AR/VR: Unravelling Magic of Online Learning

How magnificent the technological prowess of this modern world is, that allows us to actually view and apply every little mundane information we learn? Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality are two such tools that not just enhance our knowledge through a coherent visualisation of processes and phenomena but also through creation of an environment that anticipates human interaction in every possible way.

What is AR/VR?

Virtual Reality can be best understood through the magical realistic environment of video games. The bubbling underwater domain, the simmering hot deserts, the grim and cold mountains- everything that you see as a parallel universe on your screen, such that you become a part of that universe, brackets under the category of Virtual Reality.

Augmented Reality on the other hand, draws from information that can be fed onto real-life occurrences (almost anything in our surroundings) such that a juxtaposition or layering of visuals happens on what the eye actually sees.

Did you know the game PokemonGo invented by Niantic had an AR-driven interface? And that the snapchat filters that you use to add features to your face- is made possible through AR?

Yes, these make use of the available images and visuals from daily life to build on them, using them like scannable codes that unfurl something unexpected or unfamiliar. You guessed it right, QR codes and restaurant menu pop-ups have in-built AR. Similarly, translating foreign texts, detecting names of plants, animals and even names of buildings (shops, locations where they are based etc) are also AR-driven applications.

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These AR-driven applications use markers, that is, image processing to arrive at a given digital content related to the marker. Markerless ARs, on the other hand, use sensors like GPS to identify the location and orientation of an individual’s device.
The difference is clear. While augmented reality provides people with predefined content on visible entities, Virtual Reality completely creates an alternate reality and transports us into that world.

Surprisingly, We All Love to Work.

Education should not be just basic rote-learning or entirely instruction-based. Rather, it should delve into the potential of comprehending complexities, naturally present in human brains. If an infant can learn two to three languages through daily observation and application, one can surely imagine the inherent power possessed by the human brain- capable of adopting and adapting everyday to ferment new knowledge!

AR and VR are more like learning assistants and facilitators, rather than teachers and instructors. One significant advantage that they carry is the idea of letting the student discover things for themselves and not being guided onto them.

For example, for an engineer or for a medical student, it is extremely crucial to understand the basic mechanisms of technical processes and frameworks of human anatomy and physiology in such a way that they can see for themselves what a certain combination or turn-of-events like abnormalities or disorders and diseases (sometimes, implemented manually by them in a system) can lead to.

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One such example is the ElectARManual system, used as a teaching assistant tool for electrical engineering labs, serving as a much better choice than a virtual electrical engineering lab.

On the other hand, ProMIS uses the camera feed to simulate a laparoscopy and simultaneously uses surgery dummies and superimposed labels and internal organs analysis, to both train and evaluate students.

Students can easily learn about distant foreign environments, historical periods and geographical locations through virtual reality apps like Google Expedition, Discovery VR, Orbulus and Alchemy Immersive.

Google Expedition, as the name suggests, transports the user into a historical realm allowing them to experience existence in those periods. Discovery VR works in a similar manner except that the user experiences and survives wild nature, environmental problems, space adventures, culture, and history. Orbulus immerses the viewer into a 360-degree view of prominent geographical heritage sites like Eiffel Tower, the Pyramids, Sydney Opera House and so on. Alchemy immersive walks a step further by narrating interesting and inspiring stories like Charles Darwin’s navigating through the Galapagos Islands, David Attenborough’s deep dive into the Great Barrier Reef and so on.

Virtual Reality is also used to simulate substitute comforting environments to study behaviour that would otherwise be overwhelmed, anxious or afraid in a problematic and dangerous situation.

Short Attention Span? No Problem!

Immersion and interaction are mere terms when not applied properly to a teaching technique. We have all attended boring lectures that go on for hours without even an ounce of dialogue and debate.

Understanding a topic or a concept, if facilitated just through verbal notes, might load the cognitive ability of an individual. The brain clogs eventually and is rendered incapable of absorbing new information when the load exceeds its limit.

AR/VR lessens this load. By creating visuals and animations, it actually assists us to learn, while fully participating in the storytelling and analysis. This is called immersion. That is when a person empathises and learns experientially. After all, what is knowledge without a proper laying out of the consequences?
Through AR/VR, one can improve their testing and design skills as well by an immediate creation of digital prototypes that can be easily copied, modified and tested without the extraneous efforts, time and cost of doing so conventionally. Also, there are different kinds of learners. Some of them suffer from disorders like Speech-Impairment, ADHD, Dyslexia and Autism-all of which make a child deficient in basic social skills. AR/VR stimulates brain-activity and enables them to navigate through real-life situations like others, helping them to be equipped with difficult situations with utmost courage and resourcefulness.

It Sells and Hence, It’s Effective!

Google Cardboard, launched in 2014, although claimed to be less immersive than its contemporary products like Oculus Rift and HTC Vive, experienced 84.4 million sales of its VR headsets, which is 20 times the sales of any other virtual reality devices!

With virtual education as the new normal, this revolution is bound to crack through the normative bounds of learning.