Do you remember the time when everyone had a phone, but not a smartphone? And then we all had smartphones, but not a tablet. So in a year’s time will we all have augmented reality smart glasses? Is augmented reality and virtual reality the next BIG thing for the learning industry?
And as I try to answer that question – what’s the difference between augmented and virtual reality anyway?
But here’s a stat for starters:
“Augmented reality smart glasses will displace the smartphone market, with 1 billion shipments sometime between 2019 and 2023.” (source: AugmentedReality.org)
In the TechXLR8 (part of London Tech Week) conference in London last week, I met with some virtual reality players including Kodak and Google, but some companies I hadn’t heard of. Many of the co-founders, CEOs, keynote speakers were under 30, some barely 20, indicative of how young the industry is.
And then I was involved in a car accident
One eye-opening experience I had was with the Leicester fire and rescue services; who were replacing their usual classroom presentation about the dangers of drink driving with a six-minute virtual experience. I was interested. I didn’t think it would be amazing. I was wrong.
I wore a pair of headphones and a simple headset with a Samsung 6 phone fixed to the front, and then it all went dark. Suddenly I was sat with a young driver as he raced me along a country road, laughing loudly with his friends before crashing the car head-on into a tractor.
The next six minutes were totally immersive; watching someone crashed through the windscreen, dripping blood, screaming casualties, flashing lights, firefighters cutting off the roof of the car, even seeing myself being injected with painkillers.
Virtual reality and augmented reality – the difference
The power of the fully immersive experience is hard to argue against. Why tell when you can show? And why show when you can experience for yourself? And that is the definition of virtual reality, when you replace the real world with a virtual one, through the power of headsets.
Augmented reality is a little different, it’s when you add a layer of information over the real world. Imagine wearing a set of glasses as you look over a workbook. With a blink of an eye or a nod of the head, you can see short videos of your tutor explaining how to complete the task. You can see your reality; only it’s augmented with helpful videos.
What impact on our industry?
Virtual reality to me is an extension of the engagement of videos. The flat screen is transforming into a 3D world, where you decide where to look, not where the director asked the cameraman to point to. Now you can walk around that environment, pick things up, take your time and leave when you're ready – a place where it would otherwise be impossible, or simply too expensive, to be.
Augmented reality seems to be about removing the moment when you glance between your line of sight and smartphone, and simply placing that layer of information over what you’re seeing.
At Kineo we love testing the waters with new tech and asking ourselves 'would that work for learners?' So I thought I would share a few examples how I think it could:
- Imagine a virtual reality induction to your new workplace – for example, a restaurant kitchen for trainee chefs
- Or allow 70 new apprentices to get to know their way around a new piece of machinery – all at once through the power of holograms
- Train learners to deal with tough negotiations by placing them in the centre of a room, tense with challenges, to see how experts deal with the situation
So where next?
There are some barriers to overcome. Headsets are still prohibitively expensive for mass purchase. And I’m told that augmented/virtual reality is primarily limited by the internet. The sooner we’re able to transfer more data quicker, the faster and more realistic this technology will become. If you have a 4G internet connection, there’s little point in creating (and trying to sell) 5G technology.
But the augmented and virtual reality is heading this way fast. Soon perhaps the real question will be, not if we have a headset, but if we have the latest headset technology. After all, there was a time you didn’t have a smartphone, now we tend to get a new one every couple of years.
If you'd like to talk more about new and emerging technology and how they can be used in the learning industry, please get in touch.
You can watch the making of the Leicester fire and rescue VR video here.