There’s no doubt that virtual reality makes for an exceptionally cool gaming experience. But did you know it also has huge potential to change the world for the better? The technology has already been adopted in areas like medicine and psychology to great effect. And now, one revolutionary Irish company, Immersive VR Education, is utilising the power of VR to transform the online education industry. We caught up with founder David Whelan to find out more.
Learn Through Experience
“Our tagline is ‘Learn Through Experience’ and that’s exactly what we do,” says David. “We’re building an education and corporate training platform called Engage where any educator can teach any subject in a virtual environment.”
It’s the perfect solution for distance learning but it also adds another valuable layer of immersion to the learning process. David explains: “For example, if you teach marine biology, why not teach that on the seabed and have waves coming through the centre of the class? It’s much more engaging.”
Create Your Own
The platform also allows educators and trainers to create their own content. “You put on a virtual headset and hand controllers and create a virtual version of you inside a digital classroom,” David says. “There’s even a virtual presenting screen so you can pop your PowerPoint up if you like. Or throw something new into the mix like a dinosaur.”
Hang on, a dinosaur? “Yes. You can drop objects into the environment so if you wanted a dinosaur to appear in front of you, you just choose it on the iPad and they pop up in front of you.”
From Kickstarter to the Stock market
The idea that VR could be used for education was inspired by David’s own experience with the original Oculus Rift. “The demo was a solar system,” he remembers. “I got my kids to try it out and the youngest was able to tell me all about the moons of Jupiter afterwards. I suddenly thought to myself, ‘This could be a very powerful tool for education.’”
A software developer at the time, David set about trying to make his idea a reality. “There wasn’t much stuff in the education space and I thought I could do a lot better.” He got a €1,000 loan from his sister and started work on some prototype assets. “I had an idea to do a prototype for Apollo 11 where you become Neil Armstrong and you get to go to the moon and plant the flag,” he explains.
He then floated the nascent project on Kickstarter and it snowballed from there. David pauses for a second and recalls: “Today is actually the anniversary of when our Kickstarter got funded.” And it seems to be an auspicious date for the company in general. Right after our chat, David is off to the Irish Stock exchange to ring the opening bell. The day before, the company had commenced trading on the Irish and UK stock markets.
The VR/AR market is a fast-emerging and developing market at present, forecast to grow to US$1.7b by 2021. The education market has huge potential too. “Today there are 90 million online students in Asia alone,” David says. “By 2021 that’s going to grow to 160 million online students and we feel like our tech is perfectly tailored for that market.”
Join the Revolution
If you’re interested in working on the cutting edge of VR, Immersive VR Education are currently hiring for a number of positions. “We’re looking for innovative thinkers to come work with us,” David explains. “What we’re doing has never been done before. We’re replicating everything you can do in the real world in virtual reality, and we’re prototyping things that haven’t been seen before.”