Augmented Virtual Reality: How To Improve Education Systems

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High. Learn. Res. Commun.Vol. 7, Num. 1 June 2017Augmented Virtual Reality: How to Improve Education SystemsManuel Fernandez*, aaUniversidad Europea de Madrid, Madrid, SpainSubmitted: June 4, 2017 Peer-reviewed: June 8, 2017 Accepted: June 13, 2017 Published: June 30, 2017Abstract: This essay presents and discusses the developing role of virtual and augmented realitytechnologies in education. Addressing the challenges in adapting such technologies to focus onimproving students’ learning outcomes, the author discusses the inclusion of experiential modesas a vehicle for improving students’ knowledge acquisition. Stakeholders in the educational roleof technology include students, faculty members, institutions, and manufacturers. While thebenefits of such technologies are still under investigation, the technology landscape offersopportunities to enhance face-to-face and online teaching, including contributions in theunderstanding of abstract concepts and training in real environments and situations. Barriers totechnology use involve limited adoption of augmented and virtual reality technologies, and, moredirectly, necessary training of teachers in using such technologies within meaningful educationalcontexts. The author proposes a six-step methodology to aid adoption of these technologies asbasic elements within the regular education: training teachers; developing conceptual prototypes;teamwork involving the teacher, a technical programmer, and an educational architect; andproducing the experience, which then provides results in the subsequent two phases whereinteachers are trained to apply augmented- and virtual-reality solutions within their teachingmethodology using an available subject-specific experience and then finally implementing the useof the experience in a regular subject with students. The essay concludes with discussion of thebusiness opportunities facing virtual reality in face-to-face education as well as augmented andvirtual reality in online education.Keywords: higher education; new technologies; augmented reality; virtual realityIntroductionVirtual and augmented reality technologies have made their appearance within theeducation sector. The challenges to be addressed are mainly focused on improving students’learning outcomes. The educational element they have put in motion has been experience as avehicle to get the student to acquire specific knowledge. Many are the stakeholders who will bepart of this process, all with equal importance to the success of the initiatives. First are studentsas recipients and digital natives—individuals that embrace the use of new technologies,influenced by the technological progress of society; customers, and as such, very demanding intheir requests, thinking that technologies like these should be readily available in the existingportfolio. Second are the faculty members: academic professionals who have to be trained tointroduce these innovations into their teaching methodologies. Success will require involving themas participants in the creation of such solutions. There is no one better than faculty members toknow in what areas a student will need more help, and therefore, what parts of the subject will bebest suited to and best complemented by these educational experiences. Third are theinstitutions. They have to bet on these types of technologies, conceiving them within their modelsof educational innovation. It is not enough to have some trial devices available for users; instead,the greatest effort of institutions will focus on providing products and training that will raise their*Author correspondence: manuel.fernandez.asesor@gmail.comSuggested Citation: Fernandez, M. (2017). Augmented virtual reality: How to improve education systems. HigherLearning Research Communications, 7(1), 1–15.

www.hlrcjournal.comOpenAccesseducational quality to the highest level. Last but not least, are the manufacturers, influencingthrough their devices, applications, and events; all of which are fundamental elements and,obviously, pillars to the expansion of these new tools.Without a doubt, the most important element to highlight around virtual and augmentedreality is neither the potential nor the devices, nor even the existing applications. The mostimportant concept to understand is that these are tools. The ultimate goal focuses on theimprovement of student outcomes throughout the educational process in which they are involved.Increasing the number of students who manage to acquire the minimum knowledge demandedby an expanding competitive market is the only mission of these tools. Millions of professionals inthousands of institutions work every day to achieve this goal. Today people speak of virtual andaugmented reality, but tomorrow they may talk about holography or any other outstandingtechnology. In the end, these are tools, and the increase of student knowledge will continue to bethe common and constant goal in this sector throughout all time.Augmented and Virtual Reality DefinitionsVirtual Reality DefinitionTaking a common definition per the American Heritage Dictionary, virtual (n.d.) means"existing or resulting in essence or effect though not in actual fact, form, or name." Also, it canmean "created, simulated, or carried on by means of a computer or computer network" (“virtual,”2005) Other definitions can be found in the scientific literature to complement the dictionary, suchas “the action to induce a targeted behavior in an organism by using artificial sensory stimulation,while the organism has little or no awareness of the interference” (LaValle, 2017). Anotherinteresting definition for virtual reality is an interactive computer simulation which transferssensory information to a user who perceives it as substituted or augmented (Abari, Bharadia,Duffield, & Katabi, 2017). Therefore, virtual reality could be defined as an environment created bya computer system that simulates a real situation.Starting with the resulting description, it can be said that this technology provides the userwith the opportunity to be immersed in a programmed environment that simulates a reality.Currently individuals can be immersed within these realities through the sense of sight, by usingvisualization goggles; through touch, by wearing haptic gloves; and finally, through hearing byusing headphones. The technology that makes it possible is based on software developmentsthat use peripherals to interact with them. There are two types of applications. On the one hand,those that need powerful processors to use. On the other hand and in parallel, the completeofferings available on the market via a multitude of applications that can run with the processor ofa smartphone in order to increase the channels of access to this technology.The video game industry has been the main sponsor for the development of thistechnology (Prieto, 2017). This sector has a critical mass of users willing to invest capital in orderto improve the quality of ludic experiences. Once their capabilities have been proven, othersectors, such as communication, advertising, and marketing, have discovered that suchtechnology can be a differential element within their business.Augmented Reality DefinitionMany people think that augmented reality is the evolution of virtual reality. Today it is clearthat they are two technologies with different R&D paths and usages. Augmented realitytechnology integrates digital information with real environments in which people live. Everything2M. Fernandez

