Education is shaping up to be one of the biggest under-the-radar opportunities in VR. We talked about consumer education related to VR in our VR Excitement Index. Education ranked second in terms of consumer interest in VR content in our 500 person survey, ahead of gaming and exceeded only by entertainment.
VR skeptics point out a valid current pitfall in other VR content: the nature of the experience separates you from the people around you. If you watch a sporting event or movie in VR, you remove yourself from the environment around you and make it a solitary experience, but that isn’t how we experience these events today, live or otherwise. We usually enjoy these events with others. That is a key part of the the sporting or movie experience – sharing it with the person next to you whether you’re in a stadium, a theater, or on your couch. Education doesn’t have that problem. It can be solitary. Questions and collaboration from others can amplify the environment, but it doesn’t matter if that participation comes from someone actually sitting right next to you or a virtual representation of that person.
Another advantage of education is that it can be effective with basic forms of VR. Many educational tools won’t need the same level of tracking capability as an intensive gaming experience. The images may not need to be as sharp as a cinema experience. Educational VR may also not need sensory output to anything other than sight and hearing to be compelling. For example, educational VR can take the obvious form of a classroom type setting where the user interacts with basic digital input, like voice or even a keyboard. Many NFL teams already use StriVR for this and there are applications well beyond sports including corporate training and medicine. We would consider VR exposure therapy — exposing yourself to your fears, which is a common psychological treatment — a form of educational VR. You’re teaching yourself to not be afraid. While low-immersion VR is still very basic, it’s capable of at least offering these types of education in small does. As low-immersion VR improves with Daydream and Gear VR over the next couple of years, the educational experiences can grow with them.
Considering our longer-term view of VR as a fully immersive sense experience, we believe there is a chance that humans have the ability to use advanced VR to live a “lifetime” in the span of just a few moments in real reality. We call this a compressed temporal sense experience (CTSE). More on this theory soon, but in short, it could mean that education in the future is living a life as a pianist, then living as a soldier, then an artist, then a doctor and rolling those skills into your real life. Education could ultimately be about a firsthand experience rather than secondhand information.
There’s a popular rule that it requires 10,000 hours of practice to master something. That may or may not be an accurate estimate, but we can all agree that practice makes you better, no matter your sport or profession. VR is the perfect practice tool for education, and educational content may turn out to be the killer app that drives VR to mass adoption.
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