You probably are familiar with virtual reality, and maybe even augmented reality, but have you heard of mixed reality? First, you might need a reality check; a little explanation. Virtual reality (VR) is second nature to most these days. Almost everyone, no matter how young or old has been exposed to some kind of video game where you become part of a different interactive world that allows you to either build, plan, play, or maybe even interact with others online, or through messaging. It’s nothing new, and has been the bane of many to spend endless hours water crops on FramVille, or collectively working your way through history conquering on Forge of Empires, with bloodshot eyes realizing its 3:00 AM. Augmented reality (AR) is a little newer to most dominating the news this past Summer with the pop culture take over of Pokemon Go! Meaning, a way that you interact with the real world around you with computer generated objects integrated into it, overlaying, so to speak, to what you know is real around it.
Mixed reality is exactly what it sounds like, the merging of the two. How does it work, and what will it do for Education, you ask? “So, why don’t you just ruminate, Whilst I illuminate the possibilities!”-Genie of the Lamp. Mixed reality is when the latest in VR , and AR are fused through the newest tech gear, via Microsoft Hololens, and now Google getting into the game with their purchase of Eyefluence, wireless headsets.
The way it works is taking a once wireless headset tethered to a computer or other device now completely free and programed on it’s own, with client specific needs to fit a situation they are applying the VR and AR to, essentially, the computer is in the headset. For example, if the person using the device is creating a full scale avatar monster that they will interact with in a virtual reality game, they can now do it with motion sense from body movements, via eye interaction. The headset with the technology in place can use eye movement in relation to the body and the actual environment around them, to make the monster a reality for the user. The monster can essentially be directed like an actor or maybe even more like an imaginary friend as a hologram to the headset user when programed correctly. Sort of like a genie in a bottle to the programmer of the headset, as they can interact with it as they wish, with motion, sound and voice commands.
Now imagine a student that has special needs, maybe specifically for students with emotional needs, or fall on the autistic scale. Often these students have sensory issues that require special comfort items, or environmental changes for them to feel save at school. With the use of mixed reality through a device programed to the specific needs of the child, they could possibly have an easier way to cope in a regular classroom setting without having to change the classroom, or have that student in a self contained one. Over time with the headsets becoming more affordable, conceivably a way to be a lot less obtrusive than building special classrooms and schools for children that could benefit from the technology, mixed reality could be a possible boon for the field of public education in finding solutions for the growing numbers of students with these needs.
Who knows, with the evolving world of mixed reality, soon every student might have their own personal curriculum structured to them without the need to do more than simply program it into their headset. Literally, a personal genie from the bottle, or headset, for that matter, to help children learn the skills and knowledge to succeed in school.
Robin L. Stockmar M.Ed.
Technology Integration Specialist