There are still a lot of false assumptions and stereotypes about virtual and augmented reality (VR & AR). Do you still feel like it’s just a silly new thing used only by gamers? Or maybe you just can’t see how it can be used outside of the entertainment industry?
You are not alone. A lot of people seem to put these new technologies in a box of just more fun gadgets that no one takes seriously. So, we will try to show you a different side of immersive reality. If you haven’t read it yet, you can check out our article about non-game apps developed in Unity.
But contrary to such popular assumptions, project by project and app by app, it is constantly being proven that VR & AR can be incredibly powerful tools in education too. And guess which field of education is on everyone’s mind right now? STEM!
STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering and Math and these are undoubtedly the most crucial skill areas in today’s economy. Governments, businesses and education experts try really hard to come up with innovative ways to teach STEM subjects. But how can VR & AR help them?
Why use VR & AR in STEM education?
How exactly does immersive technology add value and create new possibilities in STEM education? VR and AR provide several benefits that apply to any field of education, but there are certainly some that apply particularly to STEM:
- VR & AR help to accommodate a risk-free environment in school classes. A lot of traditional experiments in STEM involve potential risks. Fire, electricity or corrosive substances make the teacher limit the extent of experiments or even skip them altogether. With the help of immersive technology, teachers can show all of these great things in a safe environment.
- Use of VR & AR enormously cuts costs. The costs of developing immersive reality are nothing compared to building a professional laboratory. In this way high quality STEM education is not limited to affluent areas and wealthy educational institutions.
- Cutting costs leads to one of the most important issues in education now - democratization of education. VR & AR can provide quality access and opportunities to a huge mass of students, that would be impossible to reach otherwise.
- STEM education, especially biology and medical research, happen to get involved with ethical dilemmas. Animal testing or patients rights are one of the examples of how traditional education can be morally questionable. With VR & AR students can get involved with a lot of experiments in a cruelty-free and ethical environment.
- A lot of STEM scenarios are just impossible to show in traditional education. There’s no way to take students on a trip to Mars or put them inside a blood cell. With VR & AR impossible is nothing!
- Immersive technology can change STEM perception. For a lot of students math, physics or biology are boring and difficult to understand. With immersive technology we can change the image of those subjects so that they become much more attractive to our kids.
How does it look in practice?
This is all theory. But how exactly does it look in the real world? To answer this question we’ve gathered some great examples to show the enormous potential immersive technology has when it comes to teaching STEM subjects.
The Copenhagen based Labster VR app is a perfect example of how immersive reality can really change STEM education. The Danes launched their lab simulation software 5 years ago and now in partnership with Daydream by Google, they have created a tool used by a dozen universities across the globe.
With help from experts at Arizona State University, Labster created a truly useful product, which meets the needs of the education industry. But how exactly does Labster VR work? The app provides an incredible virtual reality laboratory experience. It covers the subjects of cell and molecular biology, ecology and physiology.
The Labster VR app lets students perform experiments and practice their skills in a fun and risk-free learning environment. Because of the ability to alter time, students feel more comfortable to try new things without any risks. As a result, they learn from their mistakes.
And it works! Research shows that students using Labster are learning over 100% more. Above all, it’s not only an additional flashy new gadget anymore. Arizona State University became the first university to provide full course credits to students using VR simulations!
A whole new way of learning Geometry! That’s how Shapes promotes its great app for elementary and middle school geometry teachers. Even though the app is four years old, this year Shapes launched its new version that brings those geometric objects to life.
Now Shapes allows kids to augment 3D objects directly onto virtual spaces like tabletops or the floor. The app received AppAwards in 2014 as the best educational app, decided unanimously both by juries and users - and we totally get why!
But what is Shapes really about? Children can play with three-dimensional geometric objects, using simple gestures to zoom and rotate shapes in any direction. By doing this, Shapes improves kids’ spatial imagination and makes them familiar with geometry terminology. Don’t you wish you had such a geometry tool when you were in school?
It's official! Our new Shapes 3D Geometry Drawing app is available in the App Store to use with your @MergeVR Cubes.https://t.co/1UhKvNiEcs #AR #MergeCube #AugmentedReality #iteachmath #geometry #3DShapes #ARVRinEDU #edtech #mathematics #elemmathchat #mathchat pic.twitter.com/vKiugPYxhK
— Shapes 3D Geometry apps (@Shapes3D) October 9, 2018
If you like what Setapp did for Shapes then drop us a line! We’ll be happy to hear and help you create your 3D product.
zSpace is an accomplished company from California. They provide over 800 school districts, tech centers, med schools and universities around the world with a VR & AR experience.
