“AR/VR in Education: Immersive Technologies, Limitless Learning”: San Robinson, Mobile UI Engineer at CrowdStrike (Video + Transcript)

June 7, 2023

San Robinson (Mobile UI Engineer at CrowdStrike) talks about the potential for immersive technologies (AR/VR/XR) and platforms to benefit education and language learning. She discusses how developers can create with Unity and Unreal Engine, spotlighting the MetaHumans app for bringing photorealistic visuals to the virtual environment.


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Angie Chang: My name’s Angie Chang, founder of Girl Geek X and I’m really excited to introduce our speaker. San Robinson is a mobile UI engineer at CrowdStrike, where she’s responsible for develop, developing user-friendly, intuitive, and responsible applications using number, she uses technology to advance education, environmental sustainability, and social good through unique and complex approaches. We’re really excited to hear her talk on AR, VR and her passion project. Welcome, San.

San Robinson: Thank you Angie for the intro. Hello everyone, my name is San. I’m a software engineer and a freelance technology consultant. I have a deep interest in the confluence of education and travel with this vision over the past six years – I’ve researched and begin developing AR/VR technology solutions like The Natives POV, where my mission is to cultivate language learning, cultural understanding, and global citizenship citizenship using immersive technologies and gamification.

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San Robinson: Today I’m dedicated to revolutionizing language learning, utilizing AR.VR to create immersive experiences for people around the globe and to inspire and educate people like you so that they too can create world-changing AR/VR apps.

San Robinson: Have you ever been lost in an algorithm like Alice tumbling down a virtual rabbit hole? One minute you’re scrolling through cat photos and next thing you know, you’ve turned into an overnight expert on diabetic cat care. And yes, that’s the thing. From there, you zapped off into a whirlwind tour of at building and before you can say “Hello world”, you’ve teleported into a bustling Korean marketplace, all of this without moving an inch from your couch. Information overload, but without getting into the negatives that rhymed with my phone, let’s talk about AR vr for immersive learning, A new level unlocks, we’re stepping into the realm of augmented real, augmented and virtual reality for learning. It is like switching from a black and white TV to color only this time. You don’t watch it, you live it. A world where anything is possible, that is the power of AR/VR.

San Robinson: Now that we’ve opened Pandora’s box of immersive tech, AR, VR, XR, what is the difference between these things? Let’s start with VR. With VR, we step into a completely immersive and digital environment. Have you ever wondered what it would be like to live inside of a volcano or what it would be like to hang out with your favorite music artist? When you wear a VR headset, you’re transported into a different world. A user could be in a conference room in New York and instantaneously get transported into a virtual beach in Hawaii. Or imagine you’re a language learner looking to build your vocabulary, but everything around you is in the language that you know.

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San Robinson: What if you can alter and enhance your world using just your phone? This is what augmented reality is, a place where our existing world and our virtual world merges. Think of Pokemon Go. Now, let’s say you have an important event that you’re trying to figure out what to wear. You may just have to go to the store and try on new outfits, which which can sometimes be a drag, especially when time doesn’t permit. Your other option is online shopping and waiting a few days with the possibility of you not liking it with mixed reality. You can try a new thing before you get it, and if you don’t like the look, you can just change it with the click of a button.

San Robinson: AR, VR, XR, but what is XR? It’s extended reality. It’s the umbrella term for AR and VR is considered immersive technologies. You may be wondering, with all this talk of AR and VR and tech advancements, how does this fit into your personal life? It could seem overwhelming or perhaps even disconnecting you from the real world, but that’s where immersive technologies like AR and VR come into play.

San Robinson: It’s the power to travel without moving to immerse, without diving, and to learn in ways that we never thought were possible. I’d like to take you on a personal journey of mine, of immersive experiences. In 2017, I spent a year in Gudo China. I experienced the intricate dance of language learning, the nuances of culture and the social art of living like local. In just one year I acquired more Mandarin skills than I’ve acquired in four years of high school Spanish.

San Robinson: Let’s be realistic. It’s not feasible for everyone to pack their bags and immerse the immerse themselves in a foreign country to learn something new. And that’s where technology steps in. Using immersive technologies, we can replicate essence of being in a completely different environment and foster learning through virtual immersion. Picture this, you’re living in China and you’re learning Mandarin from the comfort of your home, but it feels like you’re right in the heart of Beijing, surrounded by native speakers and vibrant local life, or, let’s say you’ve been intrigued by Chinese architecture.

San Robinson: With VR, you could transfer into a different world. You can be in the forbidden city experiencing the majestic history as if you were physically there. And that’s where The Natives POV comes in learning through native perspective from anywhere. While I too am a fan of the real world, I cannot overlook the immense potential of these technologies and bringing the world closer and truly making learning limitless.

