Virtual Reality (VR)/Augmented Reality (AR) are valuable tools in expanding the application of remote learning, enabling users to be ‘in control’ of their learning experience. However, there are numerous issues in implementing the exotic technology in education.
At a time when competition for bandwidth is intensifying because of the internet of things and the number of connected devices, VR/AR is likely to be the next major bandwidth issue. To help create bandwidth, this may be mitigated as 5G/cloud arrive. Moving data hungry VR/AR on to wireless systems will be a big step freeing users from the constraints of many tethered systems. Recognising that networks in educational institutions may be insufficient to support the speed of streaming VR/AR content, many educational VR/AR providers are providing content that does not require an internet connection for use. There is an increase in the availability of mobile phone based VR/AR platforms, which may enable schools to provide access to the platforms whilst using students’ own devices. However, this runs the risk of creating a two-tier system, with well-funded schools or affluent students being able to take greater advantage of the development in technology over their peers.
Legal and Ethical Issues
There are a variety of legal and ethical challenges ahead for VR/AR. With Facebook being ordered to pay $500m to a US video game company called ZeniMax for Oculus Rift’s VR headset infringement of ZeniMax’s intellectual property rights, intellectual property is already an area of contention. Brand misuse in a context for which that IPR is not registered in the real world is an example of the many challenges regarding the use of registered IP in a virtual world. Clear rules need to address ownership of IPR in the virtual world. Different sites and product owners will take different approaches, with some considering the generation of any new IP whilst using the program to vest in the program owner, rather than the originator. There will be interest in the insights gleaned from user data and usage patterns. Educational institutions will need to be clear what the IP restrictions are on any given platform or program to ensure they do not inadvertently give away IP that they want to retain ownership of and do not use a third party’s IPR in an inappropriate way.