Making Sense of the State of AI and VR/AR Technology for Educational Purposes: How can VR be used as an Educational tool?

AI first existed as an exploratory science inside of Computer Science curriculum.  Since both VR and AI are branches of Computer Science (and Software Engineering) and also can be considered a part of Electrical Engineering.  Corresponding to the Computer Science AI evolution, we had 2D graphics and games that were flat in that 2D space, which evolved to 2 ½D (3D effect on a 2D device), and now we are seeing a full 3D space in recent years, as we also have seen AI applied heavily in game development.  We are still grappling with such issues, for example, as how the systems are implemented, whether they are first or third person.

VR needs AI, so VR is an application of AI.  It relies much on visual intelligence but as we can simulate other intelligences, we will have more compelling AI.  As in games where we utilize virtual bots and eventually will involve real robots in simulated situations.  This is where reality blurs with virtual reality.  In the 2000’s, I worked at DeVry University and taught GSP (Game and Simulation Programming) to college students, when VR was truly in it’s infancy for games.  Today, however, we see a myriad of options that are vying for market share and to become the preferred platform.

Utilizing VR for training and education is emerging at both the K-12 and at the college level.  There are many related and complimentary technologies that will go along with virtualized environments.  We are at a stage in emerging technology where Internet based software in the cloud, machine learning, big data analytics and data visualization, IoT (Internet of Things), and gamification applications are becoming accessible and educators are finding ways to incorporate these technologies into the classroom.  Each of these can leverage VR in their own way.

Virtual, Augmented or Mixed Reality?

We can now see how VR systems are replicating the multimedia and hypermedia environments that we’ve been using for 20+ years involving text and hypertext, still and moving images, audio, animation and simulation.

Sensory Issues

Only some of the multimedia elements were visual, but VR systems today rely heavily on the vision sense in humans to create that reality.  What is different about VR with audio than simply stereo or surround sound.  When the VR is coupled with other physical and sensory aspects other than sight and sound, such as movement, olfactory senses and touch, can we really replicate reality.


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