AR/VR: How Immersive Learning Technology Is Bringing Education and Training Into the Future

Extended reality is no longer just for out-of-this-world sci-fi movies. Virtual reality has made major strides in the past 20 years, and with augmented reality and mixed reality being used more often in real-world applications, the technology is becoming more versatile than ever imagined. The future of learning and workplace training is connected to immersive learning technology.

As technology becomes more ubiquitous and affordable, several types of immersive tech or extended reality (xR) are becoming accessible to educators and companies. “Extended” is a blanket term for many kinds of xR. Currently, the most popular types of xR are augmented reality, virtual reality, and mixed reality.

How is xR being used in the world?

Augmented reality, or AR, is a type of software used on a smart device, such as a tablet, smart eyeglass 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.

Here’s an example of AR used at a hospital in California to help aid a young patient before a medical procedure:

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.

Here’s an example of mixed reality from Microsoft Visual Studio:

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.

Here’s an example of virtual reality being used in a classroom in Toronto:

Here are five companies using AR, VR and MR to enhance education:

Google AR and VR uses augmented and virtual reality to create immersive learning technology.

Google Earth VR allows mapping to be experienced in virtual reality, bringing the viewer directly into the area of the world they want to be in. This method of teaching allows students to see exactly what parts of the world look like, not just through pictures or flat maps.

Google Expeditions takes students on field trips via AR and VR, allowing students to explore without ever leaving the classroom. These technologies are becoming more affordable so educators can acquire and use them. 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.

Lifeliqe is reinventing the K-12 science curriculum.

Their technology is enhanced with 3D models so science learning can be visual, hands-on and interactive for students. The digital program includes over 1,300 3D and AR models and over 700 lessons plans to help each STEM. With this immersive learning technology, students can learn new concepts easier, and this method of learning is proven to improve test scores.

Unity Technologies are used to create half of the world’s games, and over two-thirds of AR and VR experiences.

Unity’s technology can help make creative ideas into enveloping realities, creating new education technology for learning apps, games and simulations. Unity’s AR/VR can be used to train medical students, creative immersive history lessons and create lab simulations for STEM learning.

Microsoft Mixed Reality is changing workforce training methods.

Microsoft Dynamics 365 offers business applications to make learning new skills more exciting. Their products promote creativity and teamwork, allowing for collaboration no matter who is in the workplace at what time. By merging the digital and the physical, Microsoft uses MR to discover new dimensions of work, and what it means to learn.

Labster is changing science labs and learning, while preparing students for the future.

Labster VR offers a realistic lab experience that anyone can access to perform experiments in a risk-free environment. The VR labs have opportunities not available in real labs: the ability to zoom in to view life science at a molecular level, missions that connect the science to real life situations, and the ability to alter time to make experiments faster, or go back in time to fix a mistake. This fall, Arizona State University will launch its first ever fully online biology degree using Labster VR. The degree will consist of 30 VR simulations.

Want to see some of these products in action? Or even use them yourself? Join us in October for our event, xR in EDU.

Immersive Learning Tecnology

Mariel Cariker

Mariel Cariker

Mariel is a Boston-based freelance writer and audio producer who has covered news, technology and innovation for public media groups including WBUR and WGBH. Outside of work, she performs and writes spoken word poetry and voraciously reads true crime novels.