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Experiencing the solar system with mixed reality

Jørund Høie Skaug, FCL Ambassador, Norway

 

I think it´s fair to demand from a proper future classroom that it should have 3D holograms that students can interact with, like in a Star Trek movie. At the moment Microsofts Hololens costs $3000, and is only available to developers and early adopters. But even if a consumer version is a few years ahead, it´s very much possible at this point to make experiments with mixed reality in a classroom to explore how the technology can be used for learning, and envision how devices can be integrated in educational practices. If you can get hold of a Hololens, that is. The Norwegian Centre for ICT in Education was lucky to borrow one, for a lesson in natural sciences with 7th graders at Åssiden school in Drammen. 

 

 

Mixed reality, Virtual reality and Augmented reality

Mixed reality (MR) is a technology which makes the real and virtual worlds merge, to produce new environments and visualizations a user can and interact with in real time. Virtual reality has already made an impact on education in some schools, either with cheap cardboard goggles used with mobile phones, or with more high-end systems like Oculus Rift and HTC Vive. If you are a bit confused with how MR differs from AR or VR, this article on Wikipedia might be of help

 

What kind of impact will MR have on the education sector?

In my opinion, neither VR og MR will make a big impact on education before experiences of high quality can be shared in real time. When that moment arrive, where you can take your class on a virtual trip to the moon or explore the human body in 3D, things start to get really interesting for educators. At this point, we wanted to see if it´s possible to have some sort of shared experience, and that was actually quite easy, since it´s possible to show a stream (in 2D) from the Hololens at the interactive whiteboard. The 3D-pictures of the planets and stars you see in the video, is recorded in the Hololens (we had two Hololenses running). A few years from now, the prices will have dropped, the head-mounted displays will be a lot smaller, and it will probably be possible to take that trip to the moon with your class. 

 

What content will be next?

The solar system app looks very impressive, but has few features apart from seeing the distance between the planets and a few ways of interacting with each planet. I suspect that the content being made in the future will be mindblowing on a whole other level. You might have seen pictures of people using Hololens being able to play Minecraft, like in this picture: 

In reality, the field of view is much more narrow with Hololens, so the picture exaggerates to a great deal what´s it´s like to wear a Hololens. But it´s still very exciting to move around an object in 3D, and explore content through voice commands, gestures, and your gaze. And some developers who have gotten hold of a Hololens have started to make some very interesting uses of the technology. Like the guy who has created a functioning version of the computer game Portal, including the Portal Gun, who shoots portals through space and time. What would you like your students to experience in Mixed Reality? 

 

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