In light of Covid-19, the outrage of parents paying for a “Zoom” education, and the development of worlds made in virtual reality, digital twin campuses are all the rage. Stanford has given a virtual reality anatomy class, and Arizona State has revealed plans to do the same.
The metaverse, which is defined as “a virtual-reality space in which users can interact with a computer-generated environment and other users,” is closely related to a digital twin.
The Metaverse is a collective virtual shared environment generated by the merging of virtually improved physical reality and physically persistent virtual space, including the sum of all virtual worlds, augmented reality, and the Internet.
Simply put, this entails developing a highly sophisticated virtual model that is the exact replica (or twin) of a physical object. A car, a tunnel, a bridge, or even a jet engine could be the ‘object.’ The actual asset’s connected sensors collect data that may be mapped into the virtual model. Digital twins have been studied in detain and critical information about how the actual object is performing in the real world is now available. The metaverse is poised to expand exponentially. According to Reports and Data, metaverse market size will reach USD 872.35 billion in 2028, registering a robust revenue CAGR of 44.1% throughout the forecast period. So why shouldn’t education take advantage of this dynamic environment?
Whether students are quarantined or not, an online campus should exist in the digital environment, where students can assemble to speak, learn, plan, and exist together. Microsoft has Altspace, Facebook has just announced Horizon, and VictoryXR, which is partly owned by HTC Vive, has constructed the world’s largest academic institution on the Engage platform.
What are the benefits of a digital twin campus for an institution’s efficiency and innovation?
In contrast to early virtual reality experiences, a digital twin campus is a group setting that allows live teachers and real-time classes to interact as if they were in the same room. This is eerily similar to the real world. However, unlike in the actual world, items are digital, allowing for manipulation and duplication in previously unimaginable ways. Consider the following examples:
- Instead of using a human cadaver in an anatomy lesson, students get their own heart to touch and learn from, and then they may make that heart 8 feet tall and step inside it to study while standing within a human organ.
- Students in an art history class can start with a blank art museum, choose the best art for their exhibitions based on the assignment requirements, and then create a one-of-a-kind show that can be viewed by the entire globe or only the professor who designed the assignment.
- Biology students can dissect animals multiple times without incurring the cost (or odor) of a live fetal pig or frog, and enlarge each organ to the size of a basketball for more in-depth study.
How might a digital twin campus help an educational delivery model go beyond Covid-19’s quarantine period?
- When students may once again gather on a physical campus after Covid, the world and expectations will have altered. Not only will requiring students to congregate in one physical location not be the sole paradigm, but neither will staring at a 2D computer screen and expecting a better education. The best solution is to enhance (and, in some circumstances, replace) both with a digital twin of the campus where students can meet for meetings, classes, and individual sessions with professors regardless of where they are located. Real-time conversation in a spatial 3D realm, similar to that which exists in the physical world, is the key here.
- In a post-Covid world, pupils who have learned to expect a higher remote education may be more competitive for education dollars. Demonstrating how education works on a virtual reality digital twin campus will demonstrate the possibilities and justify tuition to potential students. Furthermore, campus visits can take place on the actual, physical campus — as they do now — or a USD300 VR headset can be sent to the student and a virtual campus tour can be taken. If the student enrolls, the headset is theirs to keep.
How does a digital twin campus help a college or university’s income model?
- Building science labs, planetariums, history museums, and new building wings in the actual world is expensive. Furthermore, instructional materials such as human cadavers, artwork, desks, and bricks and mortar are prohibitively expensive. These assets’ prices have dropped dramatically in the digital era. A digital twin campus and classroom can often serve as a more than adequate substitute. Instead of constructing a new bricks and mortar planetarium, one can be constructed in the digital realm for 1% of the cost. In this time of tight resources, a digital twin campus offers numerous options to save money while also providing students with a learning opportunity that they will brag about to their parents and online.
- A digital twin campus paves the way for a more comprehensive virtual campus while also justifying tuition. While parents and students may object to paying for a 2D computer screen education, interacting on a digital twin campus with live classes and real-time conversations with professors offers an opportunity to dramatically expand online education, similar to what Phoenix University did more than a decade ago. In a market that is becoming more competitive, this is a growing area for tuition revenue.
Consider these ten things that can’t happen on a real-world, physical campus but are entirely possible on a digital twin virtual reality school:
- Extend and step within a human organ.
- Use a Star Trek-style transporter to beam up to a spacecraft and go on a spacewalk to learn about astronomy.
- Extend the dissectible pig to the size of a school bus and learn about anatomy by space-walking through the organs and cavities.
- See a skeleton of a woolly mammoth and then board a time machine to travel back 40,000 years to wander among a herd of woolly mammoths.
- In one class time travel to China’s Great Wall, stand on it, and study about the history and engineering of the structure.
- Choose from the world’s best paintings and put together a museum show — and let each student do so in their own unique way.
- Watch a dinosaur video and then stand in the middle of the classroom as the dinosaurs walk out of the screen.
- Instead of a four-walled classroom, learn Spanish language and culture at the Pyramid of the Moon.
- Extend molecules to the size of a basketball to learn molecular biology.
- Gain a better grasp of history by taking a class back in time to the Roman Colosseum and touring it as it was 2500 years ago.
Exactly when metaverse education will become a reality is yet a question that cannot be clearly answered, progress is definitely underway. Mark Zuckerberg announced in 2021 the expansion of Meta’s collaboration with Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) of India. In this scheme over the next three years Meta will train 10 lakh teachers and nearly a crore student in virtual and augmented reality.
Zuckerberg spoke at the Fuel for India 2021 event, and said that this partnership is an opportunity to invest in entrepreneurial spirit of India and bring AR and VR tools around the Metaverse and training to the education system. As part of the partnership, Meta will provide a curriculum on digital safety, online well-being, virtual reality (VR), and augmented reality (AR). These courses will be available on the CBSE website.
Author Bio: Paroma Bhattacharya
Paroma Bhattacharya has dabbled in the realm of content production for over half a decade and possesses extensive experience in penning down pieces related to healthcare, technology, banking, and a wide range of other industry verticals. Her articles focus primarily on balancing relevant data while never neglecting to make the material engaging. She believes in providing objective facts to help people make important business decisions