San Robinson: While this might all seem groundbreaking, breaking, astonishing, even it’s relevant to each one of us as we strive to learn and grow in this interconnected world. Through my research, I learned something really interesting. The human brain processes visuals 60,000 times faster than text, and 90% of the information transferred to the brain happens to be visual. What does this mean for learning?

San Robinson: Let’s take a moment to consider the learning pyramid a visual representation of how different learning methods impact our knowledge retention. At the apex, we have passive learning techniques like lectures and reading, which results in just five to 10% retention. But as we move downwards, we find more interactive methods such as this group discussions, practicing, yielding higher retention rates, and about 50 to 75%. And at the bottom of the P of the pyramid, we find the most effective learning method, teaching others or immediate use of learning, which has an impressive 90% retention rate. It’s clear to see that as we descend the pyramid learning becomes more interactive and more engaging in thus more effective.

San Robinson: This is exactly where immersive technologies like AR and VR come into play, taking us straight to the bottom of the pyramid, enhancing retention and making learning, deeply engaging.

San Robinson: Shifting our focus to communication, an essential part of learning and sharing knowledge. The famed research by Albert Mahar breaks it down into three components, 55% non-verbal like facial expressions and body language. 38% vocal the tone and pitch our speech and only mirrors 7% of actual words used, helps us communicate each day. Imagine then the power of the immersive technologies that allows us to practice and learn environments where all these aspects can be incorporated in a virtual world. A learner isn’t just reading words or hearing a lecture. They are in the midst of action, practicing and learning non-verbal cues, picking up tones and picture the pictures of the language and actively using their learning. This depiction of learning pyramid and our understanding of communication is what makes AR and VR the next frontier of education and training.

San Robinson: Now that we see that leveraging immersive technologies can help with both communication and learning, what does that mean for cross culture communication? That means consider, consider a scenario when you’re American executive preparing for a crucial business meeting in Japan. With the aid of AR and VR, you can find yourself in a virtual environment mimicking a Japanese office, helping you experience the perfect bow or learning the proper way of exchanging business cards. These immersive technologies by creating realistic simulations of different culture, equips us with the knowledge and exposure that might otherwise require physical travel and a significant time investment. In essence, this allows us to explore and understand the riches and diversity of our global community, fostering empathy and refining our communication skills.

San Robinson: In 2019, the University of California began studying ultimate augmented reality. They used it to visualize scientific data via 3D models and videos to provide insight into human biology. In an app called Scholar, the the results are amazing. 90% of students using ar vr felt more engaged. 85% of them understood the subject more, and there was a 10% average in grade grade increase. Students really enjoyed the app and they said that it made learning more fun and much more easier to understand.

San Robinson: Today, technology changed a lot and these AR/VR technologies are becoming increasingly sophisticated and are being used in various ways from gaming and entertainment to education and training. One example of AR technology that we may all know of is Pokemon Go. This game allowed players to use their smartphones to see and interact with Pokemon in the real world. Another example is Snapchat’s AR lenses, and these lenses allow users to gain a digital filter and effects on their photos while VR technologies are becoming increasingly popular.

San Robinson: One example of VR technology is the Oculus Riff. This headset allows users to immerse themselves in virtual worlds. And another example is the HTC Vive. This headset allows users to interact with virtual objects using just their hands. One of my favorites is Google Expedition, which allows users to actually learn about different things in different countries and different places using just AR and VR.

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San Robinson: But we should take a moment to really consider the backstage heroes and the cutting of the cutting edge immersive technologies. The people who are powering the development of AR and VR, places like the various software platforms, such as Unity and Unreal Engine, which serves as canvases where creators can design immersive experiences. Unity has a user-friendly interface that is widely recognized for their AR and VR developments helping creators animate and stimulate lifelike environments. On the other hand, Unreal, particularly with its MetaHumans app, is known for its robust graphics and cutting edge technology.

San Robinson: The MetaHuman app, which happens to be my personal favorite, brings photorealistic visuals to the VR world, enabling the creation of a astonishingly realistic human characters. It truly showcases the power of potential, potential of Unreal Engine and shaping the future of digital experiences, especially when it comes to acquiring a new language.

San Robinson: Then we have the hardware, like the magic wands that bring our interactions to life like Oculus Rift, PlayStation VR and new Apple Vision Pro glasses that are bringing digital information in our physical world. But it’s not just about the hardware and software. AR and VR rely heavily on advancements in computer vision and AI. These technologies allow systems to understand and respond to what they’re seeing, making our interactions in a virtual world more intuitive and seamless.

