VRoom­ing into the fu­ture with AR de­vices

China Daily (USA) - - BUSINESS | FOCUS - By MASI and OUYANG SHIJIA Con­tact the writ­ers at ouyang­shi­jia@chi­nadaily. and masi@ chi­nadaily.com.cn

Learn­ing a new lan­guage, and many other tasks, could soon be­come fun of the high­tech va­ri­ety.

Imag­ine this: Acat jumps up from a text­book and talks to Chi­nese stu­dents in gram­mat­i­cally per­fect English. Stu­dents sim­ply love the in­ter­ac­tive ex­pe­ri­ence as it is much more en­joy­able and en­gag­ing than read­ing and recit­ing text­books alone.

Hail, aug­mented re­al­ity! AR, for short.

AR uses com­puter sim­u­la­tion to over­lay vir­tual ob­jects and char­ac­ters on top of real life en­vi­ron­ment. Heard of Pokemon Go, yet?

AR tech­nol­ogy is gain­ing in pop­u­lar­ity even in Chi­nese class­rooms, along with vir­tual re­al­ity or VR tech­nol­ogy that uses com­puter sim­u­la­tion to gen­er­ate dig­i­tal worlds in 3-D.

NetDragon Web­soft Hold­ings Ltd, a lead­ing Chi­nese in­ter­net firm, is one of the play­ers that are us­ing VR and AR tech­nolo­gies to rev­o­lu­tion­ize the ed­u­ca­tion sec­tor.

They are en­abling stu­dents to ex­pe­ri­ence text­book con­tent in a 360-de­gree im­mer­sive dig­i­tal world, and in­ter­act with car­toon char­ac­ters em­bed­ded in e-books.

The com­pany’s ed­u­ca­tion­re­lated VR con­tent spans mul­ti­ple dis­ci­plines, cov­er­ing bi­ol­ogy, ge­og­ra­phy, sci­ence, and safety. Its 101 VR im­mer­sion class­rooms and VR English train­ing class­rooms are al­ready in oper­a­tion.

“VR tech­nol­ogy has a great po­ten­tial in ed­u­ca­tion, es­pe­cially in sci­en­tific ex­per­i­ments. Many schools can­not of­fer stu­dents ap­pro­pri­ate fa­cil­i­ties for learn­ing. VR can help solve the prob­lem by of­fer­ing im­mer­sive dig­i­tal ex­pe­ri­ence and en­rich­ing class ac­tiv­i­ties,” said Zhao Zim­ing, an an­a­lyst at Bei­jing-based in­ter­net con­sul­tancy Analysys In­ter­na­tional.

In Fe­bru­ary, NetDragon un­veiled a VR base in China’s south­east­ern Fu­jian prov­ince by part­ner­ing with the lo­cal gov­ern­ment. It fea­tures a 20,000-square-meter ex­pe­ri­ence cen­ter where peo­ple can have first­hand ex­pe­ri­ence of VR-en­abled class­rooms.

In June, the com­pany’s ed­u­ca­tion sub­sidiary Huayu signed a strate­gic co­op­er­a­tion agree­ment with Dell Inc’s China branch, to jointly es­tab­lish a VR lab­o­ra­tory and ex­plore how to ap­ply the cut­ting-edge tech in the ed­u­ca­tion sec­tor.

Si­mon Le­ung, vice-chair­manofNetDragon andCEOof Huayu, said: “Con­tent is of ut­most im­por­tance in pro­mot­ing the de­vel­op­ment of VR. Con­tent is to VR de­vices what apps are to smart­phones. But cur­rently, no mat­ter whether Zhao Zim­ing, it is the ap­pli­ca­tion of VR in gam­ing or ed­u­ca­tion, con­tent is still in great short­age.”

So, the com­pany has es­tab­lished a 3-D con­tent li­brary, in­clud­ing a vast amount of 3-D raw ma­te­rial us­ing which its cor­po­rate clients can quickly build up their ownVR­con­tent.

Through sim­u­la­tion-driven train­ing, VR tech­nol­ogy can re­duce dan­gers in cer­tain risky op­er­a­tions. More sig­nif­i­cantly, it can lower costs.

In a re­port re­leased in Fe­bru­ary, Goldman Sachs Group Inc saidVRhas the po­ten­tial to be­come a stan­dard tool in ed­u­ca­tion.

Last year, Google Inc launched the Ex­pe­di­tions Pi­o­neers Pro­gram, of­fer­ing teach­ers kits to run vir­tual classes in schools. An­other Google pro­gram en­ables stu­dents and teach­ers world­wide to hook up on­line for vir­tual classes in real time.

“VR de­vices’ im­ages are viewed through the re­frac­tive lens, so the im­ages ap­pear as though they are just a few me­ters away. How­ever, some low-end VR de­vices, such as mo­bile phone VR glasses, will cause vis­ual fa­tigue and dizzi­ness, pos­ing risk for ado­les­cents’ eye health,” said Zhao.

Zhao said VR equip­ment should be used only in sci­en­tific ex­per­i­ments and to make teach­ing fun, and can­not re­place con­ven­tional teach­ing.

VR tech­nol­ogy has a great po­ten­tial in ed­u­ca­tion, es­pe­cially in sci­en­tific ex­per­i­ments.”

an an­a­lyst at in­ter­net con­sul­tancy Analysys In­ter­na­tional the size of a VR ex­pe­ri­ence cen­ter un­veiled by NetDragon in Fu­jian prov­ince in Fe­bru­ary

PRO­VIDED TO CHINA DAILY

A boy tries on VR gog­gles in a bi­ol­ogy class in Fuzhou, Fu­jian prov­ince.

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