Virtual reality (VR)—computer-generated “reality” that immerses a viewer in a place and situation that may be as real as the Alamo or an unreal as a spaceship traveling to Pluto—seems a natural fit for educating students about history, the sciences, and other topics. The same is true for augmented reality (AR), which places a layer of information over reality, such as lap speeds superimposed on racecars in a televised NASCAR event.
In response to a survey at the 2016 Consumer Electronics Show, 37% of attendees said that VR’s most significant impact would be in teaching and learning. However, integration hurdles still need to be surmounted and learning outcomes demonstrated before these technologies become mainstream.
The 2016 New Media Consortium/Consortium for School Networking Horizon Report K-12 edition forecast it would be another two to three years before VR adoption hits a tipping point in education. Futuresource Consulting Ltd.’s report on the 2017 Bett Show (formerly the British Educational Training and Technology Show) suggests that VR/AR products won’t find their market until there is a widespread clamor (read: large purchase orders) for them, as eventually happened when laptops entered education.
Augmented reality may have an edge on gaining adoptions since it doesn’t require special devices the way VR does; users can experience AR with nothing fancier than a smartphone and the right software.
The potential is vast. A Goldman Sachs report predicted that virtual and augmented reality will represent an $80 billion market by 2025, with the education sector attracting up to 15 million VR/AR users.