With Unity engine, they create apps such as ‘Curie’s Elements’ – a wholesome experience in which students can explore a periodic table with Bohr and atomic models for each element. Whats more, students can also build elements by adding protons, neutrons, and electrons. This way, chemistry class is anything but boring!
But this great company didn’t stop at creating incredibly useful software, now they also provide students with great hardware too! As Amanda Austin, Marketing Director of zSpace, shared with us:
This year, we unveiled the world’s first extended reality (XR) laptop, allowing students to lift images from the screen using a stylus and examine them in detail, gaining a deeper understanding of concepts by physically manipulating virtual simulations, from energy and motion to molecules and organisms.
Risk-free learning environment is often pointed out as the most important characteristic of immersive education apps for STEM. zSpace is no exception. One of the greatest powers of this app is that it allows students to make – and most importantly – correct their mistakes. They can manipulate many variables and they don’t have to worry about the costs or cleaning up after the experiments. Saving time and money at the same time!
4. MEL Science
What made a few highly accomplished science geeks turn their attention to creating educational apps? They started to raise their own children and realized that the existing level of education is very poor. That’s how MEL Science started. As Vassili Philippov , MEL Science funder, told us:
We need to find better, more efficient ways to teach. So, what doesn’t work today? Memorizing does not work! “Kids, memorize this fact.” “Class, memorize this formula." This just doesn’t work. Sure, the class memorizes the fact short-term. But what happens once they have taken the test? They replace the facts they just studied in their short-term memory with new facts they need to learn for their next test. Yes, they memorize. But they do not retain.
What’s their answer to this problem? In science principles are based mostly on what happens at a micro-level. The most interesting things in chemistry happen at the molecular level. Most modern biology is about what happens inside a cell. That’s when Virtual Reality becomes incredibly useful.
MEL Science provides tools for kids to actually see molecules interacting all around them. MEL Chemistry VR lessons are aligned with the school chemistry curriculum, covering all of its main topics. Atoms in gases or electron affinity? MEL Science covers it all.
5. Explore Interactive
The combination of tabletop card games and augmented reality technology is how Explore Interactive builds its highly educational app. Through Explore! kids can play with various challenging and involving educational games and tasks. Gamification of learning combined with augmented reality enormously changes how children take their first steps in STEM education.
The Explore! Kit is suitable for kids between 8 and 12 years old - that’s exactly when you need to unleash a kids’ imagination! With the Explore! application your surroundings fade away as you experience the world of science, technology, engineering, and math through the window of a ground-breaking augmented reality technology.
Virtuali-Tee is an incredible, award winning classroom tool, created by Curiscope, a start-up from Brighton, UK. What’s special about Virtuali-Tee is that it’s actually...a t-shirt. But it’s not an ordinary t-shirt. Virtuali-Tee, when worn and viewed through a connected app, displays a life-like view of the internal organs. Kids can explore human anatomy through their tablets, smartphones or a VR headset.
Virtuali-Tee allows kids to learn about Digestive, Respiratory, Skeletal, Renal and Circulatory Systems. The VR/AR experience catches kids’ attention in a way that’s just simply impossible when traditional tools are used. Real-life context helps children to understand and remember human anatomy much quicker.
One of the app’s founders Ed Barton has been placed in Forbes’ 30 Under 30. That shows what a huge success Virtuali-Tee is. And we are not surprised, just take a look at how kids react to it:
As you can see, virtual and augmented realities are taking the education world by storm. The advancements in technology, such as Unity engine, allow developers to come up with highly innovative ways to bring education to a whole new level.
While a few years ago VR & AR were treated as just another toy for gamers, now no one can have any doubt that they’re incredibly powerful tools for a whole range of purposes. In today’s world of constant stimulation of all our senses, kids need something extra to actually focus on things that are crucial for their education. That’s where immersive reality really does the job.
How can Setapp help?
Our great developing team has a lot of experience when it comes to educational apps. We are proud developers of Shapes, the app that changes how geometry is being taught.
Choosing an experienced team of developers is crucial for the success of your project. If you are thinking about creating educational product that will involve AR, VR, but also mobile and web development, we are ready to help you out. Our experts will not only develop your product, but they will actually help you from the day one to truly discover and define the scope of your project. Just leave us a message, we’ll be happy to hear about your idea!