Enhancing Classroom Experiences: Integrating Hardware for AR and VR

Dhwani Shah
July 17, 2024
5 min read

In recent years, technological advancements have revolutionized the way we learn and teach. Two such innovations, Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR), are the talk of the town. From Apple to Google, every company, big and small, is trying to harness the power of AR and VR to change the way we live, work and learn. These technologies hold immense potential for transforming the classroom experience by making learning more immersive, engaging, and interactive. However, this may seem out of reach for many class providers because of how much augmented and virtual reality cost - even straightforward AR and VR solutions cost anywhere around a few thousand dollars. Using AR and VR within a budget to enhance your class experience is not absolutely unattainable. You don’t need to invest in fancy, expensive equipment to enhance your students’ learning experience; it is possible to immerse, engage and entertain them using just the bare minimum. Here is how you can use your simple, everyday hardware to augment the classroom experience.

1. Mobile phones and Tablets

Most students already have access to smartphones or tablets, making them ideal devices for AR experiences. Class providers can use mobile apps that utilize the device's camera and sensors to overlay digital content - 3D models, animations, or information - onto the real world. In this way, augmented reality benefits students by allowing them to explore and interact with virtual content, making learning more tangible and memorable; the easiest way to learn about something is to see it.

Class providers can use mobile apps that utilize the device's camera and sensors to overlay digital content - 3D models, animations, or information - onto the real world.

For example, a history class could use an AR app to bring historical figures to life, allowing students to interact with virtual characters and explore historical events. Pokémon Go is one such augmented reality gaming application that incorporated the concept of bringing virtual figures into the real world and getting gamers to interact with them. 

Biology lessons can be made exciting and interactive with the help of Google’s 3D animals, which, in addition to being incredibly easy to access, allow users to view, scale, zoom and move more than a 100 animals so that learners can study details and features that a simple image cannot convey.

Additionally, class providers can utilize affordable 360-degree cameras to capture immersive content for virtual field trips. ProTruly’s Darling is the first smartphone to have a built-in 360-degree camera, and more are on the way. Teachers can record real-world locations and activities, allowing students to experience these places virtually. By using VR headsets or even just a computer, tablet or mobile device, students can explore museums, landmarks, or natural environments as if they were physically present.

This 360-degree video of the Victoria Falls is the perfect personal field trip; it transports you to a place that could otherwise be inaccessible to the class.

YouTube now has several 360-degree videos to allow students to explore various locations virtually, nonetheless very realistically. You’re welcome, geography teachers!

2. Earphones and Speakers

Mobile phones and TVs aren't the only devices getting smarter, earphones are fast catching up. These wireless, Bluetooth-enabled devices, with their innovative applications in the field of learning, can augment learner experience by a mile. 

Language acquisition is often challenging, especially when students lack exposure to the target language's native environment. AR can bridge this gap by providing virtual language immersion experiences allowing for a more natural and interactive language learning process. By integrating AR and VR with wearable devices like AirPods or similar smart earbuds, class providers can create a simulated environment that enhances language acquisition. Students can listen to native speakers, engage in simulated conversations, and receive real-time feedback on their pronunciation and language usage. They can also explore foreign cultures by virtually visiting different countries enabling both language proficiency and cultural understanding. Apps like Mondly VR, Noun Town and ImmerseMe have opened new doors to language learning, allowing you to experience a language in its natural environment.  

Sports training can also be upgraded. Students can use earphones to simulate a stadium-like environment with cheering crowds, enhancing the competitive atmosphere. This would not only help them familiarize themselves with game conditions, but also aid in improving concentration.

3. Wearables

Wearables like activity trackers and smartwatches have captured the market by storm and are changing the way health, fitness, communication and entertainment work. Be it the Fitbit, Whoop or the Apple Watch - everyone's got something wrapped around their wrists. The COVID-19 pandemic opened our eyes to the importance of health and hygiene, and ever since, basic health parameters such as heart rate and blood pressure, calorie intake and training regimens are widely monitored through wearables. Besides, these devices offer a simple way of answering calls or receiving email and text notifications.

