How 3D tech can help beat learning hurdles

David Chen, director of engineering at Orbbec, explores the educational benefits of augmented and virtual reality

Virtual learning has garnered mixed reactions over the past years. Some students adapted to the change while others struggled to manage the learn-from-home curriculum. Many school systems, in fact, were forced to alter their performance standards simply due to the number of failing grades students were receiving. 

A McKinsey study showed that virtual learning, especially those built around video conferencing platforms, actually widen learning gaps. But technology itself isn’t to blame for these growing remote educational struggles. 

Now more than ever, new tech-enabled solutions are needed. Students require solutions that allow them to learn effectively both inside and outside the classroom, especially as educators look to enable hybrid classrooms post-pandemic. There needs to be a seamless connection between modes of learning, with immersion at the forefront. With the right technology, this can happen.

More specifically, 3D technology has the potential to change the nature of learning in both environments. Using 3D cameras, scanners and other multi-dimensional hardware and software, students can learn faster, with higher engagement and retention. 3D can also foster the personal connections, interactions and shared experiences that are so critical to early child development.

Augmented reality 

The beauty of augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) is it opens up possibilities for your students, including creating their own virtual worlds. Engagement skyrockets when students are given an opportunity to explore AR applications, where they can be the masters of their own digital universe. Augmented reality lets students explore sectors of learning that would otherwise be impossible with the help of 3D scanning.  

The classroom today can incorporate AR content that makes learning more efficient, faster, and much more fun. From mathematics to chemistry and biology, with some creativity, AR can be incorporated into practically any subject. Augmented reality technology expands the physical world; it adds layers of digital information onto what we can see with the naked eye. It augments our surroundings by adding sound, video and graphics.

Augmented reality creates a visual of objects that can be examined from any angle, over three axes, simply by moving a screen (mobile device or tablet) with 3D scanning features. 3D cameras allow environments to be scanned and reproduced for virtual walk-throughs. Enhancements on the virtual 3D model can create the effect of layering and the digital device.

Applications using augmented reality in education provide new ways of teaching and learning, bridging the gap between the virtual and real world. The benefits of AR in education are increasingly being recognized by researchers as providing benefits such as increased content understanding, learning spatial structure, improved collaboration and increased student motivation.

AR technology has significantly evolved and today we see these applications in every industry with reported benefits from its users, especially in education.

Immersive classrooms

One of the most exciting innovations in the education sector is hands-on learning facilitated by depth sensors. Supported by depth sensors that track student movement in a certain area, immersive imagery is projected on the walls, floors and other flat surfaces of rooms equipped for the purpose. 

Immersive classrooms put students in the environment they’re learning about. Curriculum takes on a whole new dimension as students virtually walk-through buildings, explore the rainforest create simulations, even travel the universe.

Students are no longer stuck flipping the pages of their textbook, relying on 2D images to paint the picture of the curriculum. Rooms can be built to be totally interactiveallowing students to touch and tap the walls and floor with actions “read” by the room’s 3D sensors. Teachers can add smells and sensory effects to enhance the audio-visual experience.

Therapeutic immersive technology 

Immersive 3D also offers children with sensory and AD/HD challenges a therapeutic environment. For many students with special needs, relying on the senses is imperative to development, especially the sense of touch. Immersive technology brings a whole new world of tactical learning to students. 

The future of 3D  

While the challenges of engaging students from home are significant, they are not impossible to conquer. Thanks to home gaming, VR headsets are already found in many homes and cost a fraction of the price of laptops. As they become more common, students will soon be equipped to explore many of the same immersive and mixed reality alternatives from home. This kind of interactive instruction is a major improvement from static videoconferencing and will allow students to transition smoothly between classroom and home instruction. 

Soon, virtual 3D learning promises to take another massive leap forward. Google is currently testing Project Starline, a “magic window” that enables teachers, lecturers, and guests to teach from anywhere, in real time, with a high-resolution 3D presentation that is virtually indistinguishable from reality. The innovation may support field studies and real-time events from around the world in 3D, without headsets — a breakthrough that will redefine learning as we know it. 

Put 3D technology into action

Covid-19 taught modern education an important lesson in technology utilisation as the industry was rather unaware and ill-equipped to support virtual learning, but this will change. 90% of educators agree that VR/AR will be a vital way to provide personalised education in the future.

3D is a cost-effective and practical way for schools to create learning experiences that go far beyond sitting at a classroom desk. Virtual learning is not an approach to be abandoned, but improved upon for greater engagement. It must be explored, developed, and further implemented. Education is all about building a better future — and the time to embrace the future of learning technology is most definitely here.


You might also like: Salford to host centre for training in real-time 3D platform

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