Immersive Tech in Education: How xR Plays a Role in Education Today

The future of learning may be immersive tech in education, thanks to new developments that makes it more affordable and accessible to educators and students.

There are several different types of immersive tech, often combined under the blanket title of “xR” technology—the x, like a variable in algebra, can represent multiple letters. Currently, the most popular types of xR are augmented reality, virtual reality, and mixed reality.

What is xR?

Augmented reality, or AR, is a type of software used on a smart device, such as a tablet or smartphone. The software uses the device’s camera to overlay digital aspects onto the real world, according to Next Reality News. AR will project digital items, such as a moving cartoon drawing, onto the real image produced by the camera.

Virtual reality, or VR, takes this process a step further. Instead of projecting onto a real environment, VR creates an entirely new digital environment that can be viewed in 360 degrees. Most VR technology uses headsets so it can be completely immersive for the user.

Mixed reality, or MR, is a lesser-known term. It functions as a combination of AR and VR, using both a virtual headset and a real environment. MR overlays digital aspects onto the real world, providing a higher level of interactivity than AR without the complete immersion of VR.

What does this mean for the future of immersive tech in education?

xR technology has already started to revolutionize teaching in the few classrooms that have begun to implement the technology. The industry is new, but growing. According to Forbes, annual spending on xR is expected to grow by more than 100% each year over the next five years.

AR technology is currently the most affordable, since many schools already have access to the required smart devices. According to Memeburn, most students are already familiar with the technology and can learn how to use it quickly. It can also replace the need for physical supplies, making lessons cheaper for schools and more environmentally friendly.

VR is becoming more affordable as well. For example, Google is currently selling its Expedition Kits, which provide equipment for a teacher and a class of 30 students, for just under $10,000. While it may seem expensive, prices are expected to drop as this technology enters the mainstream market, according to IoT For All.

One of the biggest problems facing education today—lack of student engagement—may have a solution in xR technology.

xR can help students get away from lectures by having them learn hands-on in a stimulating environment. According to Road to VR, xR enhances memory and learning by engaging multiple senses.

This technology can also help personalize learning for each student while allowing teachers to collect user data from students to monitor each of them individually. Students would be able to use AR to visualize concepts such as basic math. In medical schools, students are experimenting with AR that allows them to visualize anatomy on a virtual human body.

xR is also being used outside the classroom, for professional training in the workspace. For example, the performance training company STRIVR has produced “Black Friday” simulations for Walmart employees, as well as training for NFL players using VR technology.

According to IoT For All, AR has practical applications in almost every subject: virtual art museums and libraries, 3D design for engineers, and safe simulations in trade schools are all possibilities in the near future.

What does xR technology look like right now?

While xR is still in its infancy, major companies are already taking advantage of its enhanced capabilities.

The current trend is smartphone AR compatibility, according to Forbes. Yelp’s program Monocle allows users to point their camera at a business to automatically pull up information about the company. More recreational uses include Pokemon Go and selfie filters on Snapchat, which are already exposing children to AR technology.

VR technology still has its own issues, but the industry is making progress. For example, Google Cardboard is an affordable model that uses a smartphone to project 360-degree videos. In the future, software will be able to create an entirely digital, video game-like environment.

What’s next?

The future of xR technology in education is uncertain, but if it’s adopted as a teaching mechanism across the world, students may do most of their learning through their smart devices in the next few years. Keep an eye on this technology and its potential: it might change education as we know it.

Want to learn more about xR in education? Join us in October for our event, xR in EDU.

Charlie Scanlan

Charlie is a junior at Boston University studying journalism and Spanish. He enjoys learning new languages, listening to musical theatre, and overanalyzing television shows.