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Posted on 23rd October 2019

To Take Learners Where You Can’t Take Learners – The Power of Virtual Reality

I first saw the power of Virtual Reality, (VR), about sixteen years ago.  At Gateshead City Learning Centre we were privileged to have one of education’s first stereo VR systems installed in one of our classrooms.  It was quite a thing, two huge projectors hung in a major engineering project from the roof and the audience kitted out in the latest range of dark glasses…BUT WOW…the reaction from kids and teachers alike was unforgettable.  They saw hearts float and open up in the middle of the room, visited old ruins brought to life and even drove a Metro train!   They just loved it and the potential for teachers to take this engagement and build on it was obvious for all to see.  Of course cost and logistics at the time, meant that it remained a showcase for people to visit.

Fast forward to last Sunday, I took my daughter Chloe who is 11 years old to see the new BA installation,  https://nvite.com/community/BA2119, at the Gateshead Emerging Technology Centre www.proto.co.uk . Not only are you transported to an amazing VR world but a moving platform, heat, smell and wind effects really do convince you that flight is in progress.  Built by multiple award-winning VR creators and an Oscar-winning practical effects team, Fly turns you into a time-travelling pilot, from the earliest imaginings of Leonard da Vinci and his ornithopter, to the Wright Brothers’ first successful attempt at Kitty Hawk, to British Airways’ predecessor, Air Transport and Travel’s inaugural flight to Paris. Travel on Concorde before jumping to today’s A350 and onwards to a possible vision of the future of aviation.

Needless to say the facts that Chloe learnt whilst having fun were many and she just wouldn’t have that experience any other way, she said, “it was totally fun and enjoyable…really inspiring…and I learnt a lot!”

You may well say that it is still a huge setup that schools, business etc. would never be able to afford and you’d be correct.  BUT…things have changed so quickly on an everyday smaller scale with the likes of the Oculus GO and Quest and Hive Focus Plus, that now deliver real, rich and wonderous VR experiences for a couple of hundred pounds and no wires or downloads. That the potential for using VR to take kids (and adults) where they can’t physically go is very definitely here.  Place your children into a medieval village, an Egyptian pyramid, space or on the plains where dinosaurs roam…and watch them engage, be wowed and LEARN.

For business, place your staff in a difficult interview, let them practice how to act when a bribe is offered or come together from a around the globe to work on a business scenario in the same environment.  Help them to learn real world engineering tasks on complex realistic VR models.  All with the ability to try, learn and try again with no fear failure or inhibition of making a mistake.

It is affordable, effective, FUN and here now.  The new dawn of learning is about to be delivered.

Peter, SUB 10

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