Virtual reality could become part of classroom

Trying to get the pupils interested in technology careers could be solved with a virtual reality set that costs just £10.

The Data Dome was at the Big Data Scotland event Thursday 10 Picture: Nicola Kenny

With an ever growing skills gap in Scotland’s technology sector, could £10 cardboard virtual reality (VR) goggles be the key to gaining children’s interest?
Soluis - a UK creativity organisation - think so, with their apps for the VR goggles, which were on display at The Big Data Event, in Edinburgh last week.

The one day conference creates a community for data companies to get together and share ideas through talks and presentations.

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Fergus Bruce, strategic communications manager at Soluis, said: “It’s important that the digital native generation have something they can connect to. Having this allows teachers to take them on trips round the world when learning about projects. They can really visualise it and become part of it. And hopefully some of that interest will work it’s way over to how is it made.

“And they’re affordable enough that you could have them in the classroom.”

Mr Bruce also thinks it’s important to change the way we visualise data. He feels the younger, native generation have no interest in looking at the world in squares and graphs and feels that virtual immersion could be the answer.

It is believed that this contact with physical technology is needed from a young age to get children interested in science, technology, engineering and mathematical (STEM) careers.

By the time kids reach high school, Gillian Docherty, CEO of The Data Lab thinks it’s too late. “We need to catch them at a young age. Schools and industry bodies need to work together to put that pressure on the government, to get it into classrooms. Technology is hard enough to keep up with, and the longer we leave it, the more we fall behind.”

Schools were also given the opportunity to try out the virtual reality goggles Picture: Nicola Kenny

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On display was a data dome, which showed the different ways data can be interacted with - by turing it into an immersive experience.

Soluis measured the mood of the conference using a hashtag on Twitter, monitoring it through AI programme IBM Watson. They measured the activity level, achievement, trust, imagination and cheerfulness, by analysing words in tweets with the hash tag #ScotData. The programme averaged a less than 0.1 per cent error margin.

This was then fed to the dome, and displayed inside, where you felt like you were part of the data.

While measuring the moods of an event can help for a more successful plan in future, Mr Hills believes it could also be extended to help things such as mental health.

“It is possible to change the visualisations and music, and inside it is a very hypnotic experience. We could change this from a data representation to a calming, meditative area, where when people are feeling overwhelmed or stressed, it would be possible to sit in and relax. This is a world first.”