it had the one, key ingredient that all other potential buyers lacked: the largest global social network as a built-in user base. It can tap into this community for insights to what applications its over one billion members need or want within the virtual realm.
So what are the uses for VR that Facebook – or any potential developer or host – are likeliest to develop?
While certain use cases immediately leap to mind in which a fully immersive, accurate simulation could prove invaluable, such as manufacturing, engineering, and medicine, speculation about practical applications has focused on gaming, an industry with a built-in user base of its own. The VR market is projected to become a $15.9 billion industry by 2019, and as the chart below indicates, by 2025, gaming is predicted to be the largest source of investment for VR development.
Although investment in education projects is a fraction of that for gaming – $700 million and $11.6 billion, respectively – the justifications and benefits of moving into an entirely immersive learning environment are myriad, chief among them:
- proliferation of affordable viewing devices (such as Google’s $20 Cardboard handheld VR viewer)
- elimination of facility maintenance and cost
- reduction in classroom overcrowding
- extrapolation of courses into global massive, open, online courses (MOOCs)
And this investment trend is already underway: California school systems have begun to incorporate virtual tools into their classrooms.
To usher its students into this exciting new era, EMC Education Services leveraged its delivery expertise, gained over years of developing industry-leading education in a variety of modalities – including online instructor-led courses, video streaming services, hybrid classrooms, and MOOCs – to create a preview of an immersive educational experience for this year’s EMC World. Using an Oculus Rift headset, over 200 attendees caught a glimpse of the future of learning by viewing a 360-degree video created especially for the conference.
Using the latest, second-generation Oculus Rift development kit (or “DK2”), seven Go Pro cameras on a specialized tripod mount, specialized software to combine hours of footage, and hundreds of editing hours stretched over several months, the EMC Education Services video production team produced a virtual classroom for users to gain a first-hand appreciation of a virtual learning environment.
As Michael Dell said during his opening keynote at this year’s EMC World, “the pace of (technological) change is rapidly accelerating.” Instead of adapting to changes in education brought on by virtual technology, EMC is again taking a leadership role at the dawn of a technological era and helping shape the classroom VR experience.
Watch for updates as this exciting initiative develops.