Glastonbridge is about education as much as it is about art – inspiration is the essence of both. We’ve been working with Anarkik3D and Stakeholder Design on an InnovateUK-funded research project bringing haptics and VR into schools.
(Just a quick note: I’m going to avoid saying “VR” and “haptics” as much as possible and say “immersive technology” instead. We should be targeting the senses most closely connected with each learning experience, not tying ourselves to VR or AR or haptics depending on what’s fashionable. It means a similar thing in each case: it looks, feels, or sounds like the virtual thing is really there, not just a representation on a screen. Sermon over, on with the article!)
Going into a school and showing pupils the Oculus Rift, the Novint Falcon and the zSpace is a wonderful experience. Young people have a vision of technology primed by Doctor Who and unhampered by cynicism, and they’ve (usually) never experienced immersive tech before. Take them to a virtual world, and they will try to reach out and interact with stuff. Give them a 3D sculpting tool where they can feel the things they’re working on and they make incredible things without needing explanation. And they laugh, and they tell you their ideas, and you walk out at the end of the day with your vision of the future changed for the better. We should use this technology to engage with learners, to enhance understanding where it is appropriate.
On the other side of the learning fence, teachers fall into two camps. Some see the strength with which immersive technology grips the students, and they joined in the enthusiasm. Imagine traveling back in time to learn history, imagine being able to practice lathing or welding without needing supervision. Others, conscious of how much work teachers already have and their responsibility to their students, warned that the value of the new technology has to be demonstrated before they can risk sinking classroom time into it. It’s a chicken-and-egg situation: syllabuses are held back by what’s possible now, but without immersive technology in the classroom the syllabus won’t develop. Nonetheless, there are lots of opportunities where teachers already find things difficult to teach, and where we could help.
We have worked with Glasgow Digital Design Studio to evaluate our software development platform, and with several schools and teachers to see what they thought about immersion. This was our first feasibility study into the combination of haptics and education, and it has shown us opportunities and challenges. So where are we going next? We have lots of ideas, and we would like to produce a package of tools for making classrooms in immersive spaces. We have some pretty cool bespoke software for making haptic virtual worlds, and we want to take it into education.
If you are interested in hiring Glastonbridge as a technology provider for your creative or educational project, we’d love to hear from you. Please get in touch by clicking here!