Extended Reality and the Metaverse: new narrative skills for new educational proposals
To master the new communication codes proposed by new immersive spaces will be the key to succeed in the implementation of these innovative platforms.
Nowadays, new audiovisual formats arrive with an extraordinary force to settle around us and mark a revolutionary stage in the advances in the field of communication. Augmented and Virtual Reality components, simulation scenarios with 360º video, itineraries with geocaching and open or private metaverses, are proposals that look for the acceptance and complicity of users, with the aim of providing new stimuli that result attractive enough to incorporate them into a new way of seeing and understanding the use and consumption of content.
Specifically, in educational environments, where there is continuous research on new models that improve participation and pedagogical results, no one doubts about the usefulness and advantages of using technology in the teaching process. Together with this, methodologies focused on projects are gaining ground against the model based on teaching traditionally individualized subjects. In addition, the motivation of teamwork, the application of project processes (design thinking) and the transversality of shared knowledge, motivate and involve students more and better every day.
Focusing on technological resources, if eLearning and blended formats have removed space-time barriers by adapting to the profiles and needs of users, there are the new 3.0 technologies that, with an advantage, come to place students in the center of the learning process, turning them into the main figure of their own journey and inviting them to discover and share with the rest of their classmates, sometimes through their respective avatars, their questions and findings.
Undoubtedly, younger students will quickly and naturally empathize with these formats, by direct reference to worlds to which they are already used to, such as those of video games and social networks. Many other people will do it moved by curiosity and interest in innovation. So, their use is presented as a very interesting proposal to generate new and better educational solutions.
At the end of 1895, the Lumière brothers organized at Le Salon Indien du Grand Café, in Paris, the first commercial projection of the material they had made with their recently patented invention: the cinematograph.
About those first moving images, which were projected on a screen located at the back of the room, it is said that among the scarce twenty attendees to the session, when the scene "L'arrivée d' un train en gare de La Ciotat" appeared, some people had the feeling that the locomotive was coming at them and, instinctively, moved away as they felt for a moment the fear of being run over.
This strong visual and emotional impact paved the way for what ended up becoming the most widespread exhibition model to distribute all these audiovisual stories that have informed, educated and entertained, one after another, the different generations of the 20th century.
A few days ago, I was invited to the presentation of a new VR environment. I put on a pair of Oculus Quest 2 and entered, along with other people, an immersive space where we had total freedom of movement. We didn’t depend anymore of those first cables that, connected to different devices, limited our mobility.
At one point, I found myself in a small quadrangular space, surrounded by a succession of arches similar to a cloister, overlooking an immense open panorama. Instinctively, I looked down at my feet to check if I was in the right place, and then I saw and felt how we were moving upwards to reach a higher level.
In the design of this virtual world, no sufficiently "solid" railing or limit had been placed in front of the void that was opening up before my eyes… So, my first feeling was vertigo. Later, thinking about the experience, I remembered that first session of the Lumière brothers.
At another point, I found myself facing an immense human brain located at my eyes’ level. From my Oculus device, a voice invited me to get inside. There, I began an amazing journey in which, by selecting a series of hot spots, I was offered more information about each of the parts that make up the king organ of our body.
When, at the end of the tour, I took my glasses off, I stood by the idea that what is opening up before us is a new world of infinite possibilities for education.
Obviously, there will be voices that will alert us about these technical details that need to be polished. Of course. This is how it is and how it has always been when facing any advance or innovative invention. But, if there is something that the times we live in have taught us, it is that progress goes faster every day and, an even more in this case, since there are big technology companies involved.
So, we must not pass up this opportunity. One version will give way to the next and the wheels are already in motion. What I have no doubt about is that the other day I experienced for a few minutes the suggestive sensation of finding myself in a surrounding space, in a virtual world that I fancied to explore; a world that captured my attention and my interest in continuing to discover.
We have previously talked about the fact that people always love to be told stories and, above all, love to be moved. This is something that is worth reflecting on.
The technology used at the end of the 19th century made it possible to reproduce real-looking images in motion, never seen before, and thereby captivate the audience. However, it was the point of view chosen by the authors what generated the emotion and the acceptance of the public. Today, it matters little if the framing chosen by the Lumières to capture the locomotive was accidental or not. What really matters is the lesson it left us: their point of view moved the audience.
At this moment, Extended Reality and the Metaverse open up a huge space to explore for the creation and application of new narrative skills in each and every area of interest which could come to our mind: cultural, corporate or educational spaces and events.
We are facing new formats of a well-known medium, the audiovisual, in an environment as old as the human being, the communication. 3.0 Technologies are not here to replace it all; they are here to tell us that there are new ways to communicate, and to suggest us to do it in an innovative and involving way, a way that expands and improves our experience and also our point of view as participants in the show. This is its suggestive proposal.
In short: today, new technological solutions bring us closer to virtual spaces where the new stories of our time are being built. And it must be the definition, use and mastery of a new language, adapted to these innovative tools, which must captivate us.
So, in the educational framework, as in the rest of environments, new content creators face a very important challenge: investigate and skillfully use the resources that are made available to them in order to move. They must catch the attention of those students who every day are surrounded by more information, and are eager for new sensations and visual impacts that convince them. Undoubtedly, this is (and will be) a fundamental key to the success of these new proposals.