San Robinson: The confluence of these technologies is accelerating growth and adoption of immersive technologies, opening up limit limitless possibilities in our journey towards a more immersive and interactive future. As we step further into this exciting and transformative era, it becomes increasingly important for us to understand the specific advantages and obstacles associated with these innovative developments. Let’s turn our attention now to the benefits and challenges that AR and VR, a key player in immersive technology landscape, and imagine how it reshaping the future using virtual reality while simultaneously presenting new hurdles and that we must overcome as time goes on.

San Robinson: Some of the benefits in the realm of AR/VR, what striking to me was the increase in motivation and engagement, the immersive nature of these technologies, drugs, users, and keeping them engaged for longer and driving a curiosity to explore and learn. It turns learning from, from a task to an adventure.

San Robinson: These technologies also shine in simplifying complex concepts. Visualize visualizing ideas and intricate processes, which is, which are often a challenge for many people. AR/VR brings these concepts to life by making them more comprehensible and relatable. For instance, learning about the structure of atoms comes exponentially easier when you can explore it in a digital realm. AR/VR impact on retention and recall is also profound. The interactive experimental learning that these technologies provides. AIDS and memory retention, it’s one thing to read about the pyramids of Giza and there’s another one to actually virtually explore them.

San Robinson: By placing these learners in the real world of fantastical scenarios, AR/VR fosters problem solving and critical thinking skills Users can learn and navigate and adapt to and make a real decision based off of these environments, which actually helps them develop a more cognitive experience. And lastly, these technologies have the ability to ignite and spark learning. The assignment of exploring a virtual role or interacting with AR applications can turn the most reluctant learners into eager explorers. But in a nutshell, AR/VR not only enhances the way we learn, but it also instills a love for learning, which to me is arguably the greatest gift and benefit. Now let’s move into the challenges. Well, some insights AR/VR has actually shown 20% of increase in learning outcomes. Another thing is that 50% of education and institution plan to implement AR/VR in the next five years.

San Robinson: The insights are there and we can see that AR/VR has many benefits, but we should also focus on the challenges because with every silver lining there is some clouds, AR/VR is no exception. The first challenge we encounter is training. And the second problem we encounter is limited availability. But the really big challenge that I foresee in in the future is the high cost of this hardware, which can be prohibited to widespread adoption efforts to create ongoing affordable devices are u are being completed to bridge this gap. Now there’s also the user experience, which strides have been made to creating intuitive and user-friendly interfaces. It is also a significant challenge. Navigating the virtual roles should be as easy as it is to navigate the physical one. There’s also a question about the accessibility of and the digital divide that AR/VR might cause.

San Robinson: As we embrace these technologies, we have to ensure that they’re accessible to all regardless of socioeconomic status or geographical location. And lastly, there are ethical and safety considerations. Balancing immersive experiences with user safety and privacy is paramount. As we venture deeper into these virtual worlds, defining rules for data protection, user interactions and content moderation will be crucial. The journey towards perfect AR/VR is always challenging, but as we navigate these obstacles, the horizon poles of promising and immersive future future in the realm of education and learning, these technologies are revolutionizing the way we absorb and retain knowledge. They’ll create a more immersive experimental learning environments where students can explore the world, conduct complex lab experiments, or engage with Shakespeare’s plays in ways that we’ve never seen possible all this in the comfort of their classroom or home, what this potential extends far beyond just education.

San Robinson: For example, in healthcare, with immersive technologies, a practitioner can stimulate experiences of patients from different racial, ethnic, gender and socioeconomic backgrounds, or those with specific conditions such as autism, PTSD, and also physical disabilities. This immersive experience can deepen the understanding of how these patients perceive and interact with the world leading to more empathetic and personalized care. In the business world, AR can exist, assist in product design or provide employees with hands-on training. And let’s not forget about the entertainment industry where technologies will continue to redefine our gaming movie and live events experiences making more interactive and more, and making them more interactive and more immersive. But as we stand at the this technological crossroad, the possibility seems endless.

San Robinson: Challenges remains such reducing costs and refining user interfaces. But the trajectory of AR is really clear. AR is set to become an integral part of our life, part of tools that will transform how we work, play, and learn. Now that we have explored the potential applications of AR and VR across various domains, I hope you gain a better understanding of how these technologies can make a significant impact. We are truly standing on the threshold of a new era. I would like to thank you all for your attention and participation at this time. I’m happy to answer any questions that you might have and leave the floor open for discussions. Thank you. Thank you.

Angie Chang: Thank you son. That was an excellent talk on AR/VR. We were really excited to have you sharing your knowledge. I’m going to have to wrap up the session and talk to the next one, but thank you for joining us and there’s a lot of chatter in the chat, so I encourage you to check it out and connect with people. You can message them on this platform if you like. Thank you.

San Robinson: Okay, thank you Angie.

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