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VR set to move from gaming to education

Virtual reality is not a concept for the future, it is a growing technology platform which Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg is betting on becoming an educational platform of choice.

There are predicted to be 16 million VR headset owners in 2022. Photo: iStock

"The VR adoption rate amongst all age ranges is doubling year over year"

This is the view of Quinn Taber, CEO of Immerse, a VR language learning company which has seen early success in particular tech-eager countries such as Japan and is now bringing ELT in VR to the world.

Taber, speaking at a PIE Chat Live, explained that Zuckerberg has invested $7.5 billion into VR research, as he is dedicated to owning the next mainstream tech platform.

Apple owns the iPhone, and other tech devices which enable Facebook to be distributed to the world, illustrated Taber, in a 30-minute conversation with The PIE’s Amy Baker.

Zuckerberg has invested eye-watering amounts due to a “vendetta to own the next computing and educational platform“, he related.

The Facebook founder has predicted that VR will move from a gaming realm in 2015-2020, into a “community gathering and education platformbetween 2020 and 2025.

In Immerse’s experience, the availability of VR headsets and appetite to invest in these is definitely growing, Taber said.

“We particularly use Facebook’s Oculus Quest 2, which is less than $300,” remarked Taber. “That’s the one that has eight million users today.”

Taber pointed to “really impressive stats” around the adoption rate of VR, especially in countries such as Japan, Korea, Taiwan and China.

“The age demographic is kind of what you’d expect, it’s 15 to 30,” said Taber. “But our premise – and our investment thesis as a company – is that VR is on track to becoming ubiquitous.

“It sounds pretty sci-fi for folks that haven’t tried VR or aren’t in the industry day-to-day like we are, but the VR adoption rate amongst all age ranges is doubling year over year.”

“Students love it, they can be playing beach volleyball with a student from Poland and Dubai”

Taber explained that in the same way that people can browse apps and download onto their phone, they can download apps onto their headset. Until now, Immerse’s main route to market has been via education partners, with direct leads especially in Japan as a result of media coverage being referred to partners in the country.

Soon, however, Immerse with flagship partner, EC English, will launch an EC English VR app on headsets.

“A student, as they’re scrolling through Fortnite, and like Nat Geo where you can explore solar systems, they’ll see EC English right there, and they can click and sign up and they’re in –  for EC this is a cool lead gen tool.”

Taber was enthused about the virtual but authentic contextual environments that VR can deliver. Speaking about one “location” that students can study in, which is modelled to be California, he said, “Students love it. They’re like, ‘oh, my God, I’m in Santa Monica right now. And I’m playing beach volleyball with a student from Poland and Dubai.’

“That’s on a par, if not even more exciting, than being able to study abroad somewhere.”

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