Imagine learning about gravitational forces by having to enter your slingshot calculations into the mainframe computer of the Enterprise while deadly Klingon vessels are attacking and it’s the only way to avoid them… Virtual reality (VR) could get there but the road is still long. Today already VR as well as augmented reality (AR) and mixed reality (MR) have a lot to bring to the classroom, education and training in general and more and more educators want to use the technology (see survey below). It’s immersive, it can be interactive and if it’s used wisely, it could have a tremendous impact on active learning as well as technical training.
What are VR, AR & MR?
VR is a fully immersive virtual world while AR adds virtual components to reality (ex: visualizing an atom at the center of the classroom) and MR is a mix between them. Today, VR experiences are available through VR headsets distributed by Google (Cardboard, Daydream & One), Facebook with Oculus, HTC with Vive, Lenovo with Mirage, Samsung and many others while AR can require only a smartphone (think Pokemon Go) but also works with headsets (Microsoft HoloLens, Magic Leap One…). Content is usually available through hardware vendors platforms.
According to IDC, spending on "AR/VR products and services is to reach $27 billion in 2018, a 92% increase year over year »! It is forecasted to achieve a five-year compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 71.6% over the 2017-2022 period. So, the market is already huge, it's growing and it’s getting to maturity (see graph below): while it’s good news for gamers, AR & VR could also be used widely in multiple use cases (the B2B market should represent 60% of the market by 2020) including education and training in the near future as more and more standalone headsets are brought to market and prices are going down.
Why is it useful to education and training in general?
1. Engage & Retain: VR & AR foster interest in 70% of kids according to commonsense media study; It gives yet another mean to the teacher/trainer to capture attention by creating an experience rather than delivering content. Highly immersive, it can be game based and used for creative learning
2. Give perspective: VR and AR could also be great empathy builder letting the student/trainees in other shoes (to fight racism for instance) and giving them new perspectives (such as deep dives in professional careers)
3. Do the impossible: VR & AR allow to create highly immersive and interactive environments letting us see and interact with the invisible and the unreachable: travel far distances and through time & space without leaving the classroom as well as explore hazardous environments (ex : Unimersiv, Google Expeditions, AR Portal, BBC’s civilization AR etc.), explore the human body (ex : Lifeliqe, 3D Organon etc.)… Possibilities are virtually limitless
4. Lower costs and increase accessibility: VR & AR allow higher education institutions as well as companies to virtually use very expensive machinery or lab equipment lowering costs of training and making it available to more, more often (pilots training, surgeons training, aerospace workers training…)
A new market for K12, higher ed & professional training
We see an increasing interest from AR/VR hardware vendors to reach the education market, setting up specialized sets and sales team. Lenovo for instance has launched in January its classroom set with the Mirage headset (standalone), a tablet for the teacher, 700 pre-loaded Google Expedition content (immersive travel experiences) and training for teachers. According to Goldman Sachs, $700m will be poured in VR & AR products in education by 2025 (and that excludes professional training).
Yes, you can visit the international space station with a $5 Google cardboard, but that’s just the beginning. Today companies like ClassVR allow students to see what WWI trenches were like, companies like lifeliqe (which partnered with Microsoft), Zspace or Nearpod give the STEM curriculum new perspectives by letting the students see and interact with 3D objects (atoms & molecules, combustion engines, volcanos etc.). This technology is not just another gadget for the classroom, it allows student to understand, design and build at a whole new level.
Gartner projects that 60 percent of all higher education institutions in the US will be using virtual reality in the classroom by 2021 and it’s already starting with Labster for instance, a Danish company building virtual labs for colleges which partners with Google to create 30 virtual labs on the Daydream platform. Labster is already used by universities in Europe and the US such as MIT or Arizona state to examine microorganisms or sequence DNA for instance. Another startup, Fundamental VR allows surgeons (and surgeons to be) to train on a regular basis on operations with a VR headset and haptic devices in a highly realistic environment. They replace very expensive simulators or cadaveric training reducing costs as well as increasing training and retraining time while providing even better results! Today they work with top notch European and American universities and clinics.
VR for the training industry is expected to be one of the leading segments in the near future transforming the way we are trained from onboarding to technical training. In Europe, Manzalab has built amazing products and services to better communication, training and learning in general with clients like Spotify, Oracle or Airbus. While technical use cases are the most obvious, there’s much more: the team coming from Ubisoft studios offers for instance a fully immersive cybersecurity training - the user embodies a thief and has to stole everything that’s available to them at night in an open space (passwords, flash drives, unshredded documents…).
While the technology still has limitations: small time uses, dizziness, costs etc. and is still in the process of being improved; VR and AR open tremendous opportunities from K12 education to corporate training fostering engagement and giving access to the unreachable. At Educapital we are convinced by the potential of VR and AR and we have recently secured our first investment in the space with Manzalab mentioned above (€2m raised).
Jérémy Nahum - Investment Manager