There are many ways you can incorporate the use of wearables as a class provider. Wearables can amplify sports training. By integrating VR headsets, motion trackers, and wearable devices like fitness trackers or smartwatches, class providers can create immersive sports training experiences. Solutions like Strivr offer Virtual Reality sports training, letting players practice anytime, anywhere, in the most realistic environments possible. Motion trackers can provide real-time feedback on students' movements and performance, and fitness statistics can provide vital information on one’s health and well-being, allowing for targeted improvement in technique and strategy. SenseArena’s VR hockey and tennis training simulations allow players to practice key skills and also record their drills to evaluate strengths and weaknesses.

Smartwatches and fitness trackers can be integrated into health and physical education classes to promote fitness and monitor activity levels. Class providers can develop AR apps that sync with these wearable devices, providing students with real-time feedback on their performance during physical activities. Students can set goals, track progress, and receive personalized coaching through the AR interface.

An exciting take on this would be integrating this technology in biology classes to explain to students concepts such as heart rate, oxygen levels, blood pressure, respiration rate, the effects of exercise on our body, etc. with the help of the statistics provided by wearables. Physics class providers could use the stats of direction, speed and time of walks and runs recorded on smartwatches to teach related concepts and their applications. These are just some of the many ways assimilating basic technology in the classroom could supplement student knowledge. 

4. AR and VR Headsets

Now, onto the fancy stuff! The advent of AR and VR is blurring the lines between the physical and digital worlds. While Meta unveiled its Quest 3 VR headset, tech giant Apple was not far behind with the launch of its AR and VR headset - the Apple Vision Pro. The scope of augmented and virtual reality in the field of education is unfathomable, and AR and VR headsets can make learning more interactive and experiential than it has ever been. 

Class providers offering high-risk activities like rock climbing, skydiving, or extreme sports can leverage AR and VR to provide virtual trial experiences. By using AR headsets and controllers, students can simulate the thrills and challenges of these activities in a safe and controlled environment. They can practice climbing virtual cliffs, experience the adrenaline rush, and learn necessary skills before committing to the actual activity. This not only enhances safety but also lowers the barrier to entry to the activity by giving students a taste of what they can expect, helping them make informed decisions about their participation.

For history and geography classes, class providers can utilize AR headsets and handheld devices to offer virtual tours and historical reenactments. Students can explore ancient civilizations, walk through historical landmarks, or witness pivotal events through interactive AR experiences, enabling a deeper understanding of the subject matter. A biology class could offer a virtual tour of the human body, allowing students to examine organs and systems in a 3D VR experience. A chemistry class could show a virtual model of the structure of an atom.

While AR and VR headsets cost an arm and a leg (the price of Apple's AR and VR headset is a whopping $3,499!) and would prove uneconomical for a lot of class providers, budget-friendly VR headsets can provide an affordable solution for immersive experiences. 

Moreover, AR and VR technologies can offer unique opportunities to support children with disabilities by providing inclusive and immersive learning experiences. Specially challenged learners can experience activities, games and sports in a simulated environment that is safe and adapted to their unique needs. Physically challenged students could play a game of virtual basketball, or enjoy a swim in the pool, all with the help of digitally created environments.

A class provider using a virtual reality headset to aid a student with learning disabilities.

Integrating hardware devices with AR and VR opens up a world of possibilities for class providers seeking to offer effective, immersive, engaging and more meaningful educational experiences. Whether through virtual field trips, real-time visualizations, gamified learning, language immersion, or personalized instruction, the integration of hardware with AR and VR can revolutionize the classroom experience. 

Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality hold the key to creating a dynamic and empowered classroom environment. By embracing these examples of technological advancement, class providers can unlock the full potential of their students with practical skills, experiential learning, and a deeper understanding and awareness of various subjects. It’s time we embrace the power of AR and VR technologies and embark on a journey towards transforming education for the better.

Dhwani Shah

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