Changing the World One Kid at a Time With the Help of Virtual Reality: A Look Inside an ambitious Stanford Startup for Education
Is there any topic hotter than virtual reality in Silicon Valley right now?
HBO’s Silicon Valley has Erlich Bachmann talking about the startup he thinks is VR. “It’s a VR play. That’s the frothiest space in the Valley right now. Nobody understands it but everyone wants in.”
Frothy or not, it’s hot and its happening and I disagree with Bachmann: it is understood. . you did play Pokemon Go didn’t you? or have a kid that did? That may have been AR (augmented reality) but both are part of what is called mixed reality. Think of it as a continuum and both virtual reality and augmented reality have a spot on it.
Let’s go straight to our favorite VR space: DIVR Edu , a VR EdTech startup dedicated to revolutionizing education through interactive and immersive VR worlds.
When you create virtual worlds you tend to be busy. Nathan Kong, who we wrote about in November (see Virtual Reality in the Classroom) is the CEO of DIVR Edu and has been busy not only finishing his freshman year at Stanford but growing his company as well. Nathan and his co-founder Xiaohan Gao recently released a new VR app in the iOS and Google Play store called Immunity Defender. In this world you become an immune cell and fight off various pathogens in order to protect the infected body. The world is available for free until July I in both app stores. I strongly suggest you go get it. This is the future. Of not only you, but the kids. .
So does it work? Is it good for the students? Is it enhancing the usual curriculum? Using AP test grades as the metric (what else is school about?) the answer is a resounding yes.
I asked Nathan what was happening with this and he said:
In our collaboration with Stanford’s Graduate School of Education, we are piloting Immunity Defender with over 1000 high school students from high schools across the US in order to study the effects of VR in the classroom. From our study, we have found using VR has a significant increase on student’s test performance as opposed to watching the boring powerpoints or videos. Students who used our app had their test performance increase approximately 3 times more than students who watched a 2D video.
This is fantastic news and congrats to the DIVR team. 1000 students is an impressive number and Stanford’s Graduate School of Education is top notch in the field of educational research – to partner with them is a real feather in the cap for DIVR. Still, the future holds more excitement.
DIVR Edu is partnering with EyeQVR of Los Angeles which will be doing the distribution for DIVR next year with over 50 schools in Texas. EyeQVR is in the business of VR Educational Content Development & Publishing.
And what’s a startup without a Kickstarter program? The funding is to help create more VR world development. The perks include DIVR cardboards, DIVR Shirts, mugs, Biology VR package, and a trip to DIVR’s base in Silicon Valley. Check out their campaign at KICKSTARTER
Some more exciting news for the summer months (told you, these guys are busy). According to DIVR, “We are hosting DIVR Bootcamp in which 10 college students from across the US come to Silicon Valley to work in our hacker house and learn how to build VR experiences with educational content. This all expense paid summer camp will enable the students to learn more about VR and the startup lifestyle, as well as feature their final product in our finale at Demo Day!”
I went into the world of immune cells on DIVR Edu and can wholeheartedly recommend you do too. It’s called Immunity Defender VR. If only my science classes had this – it really does make a difference when I think textbook? VR experience? and realize there is no comparison.
Nathan and Xiaohan are upping the value of an educational experience for all kids but it is especially important when we realize it functions to level the playing field for kids who do not go to a great school and make do with mediocre. How can they get into AP classes, into the college of their choice, or even into a startup of their own unless they have the advantage of a good education?
In their fantastic new book The Fourth Transformation, Robert Scoble and Shel Israel devote a chapter to education and VR and this is one of the points they make: an equitable educational system should be the default and VR can be the rocket that takes you there. DIVR anticipated this and here they are: doing what the futurists predict.
There’s a saying: The future began yesterday and we’re already late. Maybe, but if everyone plays catch up as well and as fast as DIVR Edu does, the future isn’t going to suffer much if at all. The immersive feeling, the “I am there, I am involved” is what education has always strived for. That’s what field trips were for. And as great as they are I never took a field trip to a cell in my body.