Will AR/VR Teaching Ever Take Off?
New technology has always had a hard time being accepted in a world that defaults to the familiar. The University of Berkeley mentions that throughout human history, while the growth of technology has happened in leaps, adoption of that technology has varied in its speed. With the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, it would seem natural that we would adopt AR and VR much more quickly because of necessity. Many businesses have opted to give their employees work-from-home status, and teachers are delivering remote lectures to students around the world. However, there is a distinct lack of excitement when it comes to implementing VR and AR within the classroom. Is this a sign of things to come for the industry, or will it eventually make headway into this most natural of environments?
Finding A Foothold
While everyday society isn't seeing much use for AR and VR, some industries have embraced the technology with open arms. Real estate companies use technology, like Console Nebula, to show off houses in Augmented Reality. One of the most massive mobile games in the world, Pokémon Go, uses AR to great effect. Yet despite these early adopters, the rate of diffusion of technology to the populace is still agonizingly slow. One of the places it should have made a significant impact is in the classroom, allowing teachers to deliver lectures and offer examples as realistic overlays. Unfortunately, the expectation falls far from reality.
Don't Fix What Isn't Broken
AR and VR come with a few caveats, such as the need to invest in new hardware, and learn how to use it. Humans like intuitive interaction and this is a significant change in the lives of users that is simply not inherent. Trying to convince a user that they should give up their monitor display for a VR/AR headset might be an exercise in futility. Combined with the lack of support for these devices as a standardized display, users would have to spend twice as much to experience VR/AR. Why would they go for the added expense when Zoom or Slack works just as well for communication?
The value proposition that VR/AR offers is not enough to convince users to spend thousands on a headset. Gartner noted in 2018 that AR and VR were both facing the same problems with adoption as they do today. As time goes by, the cost of these devices will drop, but until that time, users are more likely to opt for the tried-and-true displays that they've always known. The high cost of devices won't drop unless supply increases and technology becomes cheaper. Unfortunately, COVID-19's impact on the AR/VR industry stands to cause issues in this as well.
The Impact Of The Pandemic On The AR/VR Industry
COVID-19 has affected industries around the globe, and the AR/VR sector isn't an exception to this rule. One of the most significant innovators in the inventory, Magic Leap, seems to have been walloped by the pandemic. The Verge reports that they had to let go up to one thousand of their employees, a full half of their working staff. With this significant reduction in workforce, it's unlikely that Magic Leap could put the amount of time and effort needed toward innovating to reduce the cost of adoption for the technology.
What Does The Future Hold?
While it's too early to tell, VR and AR do pose a unique way to interface with technology, reminiscent of the tech we've seen in sci-fi shows and movies. These innovative technologies have already started dispersing to the general population, but they remain expensive. Until the cost of acquiring a VR/AR headset comes down, and it becomes more standardized as an output device, it'll still face an uphill battle to be adopted by the casual user.
On the other hand, the interaction opportunities that VR and AR offer shouldn't be dismissed outright. Teachers aren't adopting the technology because it would depend on students having the technology and knowing how to use it. With many kids taking to technology quickly and naturally, the worry isn’t about students coming to grips with the new hardware. Teachers, on the other hand, may need some time to get used to using VR and AR to deliver their lectures. With time, VR and AR may replace the classroom experience, but it will take a much more widespread dispersion of the technology to achieve this effect.