What could VR mean for virtual learning?
Virtual Reality may evoke images of dated gaming concepts from the 90s involving bulky headsets and blocky space sims for most people, but it is actually a rapidly evolving technology with far-reaching applications especially for technology. Following the acquisition of Kickstarter-backed developer Oculus - creator of the popular-in-technology-circles Oculus Rift headset - by none other than Facebook, the business and technology worlds have stood up and taken notice. While the current driving force behind the technology remains videogames at present, the words of Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg hint at the potential he sees in VR. After spending $2.3 billion (£1.4 billion) to buy the startup company, the man behind the world's most popular social network said that the technology ties into his company's mission of making the world "more open and connected". "The incredible thing about the technology is that you feel like you're actually present in another place with other people. People who try it say it's different from anything they've ever experienced in their lives," he said. Looking at what lies beyond games, Zuckerberg said that he foresees entire virtual classrooms willed with students and teachers from locations all over the world and consultations with doctors from the comfort of people's own homes. "This is really a new communication platform. By feeling truly present, you can share unbounded spaces and experiences with the people in your life. Imagine sharing not just moments with your friends online, but entire experiences and adventures." VR applications in Education According to TES, technological advancements make it much more likely that virtual reality will catch on properly this time and a number of experts believe that it will transform education within the next ten years. The first applications are already being seen, for example Harvard University has deployed VR to enable undergraduates on its Egyptology course to explore the pyramids of Giza without leaving their campus. The applications for work-based training are also intriguing, particularly in fields such as engineering and construction where it is often hard to learn without practical training at present.