How Does the Future Affect Our Case Study?

In my last post I introduced a few ideas for a VR education application to enhance MOOCs with virtual labs that not only allow practical hands-on experiences but also solve problems when physical labs are not accessible or parts are difficult and costly to distribute to a massive global audience.

The second installment takes the idea further into the future and explores how future trends in VR/AR industries could impact my projects.

Q: How would Augmented Reality better help teach your experience?

A simple advantage of Augmented Reality is that it could open access to real-life assets that would otherwise be hidden and inaccessible in VR. You could for example continue to use papers, books, the physical computer display, keyboard or even that cup of coffee while focusing on the virtual object of interest. In the electrical engineering case, you could watch lectures on the screen, take notes, read a chapter in the book while building out a virtual breadboard with virtual components.

In a slightly different case with available real-life parts, you could follow instructions presented with a virtual breadboard and reproduce the circuit with real parts.

AR can also be very helpful in a musical instrument teaching case. Videos and text in an online course have only limited abilities, but AR could guide the student on the actual instrument. This would not be possible in a VR setting.

Q: How could eye tracking help you better tailor your experience to your students?

Beside making the experience more comfortable in the long-term, eye tracking could also be used to navigate the scene when hands are occupied measuring a electrical circuit, or holding or playing an instrument.

Eye tracking could also be used to measure the user’s attention to certain areas. It could for example trigger actions if the user looks at an object or text for a longer than expected time, perhaps to provide extra information or hints if a passage appears more difficult for the student to follow.

Q: How would better Haptics better teach your experience?

I can’t really think of anything that better haptics would better teach about the electrical engineering example in my thought experiment.

But I could imagine a use in music education in the (perhaps a far) future. If a real instrument wasn’t available, it might allow the learner to play a virtual instrument like a real instrument and not restrict the user to VR controllers that have nothing in common with the actual instrument. It could also help emulate the feedback of a string or a keystroke on a real instrument. Combined with eye tracking it could approximate real hand-eye coordination. What the student practiced in VR may later even apply more easily and seamlessly to a real instrument.

Q: How important is graphical fidelity to your experience? (Yes this is the same as last time, but important to consider as students could potentially get better technology)

It’s a bonus for the imaginary electrical engineering course. Oscilloscopes and other measuring instruments in a virtual lab could benefit from high graphical fidelity, but the virtual breadboard or electronic components could still be simple, schematic objects.

Graphical fidelity may be more important in the the music education example, especially if the goal is to let a student practice in VR and apply it to a real-life instrument later.

Q: How critical is it that your target student receives this training within the next two years?

The material of the electrical engineering or music course won’t change much, so it’s not very critical to provide this training within the next two years. However, the technology is already available, and the course doesn’t have to wait until future trends in VR or AR are mature enough.