High. Learn. Res. Commun.Vol. 7, Num. 1 June 2017is processed and produced in real time. This is one of the main differences with virtual reality,which uses artificial environments. Augmented reality uses the real world and completes it withdigital information. Basically, it increases the amount of information that a human can take fromthe environment (Curcio, Dipace, & Norlund, 2016). Additionally and previously, Azuma (1997)defined augmented reality by three main characteristics. Firstly, the combination between realand virtual, secondly, the interaction in real time, and thirdly, the registration in 3D. All systemsthat develop an activity under these three characteristics are considered augmented realitysystems. Other authors have gone deeper and have introduced into the definition someclarifications, such as “an augmented reality system does not consider necessarily a headset forviewing images” (Schmalstieg & Höllerer, 2016).This technology is less developed largely due to the fact that it needs even moreprocessing power. It must interpret the real world and adhere to it all the digital informationavailable to the system in question. This means processing a reality with infinite variables thatchange without a closed argument. While in virtual reality the environment is completelyprogrammed, in this technology the environment is alive and behaves unpredictably. Narrowingthe potential values of the multiple variables becomes the main challenge.Initially the main applications that have shown the technology’s potential have beeninterior designs, videoconferences, visits to malls, browsers, etc. All of these possess a low levelof development when taking into account the forecasts made about what one could get in thesystem. Many of the major technology multinationals have already presented their first prototypes,placing augmented reality as the tangible element that can achieve products only seen in fictionso far. In any case, this technology is just a visualization tool. Adjacent technologies, such asartificial intelligence or the interpretation and extraction of value of big data, will be the ones thatgive content and meaning to a type of technology like this (Olshannikova, Ometov, &Koucheryavy, 2014).Virtual Reality Versus. Augmented RealityFollowing the previous deep definitions, some comparisons are exposed: Virtual reality runs over new environments completely computer generated. All thatuser can take, touch, or interact with is virtual. Augmented reality uses virtualelements only to enhance the real world and the user’s experience. Virtual realityreplaces the physical world. However, augmented reality does not do so. The level of immersion of virtual reality is 100%. Users are fully detached from thereal/physical world. Users are fully connected with the physical world throughaugmented reality. Users are fully aware of their surroundings and can perceive,touch, and interact with the real world helped by all the digital information theapplication provides. Virtual reality needs a very powerful processor. New applications are beinglaunched using mobile phone processors, but they are very limited. Quality issubstantively different from dedicated devices such as Oculus Rift or HTC Vive.Augmented reality is able to offer interesting services through tablets or mobilephones. It is necessary to take into account that augmented reality is not onlyMicrosoft HoloLens or Meta 2, dedicated devices which are highly demanding.Other augmented reality applications run over mobile phones with a full range offeatures. Finally, virtual reality is 10% real and 90% virtual. Augmented reality is 75% realand 25% virtual. Obviously, the percentages depend on the application. They aregeneral estimations based on current market applications.Augmented Virtual Reality: How to 3

www.hlrcjournal.comOpenAccessVirtual Reality in EducationVirtual reality has found in education a new area in which to display its full potential.Education has all the elements in which this technology cannot only bring value, but it alsobecomes an extreme differential value (Kumar, 2017). The learning methodologies with thegreatest impact in current educational systems are those that confront students with a realsituation that they have to solve using acquired theoretical knowledge, or by making the studentsenhance capacities that until that moment are nonexistent or underdeveloped. Until now, thesituation was described through text or, in exceptional cases, an audio with or without video.Through virtual reality technology, the particular situation can be programmed with severalvariables and environments on which the student can act. Applications can be completelycustomized for each subject, area of knowledge, population segment, or geography. It will bepossible to transfer the message to all students, matching messages to the case described(Falloon, 2010). Thanks to these kinds of technologies, access to knowledge will be moredemocratic. Students who struggle to achieve some learning goals with a low rate of success willnow be able to achieve the goals successfully. There is a rationale behind this claim. Thesetechnologies will contribute to making tangible many abstract concepts that these students shouldbuild within their minds. Since not all students have these kinds of skills, these technologies willsupport this exercise, thus increasing the rate of success.Another major area where virtual reality is providing a more than significant value is in therepresentation of abstract concepts (Curcio, Dipace, & Norlund, 2016), such as applications thatare able to represent complex mathematical functions in space: solutions that allow the use ofdigital resources to represent artistic works in any of the branches that can define them (painting,music, or sculpting), and products that allow walking across architectural structures facilitatingaccess to all the layers that compose the structure (wiring, conduits, and any type of existingmaterial).Virtual reality also offers significant opportunity in the area of simulation. Laboratoriescompletely simulated through this technology allow interaction between the student and thedevices (Hoffmann, Meisen, & Jeschke, 2014). Obvious direct benefits include that measuringdevices would be updated with only a new version of the environment. Students would have theopportunity to work with the latest technology without having to have the physical elements thatwould clearly represent a higher investment for the institutions. Taking this analysis further, thecost savings in spaces would be huge. The underutilized spaces within the centers would besignificantly reduced and would be replaced by "multi-laboratory" rooms in which, according tothe subject, one laboratory or another could be accessed (Lindgren, Tscholl, Wang, & Johnson,2016). These products are already becoming available on the market. The development of theseproducts, as it cannot be otherwise, will depend on the commitment that the traditional educationsector makes for them.The number of applications with potential in the education sector extends as much asimagination or ability to adapt materials in traditional format allows. Today, many examples canbe found on the market such as ThingLink (, a collection of interactive imagesand videos on a variety of topics including science, language, and arts. Another choice isUnimersiv (, a bundle of educational virtual reality apps, including threeeducational experiences at launch: (1) the discovery of the International Space Station, (2) humananatomy, and (3) travel to Stonehenge in Wiltshire, England, as it was 5000 years ago. Yetanother choice from Unimersiv, MoleculE VR, is a virtual reality app introducing some basicconcepts about cell communication. One more is InMind (, a scientific game for4M. Fernandez

