How Will Virtual Reality Impact Our World?

A man tries a virtual reality headset at a Boma France Club event. Credit: Boma France

A man tries a virtual reality headset at a Boma France Club event. Credit: Boma France

What will learning and training look like in the world of tomorrow? Will it be like today, where most students and employees sit at desks and listen passively as an instructor lectures them? Or will the future be something different?

Although it’s impossible to predict what will happen with 100% certainty, if current trends are any indicator of what the future will look like, we’re heading into an entirely different kind of world.

In fact, technological and cultural developments have already started to shift our understanding of learning and job training. Individuals are beginning to desire — and subsequently demand — educational experiences that are more immersive, engaging, interactive, and experiential. Modern individuals want to develop knowledge and skills from direct experiences that reside outside of the traditional academic setting. They want to actively participate in their education, contribute to conversations, and be part of a larger dialog, which is why experiential learning is becoming increasingly prominent.

Additionally, instead of the traditional “one size fits all” approach, where everyone is taught the same thing at the same time, researches are calling for more personalized forms of learning that take individuals’ specific strengths and needs into account. Such methods allow people to advance at their own pace and spend more time on the unique areas in which they need more work, which ultimately improves the end results. In research conducted by RAND, experts found that personalized learning improved math scores and allowed students who started below the national average to approach the average levels of performance by the end of the year.

In short, it’s clear that traditional educational tools and training methods, which are lecture-based and geared towards large groups, don’t meet our current needs or expectations.

Could virtual reality and augmented reality be the answers we’re looking for?

A new kind of training

Over the years, AR and VR technologies have improved considerably. In 2018 alone, more than 8 million helmets were sold. And 82% of companies that have already deployed AR or VR technologies for training purposes reported positive results — results that met or exceeded their expectations.

Yet, it is critically important to understand the effectiveness of both AR/VR technologies and the individual programs that they run before they are deployed, lest they end up causing unanticipated issues. With this in mind, at a recent Boma France Club, experts gathered to discuss how AR and VR are going to change the landscape of the future and the ways that the technology can be used to more effectively train and educate individuals in the world of tomorrow.

Maxime Ros is the CEO of Revinax, a company that uses VR to accelerate technical training and help employees retain the information that they learn. Ros is also a neurosurgeon, which is where Revinax found its roots. Ros’ idea was to develop an enhanced application that allows individuals to view an operation using a virtual reality headset. Ultimately, the goal was to make a device that gives one the illusion of actually being in the surgeon's shoes. Today, the technology is applied in the medical field and beyond.

Speakers at the Boma France Club. Credit: Boma France

Speakers at the Boma France Club. Credit: Boma France

At the event, Ros noted that the use of virtual reality will become essential in the preservation of knowledge, as it provides a richer framework that is more experiential and comprehensive. Specifically, he noted that watching individuals perform a skill from all possible angles provides learning opportunities that current videos and documents cannot.

Rémi Rousseau, the founder and CEO of Mimesys, which created one of the first holographic meeting platforms, also believes that virtual reality provides a better learning environment because of its interactive features, which allow individuals to write on surfaces and go places they are unable to in real life. He noted that the latest virtual reality technologies are allowing us to create a future where remote communication can be as rich and realistic as face-to-face communication. In this respect, Rousseau argued that, one day, AR and VR will likely put an end to field trips and other forms of travel, as headsets will be able to provide more interactive and advanced meeting and learning experiences.

Indira Thouvenin, a researcher with the Heudiasyc Laboratory, was a little more skeptical about the future of AR and VR, and she had a slightly less optimistic outlook regarding how the technologies will reshape our world. Her work focuses on interaction in virtual environments. Specifically, in order to understand how we can adapt to virtual environments and evolve alongside our AR and VR systems, Thouvenin investigates the cognitive capacity and plasticity of the human brain.

At the event, she argued that, given the absence of current regulations, the ethics of AR and VR must be a priority for all companies and organizations. Thouvenin also argued that we are not experiencing a digital transition but a digital division, as shown by the fact that virtual reality can only be adopted by the most wealthy and privileged people.

If AR and VR really can improve learning outcomes in the way that early research indicates it can, this could leave students and employees who don’t have access to the technology at a great disadvantage. Ultimately, it could result in individuals being isolated and left behind. Thouvenin stressed that we need to focus on ensuring that all individuals have access to the benefits of these technologies and that the devices don’t perpetuate and increase inequality.

Want to learn more about how AR and VR will impact our world? Read our full event report. Want to understand how technologies are transforming our world and how your company or organization can adapt? Join us at our next event in France or participate in an event hosted by one of Boma’s other country partners.