Shall we implement VR and AR in the Education sector?

By AR, we mean elements that overlap in a reality, but that does not have any type of interaction with it, such as showing 3D illustrations on a book

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Some of the Emerging Technologies that are receiving the most attention recently are virtual and augmented reality (VR and AR, respectively), and they should not be confused with each other. In virtual reality, the observer is immersed in a world that is completely digital and alien to the real, while in augmented reality, what is proposed is to superimpose digital elements on top of the real world, creating a new, additional layer. Today we are talking about virtual reality and the "new worlds" it offers.


Virtual reality has existed for many years, but some recent advances have made it a much better product. The technology exists on a massive commercial level at reasonably affordable prices and is becoming more widespread.

Obviously, the creation of digital worlds in which to immerse ourselves has been used above all to create video games. It is the most immediate application of virtual reality. There are also other audio-visual applications, such as immersive films, but until now they have had much less development, except for those of sexual content, which are in full expansion.

From an educational point of view, what potential or advantages does virtual reality provide?


Its supporters highlight the fact that the immersion achieved with virtual reality is a subjectively very shocking experience. And that should be used to achieve high motivation in the students. Detractors insist that it provides nothing qualitatively different from what can be achieved by other means.

As always, a reasoned posture makes us see various shades of gray: things are not either black or white. Surely a high-end virtual reality device does not make sense in education because it is a device dedicated exclusively to this technology, and which also has a medium-high cost. To this is added that these are devices that cannot be used by several students at the same time: their only way of use is "a student with a device". Additionally, it is true that virtual reality is something shocking, but so is good audio-visual content or a good narration or explanation.

Overall, the concluding point tends to be that virtual reality is one more resource that we can make use of in certain cases, especially in its simplest and most affordable form.


It can be interesting in curricular fields of knowledge such as geography, history, or art, for example, as a good complementary or supporting resource. But virtual reality is not called to be a great revolution in the educational world.

On the other hand, we have augmented reality, which has to do with the reproduction of digital elements on a real background that can be carried out thanks to various interfaces. The simplest augmented reality interface is a mobile: an application can show us the reality that is captured with the camera while adding certain elements to it.

The most common example of augmented reality is those filters that add animal features or other fun effects to portraits. Another well-known example is the small characters that are "seen" and "hunted" in real places in some highly successful mobile video games, and then trained and used in the digital reality of the video game.


Shall we invest in simple or complex AR?

In this case, it is also necessary to distinguish between a simple augmented reality and a complex one.

By simple augmented reality, we mean elements that overlap in a reality, but that does not have any type of interaction with it, such as showing 3D illustrations on a book or cardboard. In the education sector, there are products that show digital figures about reality, such as didactic anatomical models of the human thorax, which are shown on a T-shirt. This is interesting pedagogically speaking, but it would be practically the same if instead of being shown on a T-shirt - with augmented reality - it was done in a completely virtual environment. These types of products generate enthusiasm in the students for the magical sensation they may transmit.


However, the complex augments reality establishes relationships with reality. In this case, we are talking about much more advanced technology, because the creators must find a way for the product to “understand” reality in order to superimpose the elements on top of it. The example we put at the beginning of these fun applications with portrait filters use computer vision for image recognition: the application comprehends what is being shown is a face and identifies different elements.

This advanced augmented reality can be used, for example, for engineering students to visualize the real engine of a car through special glasses, or through a mobile or tablet application, and be presented with information about each one of the engine parts.

It is a use case very similar to the one that is appearing in more and more tourist destinations, where an application recognizes a building from a specific viewpoint and displays historical information about the building.


Academics need to understand that the application of technology here is like cannon flies. We must wonder if it makes sense to develop complex and expensive applications for something that can be solved in a much simpler and cheaper way?

The future of education is certainly dynamic and interesting.

The article has been written by Dr. Raul V. Rodriguez, Dean, Woxsen School of Business

He can be reached on LinkedIn.