Technology

Can a £500m VR-in-education market become reality?

“The roots of education are bitter, but the fruit is sweet”, said Aristotle. He could not anticipate that by today the technology, which is popular among the young wings thanks to video games, may become the core of learning.

Goldman Sachs estimates that roughly $700 million will be invested in virtual reality (VR) and alternate reality (AR) applications in education by 2025, ranging from simulations for forklift operations to architecture to invasive surgery. However unrealistic this figure may be, there is no denying that several businesses have already spotted the potential this market has to offer. Who are the players already carving out their slice of it?

The most likely candidates are VR headset manufacturers such as Google, Facebook and HTC. Indeed, Google opened its Expeditions App last summer, which is a teaching tool that takes students on field trips to places of historic and natural interest with the teacher acting as a guide. Similarly, HTC, a former Taiwanese mobile maker,  is not only the main hardware supplier of Chinese VR classrooms but it has also created VR educational software for interior decoration, auto repairs and tourism management.

For video gaming companies it also seems to be an easy stretch to tap into the VR-in-education market. With excellent strategic acumen, NetDragon, a Chinese game developer and operator acquired two interactive learning technologies companies, as well as AR/VR research company, cherrypick alpha. Their latest product, 101VR, is a virtual reality content creator and editor for teachers and learners.

While China`s Ministry of Education, Microsoft’s innovation demonstration centre and Microsoft China jointly announced that they will start application, training and laboratory construction of VR in Chinese colleges, universities and vocational schools, industries hit by skills shortage in the UK are left to their own devices.

In an effort to make jobs like truck driving and construction more appealing to young people, these industries have decided to introduce VR extensively into their training. However, as a market for specialised occupational software is non-existent, package delivery provider company UPS has no choice but develop its own truck driver safety training software. In the same vein, the Construction Industry Training Board` s recent report appeals for help when highlighting “the need to encourage collaboration with sectors, such as gaming, to develop successful [VR] applications”.

In order to make the Goldman Sachs estimate reasonable, VR, first of all, has to be sold to teachers, who still tend to think that hardware is far too expensive and evidence for it facilitating retention is lacking. One of the best people to make this pitch could be David and Sandra Whelan, founders Irish Immersive VR Education. They are such staunch believers of VR education and its potential that they decided to take out a €1,000 loan four years ago to start their business, risking bankruptcy. However, it proved to be a risk worth taking, as when their company started trading on the London and Irish stock markets this March, it raised £6 million.


These pressing questions will be discussed at The 5th Annual Digital Content Summit 2018, which will see over 100 senior professionals working in publishing, marketing and branding gather in London on 15 May, 2018.

For more information about The 5th Annual Digital Content Summit 2018, visit the event website www.digitalcontentsummit.co.uk, call Lace on 0208 349 6458 or email lace.b@business-reporter.co.uk

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