2016 proved to be an explosive year for virtual reality technology and its sibling, augmented reality technology. The summer release of Pokemon Go brought AR technology to a mass audience, receiving over 650 million downloads within the first year of its release. This widespread recognition of the potential of AR/VR technology was matched with record investment across 2016: the $2.3 billion of venture capital ploughed into AR/VR startups was treble that recorded in 2015.
Proponents of AR/VR point to its potential to create richer, more immersive, and more interactive experiences than are currently possible with “pre-AR/VR” technology. The excitement with which ventures like Pokemon Go have been greeted suggest that this is certainly true, especially in the entertainment industry.
However, for this technology to truly achieve what Colopl Next CEO Shintaro Yamakami believes it can do – become the “bedrock of almost every industry” – it will need to do more than prove its potential to create user-friendly experience. It will also need to prove its efficacy – its ability to improve outcomes in a particular industry. This much was acknowledged by Borealis Ventures’ Managing Director Jesse Devitt in a 2016 interview with TechCrunch:
“Sure, you can make a beautiful dragon in VR. And yes, it’s cool the first time you see it. By the twentieth dragon it gets pretty old. Show me something useful in AR/VR. That’s a lot cooler.”
Perhaps nowhere does this principle ring more relevant than in education. For gamers, a more immersive, aesthetically satisfying user experience might be reason enough to justify spending that much extra on VR or AR products. This is not the case for those in education, particularly in the higher education sector, where budgets are increasingly squeezed and an ability to demonstrate a tangible return on investment is necessary. For AR/VR to become the bedrock of the education industry, it will need to prove its ability to improve attainment as well as experience.
This newsletter features two Reimagine Education applicants who have done just that, and were both rewarded by being selected for last year’s shortlist. The first, Deakin University’s cARdiac ECG application, uses augmented reality technology to introduce medical students to the complex relationship between EGC traces and the cardiac cycle. The second is Carrie Shaw, whose Embodied Labs venture leverages cutting-edge Virtual Reality technology to provide healthcare trainees with authentic, embodied medical experiences.
In acknowledgement of the growing interest in the extensive potential applicability of VR/AR technology to the education experience, Reimagine Education have introduced the Virtual Reality/Augmented Reality Award to this year’s competition for the first time. We welcome applications from anybody using these emerging technologies to enhance learner experiences and outcomes, while we also seek applications to our other 14 award categories from all those improving education.
Two other features are included in this edition. The first is provided by Raphael Attias, the Executive Director of ORT EMEA, a company specialising in business intelligence, leadership, and talent management. He introduces his Beaconing project, an international initiative aiming to identify and support solutions that ensure that under-24s of low socio-economic status acquire the 21st-century skills necessary for future success.
The last is provided by our regular contributor and valued partner Robyn D. Shulman, who, we are delighted to announce, has recently become a contributor to Forbes. As founder of EdNews Daily and contributor to 51Talk, Robyn has created and collated insightful, engaging, relevant news about teaching and learning for five years, and we are sure that Forbes’ readership will benefit from her deep understanding of, and passion for, the world of education. This edition, her article focuses on one particular 21st-century skill that today’s young learners require: digital citizenship.
Finally, we remind all readers seeking to debate the future of education with delegates from world-class universities, leading entrepreneurs, and global technology companies that readers are now able to secure their early-bird ticket to the 2017 Reimagine Education Conference. Delegates booking before 31st July 2017 will receive a 20% discount on their pass to this year’s gathering of thought-leaders from across the education world, and we hope that you will join us in Philadelphia.
Jack N. Moran