What areas do you think it’d be interesting to see VR education expand into?
EE: At the moment, people are experimenting with using it in a lot of different subjects areas. I know I would personally love to see it more in arts and culture and history.
For example, I studied film and art in university and I was studying Dali and there’s a VR experience that brings his paintings to life. I thought that was really enriching. It doesn’t replace the paintings themselves, but it brings his world to life in a way that no other medium could.
KS: I actually read a lot about education and mental health, because I think this is underlooked. I understand that it’s difficult to translate mental illness into VR. But for people who don’t suffer from [mental illness], or who don’t know that they suffer, it would be completely mind-blowing to experience something…to see the world from the perspective of someone with a mental illness. It would really benefit educating people on those issues.
What course from secondary school or university would you have loved to have been able to study using VR?
KS: I would say all of them. In particular, I would love to have had chemistry in VR. For example, we never played with substances for health and safety reasons. If you could combine two substances in VR and see what the reaction is, that would be absolutely amazing.
EE: I would have loved to see a VR or a mixed reality experience where you can interact with an AI character and learn from a person as if they were really there.
For example, you could interview characters or people from history and learn firsthand about their situations, their backgrounds, their stories.
How do you collaborate with educators and learners to develop products? How does that process work?
KS: We work closely with subject matter experts (SMEs), at every stage of development to make sure that we’re building a product that is actually valuable, solves a problem, and teaches.
We usually have weekly work group meetings to ensure that our SMEs look through everything we’ve done so that it’s all correct and there are no mistakes or changes that need to be made in terms of content.
EE: It’s kind of a two way relationship with the SMEs because we really need them to create impactful, beneficial products. We work very closely with them from the ideation stage to the final development stage…constantly challenging and asking ourselves, “Okay, is there a reason this has to be in VR? What makes it better by being immersive?”
Have you gotten the chance to see educational products you’ve worked on being used? If so, what was that like?
KS: I’ve only gotten to see it during demos at expos like Educause, which is, of course, not exactly like being in a classroom.
EE: Yeah, I recently did. I was lucky enough to assist with an assessment. So we have a mixed reality app called HoloPatient. I took our HoloLens to a college where they carried out an individual assessment with nurses in training and had them do a diagnosis of a virtual patient that we had created. They were marked based on how accurate their diagnosis was.
It was really, really cool to actually see people—students and teachers—using our app and looking at our holograms as if they were real people.
Everyone gave great feedback. There were lots of wows. To see [the app] actually have a real benefit for people—that’s so powerful.