Future Education in a Mixed Reality

Microsoft Education with Hololens and Mixed Reality

Kicking off into May 2017. Lots to see! Vfx-Conference FMX running in Stuttgart right now, animayo with dedicated parts to Mixed Reality world in Las Palmas, Unity Vision VR/AR Summit just ended a day ago! Neat. Unity team continues to position themselves in the AR/VR space nicely. Facebook Spaces is all done in Unity, native integration of Tango will follow in Unity! Yesterday Microsoft presented some more on MR in a New York event yesterday, including MR and the Hololens. Let’s take a brief look on their news today.

Microsoft showed off some fun stuff out of scope here, but they also presented the next update for Windows 10 – while the Creators Update is still being rolled out for some of us. A new update should seamlessly integrate a mixed reality viewer into Windows 10! They present it by editing the NASA rover in 3D in Windows and then placing it using a regular tablet / laptop webcam on stage. The markerless tracking seems to work well – but is only shown really, really short. But the bigger news is that Microsoft is already establishing a solid pipeline (so it seems) for full 3D and MR integration into their world. The new and upcoming MR device from Acer is shown as well, diving into a 3D solar system representation in Virtual Reality.

The new mode “view mixed reality” in Windows 10 can be seen in the middle of the clip recorded by The Verge. Microsoft is further pushing towards an easy access and easy creation of 3D content approach. The Paint3D was being laughed at recently – but honestly, this boils it down perfectly to the core idea of things. Their nice marketing videos make us believe it, I know. I’m not falling for that. But the idea is to make 3D and MR content creation as easy as 2D painting in Windows. What will this enable?

The Future of Education and Society

If everyone could create content as easy as a quick and simple 2D painting or a website (using whatever CMS) or a facebook profile page, we reach new access to digital data. If a next generation is used to it as we are being used to taking pictures with our mobile or writing text messages and surfing the web, what will this enable and change? What are the dangers?

No, well, let’s not talk about dangers again today. The biggest dangers are as always dumbing down our brains, handing over our decision making processes and memories over to a machine (and a company of our choice), becoming dependent and addicted. Become (further) enslaved by the companies that hold our data and allow access to our beloved mixed reality. Entry is not for free. Open standards? Don’t see them coming yet. But let’s take a look at the bright side!

If content creation is so easy, what could everyone do with it? If the process is dumbed down to the level of writing a Word file – many more people will use it. Who? Microsoft (and other companies) show nice marketing videos of a future with MR:

The learning in the future is presented by different demos. The well known anatomy / skeleton demo for biology class is shown, the 3D periodic table as one simple example of chemistry. A physics visualizer shows fields of magnetism (so it seems), a laser and mirror game presents the concept of reflection angles. The (for me) best demo I’ve seen: a quick snippet of a trumpet player wearing a Hololens, the notes to play scrolling by before his eyes!

Overall the message is clear. We must adapt to support a 21st century education approach and get the next generation playfully ready to work with the new media. We will move from books to mixed reality, 3D chalkboards could support presentation of data way better, diving into a solar system would just be more fun and visual in 3D and VR than it is in a boring dusty book, where scale of planets is off, where nothing moves, where imagination would need to take place.

This could be the only criticism to state: it’s not always good to present all as is in 1:1 scale and with realistic looks. Sometimes we need to go abstract from the presentation and let our brains work, fill the gaps and extrapolate and think about it – not just looking at it. Yeah yeah, I know, quote – I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand – unquote. It makes sense to experience things better – sometimes. Sometimes it’s just a gimmick. We must focus on the part where it really makes sense. I don’t want many more marketing videos to destroy really useful scenarios and let the companies burn and burry the potential. Let’s create concepts that make sense. A 2D periodic table on the Hololens does not make sense at all – unless you underlay additional interactive information. Let’s build colaborative experiences where we learn better together.

The video shows it nicely. Damn, rich school! I would want to be a student there. Everybody-gets-a-Hololens day as it seems! How will learing processes change if all have slimmer, smaller MR glasses in their pockets? Will it remain a 1st world luxury fun thing in the 10s and 20s of the 21st century? The new devices, if spread democratically and access is easy, could enable so much more. Potential is big. Hey, can’t wait to see more. Maybe the metaverse only is 3 years away as Epic’s Tim Sweeney stated recently. Can’t wait to dive deeper into it. :-)