What's better for education - AR or VR? That's the question I'm exploring across this five part series. Obviously I feel that they both have merit, otherwise this site would only be dedicated to one of them. This series is exploring the pros and cons of each across five rounds of head-to-head analysis using a set of five key criteria.
Click the links be,low to access the previous parts of this series:
Round One - ease of implementation.
Please do join the conversation by sharing the posts on social media or adding your own comments to each round.
ROUND 3: Financial Implications
After two rounds, AR and VR are tied at 1:1. For the third round, the focus now switches to the financial implications associated with deploying each from of technology. Ring the bell...
AR is relatively cheap to implement. With no additional hardware needed, most applications will run on the mobile devices already available in classrooms, either in banks or via BYOD schemes.
AR apps are often a traditional one-time purchase and the triggers can be freely accessed for printing. In some instances you'll need to create a free account but then gain access to the content/experiences. Even creative AR platforms like Aurasma are free. It’s also worth noting that most paid educational apps will be part of the VPP scheme and can thus be purchased in bulk for 50% of the regular price (also true for many VR apps.)
In some cases the model does differ though, with demo content being offered with a free app download and then additional experiences (and the requisite triggers) being unlocked becoming in-app purchases. Quiver works like this and thus allows users to pick the content packs relevant to the age group being taught or the area of study. Quiver is actually one of the few AR companies that have even thought to deploy a dedicated EDU app which enables schools to access all the educational content with a one time purchase for a lifetime of content.
The third category of AR apps involves products. In this case users need to purchase a physical product which forms the trigger for the experience within the app, which will usually be free. The VirtualiTee from Curiscope, the Octagon Studios card set and the offerings from NeoBear are all examples of this type of AR. Naturally these are more expensive but it is usually a case of you get what you pay for and the experiences here are richer, more in-depth and of a higher quality.
One final note with regards to AR would be with regards to the more recent ARKit apps. These only work on newer iOS devices like the iPad Pros. As such, schools looking to implement them may be faced with the need to refresh their devices and invest in higher spec iPads.
Overall though, it’s relatively inexpensive to implement AR in the classroom, meaning that educators can dive into this platform readily, knowing that budgets will not take a massive blow. I’m not sure VR will fare so well...
Ok so let’s face it - VR is going to struggle here. The fact that you need to invest in additional hardware is off-putting to many schools, despite the powerful impact that VR can make within classrooms. Let’s break it down a little...
Most schools will be looking at mobile VR right now if they are interested in virtual reality. Mobile VR means two things:
2. Devices to put in them
The headsets themselves can really be quite inexpensive. I recently purchased a full set of 24 headsets for our Secondary school for little more than the equivalent of $600. I could have halved this (or more) too if I had opted for cardboard headsets. I recently published my guide to the 12 things to look for in a mobile headset for the classroom, which you can read here.
The devices prove to be more of a problem. In our Secondary school, as with many others around the globe, we are harnessing the fact that our students carry mobile phones with them. As such the cost of devices for the school is reduced to $0 – a number we can all live with! The same doesn’t apply for our two Primary schools though. These kids are too young to bring phones to school (if they even have them yet) so we have had to purchase a set of devices to go inside a bank of headsets. We bought iPod Touches which are honestly not great for the purpose – small screens, poor battery life and pretty expensive. In retrospect, a set of cheap Android phones would probably have been a better choice.
There are other approaches that schools can try though that I’ve seen work:
1. Ask parents to donate old phones. Many parents will have old phones stashed in cupboards – why not donate them to the school for some innovative VR learning opportunities? I’ve just donated my old iPhone 6 to our school myself!
2. Reach out to Telecommunication companies. It can’t hurt to ask can it? Contact your service provider and pitch it as a great slice of PR for them to be seen supporting innovation in schools. You never know what might happen…
In terms of app costs, it’s much for muchness with the AR content really with some paid apps and some free ones but all pretty reasonably priced. There is one major exception though: YouTube. There is so much quality educational 360 content available for free on YouTube from some of the biggest hitters in the game (BBC, Nat Geo, New York Times etc) and this is one thing that AR cannot boast. Added to that you also have a range of platforms from Google that offer top notch free content – from Google Street View to Expeditions to Google Arts and Culture.
If you’re looking to invest in more high end VR experiences, the cost increases exponentially. Sure you don’t need the phone inside the headset anymore… but the headset now costs more than a phone and needs a laptop that costs at least twice as much again to function. As such the price to implement Vive or Oculus is fairly hefty and schools who are eager to dabble with these platforms will often only invest in one or two. Know anyone with a class set of Rifts? It’ll be interesting to see the price point on the upcoming Vive Focus and Oculus Go - both standalone headsets with no need for a PC…
In terms of apps on these platforms, the cost here is also higher – with prices often being more in line with video games than mobile apps. You get far more technically advanced applications though so again it’s a case of you get what you pay for I guess.
There’s no doubt about it, AR is the clear winner here since no additional hardware is needed to harness most of the experiences. Being able to generate your own trigger cards (or not even need them in the case of the new ARKit apps) makes augmented reality cheaper to implement than even the least expensive VR headsets.
So AR retakes the lead at 2 rounds to 1 after a decisive victory in this round. Join me next week as we head into Round Four and a look at student engagement and interaction.