High. Learn. Res. Commun.Vol. 7, Num. 1 June 2017virtual reality. InMind allows the player to experience a journey into the patient’s brain in searchof the neurons that cause mental disorder. Many and many applications can be found aroundeducational area.The main problem lies in the education sector itself. It is a segment in which it is commonto have individual institutions that cover a small geography. On the other hand, the manufacturersthat are dedicated to these technologies have a global geographic scope of business. They needglobal partners in the education sector with which to test solutions before launching products intoan international market. Unfortunately, there are very few options. This undoubtedly hurtsdevelopment, although it does not eliminate it; it simply slows it down. Given this opportunity, amultitude of small companies are being born that are able to integrate technological solutionsfrom major manufacturers and sign agreements with a relevant number of small institutions tohave the flexibility that a large multinational lacks. The results are already beginning to stand out.It is important to emphasize the fact that the agreement between a large manufacturer and aglobal educational partner, without a doubt, is a great opportunity to explore.Augmented Reality in EducationAugmented reality, in a degree of development still smaller than virtual reality, has beenworking in the education sector since the beginning. Start-ups such as MetaVisión, which haveraised a lot of investment capital, have launched applications pending verification aroundeducation on different areas of knowledge such as health or engineering (Villarán, Ibañez, &Delgado Kloos, 2015). In other areas, such as design, augmented reality is presented as thefundamental tool that will establish prototypes generated digitally based on the reality in whichthe physical elements will be manufactured. Within educational processes, augmented reality willallow students to work by increasing their creativity without fear of manufacturing risks and costs(Di Serio, Ibáñez, & Delgado Kloos, 2013). The inexperience risk that significantly increased thedifficulty of carrying out projects with all kinds of implications could be reduced substantially.Through this technology, a student can display an image of a final result over a real space, withoutthe need to complete a physical manufacturing process.Similarly, sessions around health and engineering areas (Boletsis & McCallum, 2013) willenable the teacher to share knowledge with students using images superimposed on the realityof their classrooms. Through the model of a digital human body shown in the three dimensions ofspace, the teacher can access any type of information about its elements, separate each of itsparts to show details, or even have students interacting with the model at will to develop any typeof activity. Moving this initiative to engineering, teachers would have a digital model of an engine,printed circuits, or even an architectural structure. All of these models would allow interaction fromthe students, but would also take into account the social factor of sharing the experience in realtime with real individuals: their classmates (Ibáñez, Di Serio, Villarán, & Delgado Kloos, 2014).Many examples on the market show the power of this technology. For instance, Amikasa(, which helps users to style one room and figure out their desired layoutbefore ever buying a piece of furniture. Imagine this opportunity for students of design. Anotherinteresting example is AR Liver Viewer from ISO-FORM ( Thisis a real-time, 3D medical education and patient communication tool, featuring incredibly detailedanatomical models. 4D Anatomy ( is another very good solution usingaugmented reality in the health area. More examples are found in other interesting educationalareas, such as aeronautical engineering. HoloFlight ( allows users tovisualize real flight data in 3D as holograms. Finally, one more example is HoloStudyAugmented Virtual Reality: How to 5

www.hlrcjournal.comOpenAccess(, which offers a series of geology, physics, chemistry, and biology lessons.Undoubtedly these applications are created to disrupt the paradigm of education.There are great possibilities. The current challenge is to identify which technology is mostappropriate for each subject area. This is a developing process and is not yet fully defi

Virtual Reality Versus. Augmented Reality Following the previous deep definitions, some comparisons are exposed: Virtual reality runs over new environments completely computer generated. All that user can take, touch, or interact with is virtual. Augmented reality uses virtual elements only to enhance the real world and the user’s experience.

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