Virtual reality as a tool for education and advocacy

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A compilation of articles and videos demonstrating the power and potential of virtual reality (VR), in these categories:

VR general profile & applications

VR for education & training

VR for hiring & promotion

VR for advocacy/empathy


VR general profile & applications

5 Important Augmented And Virtual Reality Trends For 2019 Everyone Should Read, by Bernard Marr, Forbes, January 14, 2019. Excerpt:

Over the next year, both VR and AR applications will become increasingly sophisticated, as devices get more powerful and capable of creating higher quality visuals. Our understanding of how humans can usefully navigate and interact within virtual or augmented environments will also evolve, leading to the creation of more “natural” methods of interacting and exploring virtual space.

Beyond Gaming: 10 Other Fascinating Uses for Virtual-Reality Tech, by Knvul Sheikh, LiveScience, January 19, 2016.


VR for education & training

The Top 10 Companies Working On Education In Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality [REBOOTED], by Aaron Burch, Touchstone Research, April 9, 2019.

Real learning in a virtual world How VR can improve learning and training outcomes, by Tony DeMarinis, Lynne Calligaro, Cary Harr and Joe Mariani, Deloitte Insights, August 14, 2018. Excerpt:

At the oil refinery, emergency sirens begin to wail. A shift supervisor races to the scene of the emergency and sees smoke already billowing from the roof of a distillation unit. He needs to get the fire under control, but when he opens the door to the control room, a wall of flame greets him. The situation is worse than anything in his training manual. How can he locate the shut-off button when he can’t see through the flames? He hesitates—and in that moment, the pressure built up in the distillation tower releases in a massive explosion, ripping apart the building and scattering debris across the whole refinery.

A red message flashes before the supervisor’s eyes: Simulation failed. A voice comes over the intercom and says, “All right—let’s take two minutes, and then we’ll reset from the beginning.”

Doctors are saving lives with VR, by Jennifer Jolly, USA Today, July 28, 2017. Excerpt:

Earlier this year, inside a cramped, windowless corner office at the Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, I put on a virtual reality headset and tried to save a little girl’s life.

It wasn’t real, of course, but it sure felt like it was. The blotchy, wheezing, seven-year-old struggling to survive while suffering from anaphylactic shock was nothing more than a bunch of digital polygons. Still, the experience triggered every real human reaction you’d expect, flooding my brain with fear, stress, and anxiety.

Once I slipped the VR goggles off of my head, one other emotion struck me too: excitement. After a few tough years for the virtual reality industry, a wave of medical VR programs are breathing new life into this cutting-edge technology.


Virtual Reality: THE Learning Aid Of The 21st Century, by Sol Rogers, Forbes, Mar 15, 2019. Excerpt:

VR is not only a great medium to enhance recall, but it can also build empathy which helps users understand situations, people, and events that they would otherwise never have contact with. Considering the impact VR can have, it’s no surprise that the medium is being adopted by educators and organizations looking to add an extra dimension to classrooms all over the world.

10 Ways Virtual Reality Is Already Being Used in Education, by Marianne Stenger, informED, October 27, 2017. Excerpt:

[P]redictions are that by 2019 VR will start becoming mainstream, and some of the major players in the education and technology sectors including Google and Facebook are already pursuing applications for the classroom.

To give you an idea of how VR will eventually facilitate learning, we decided to take a look at some of the most notable examples of how virtual reality is already being used by schools and learning institutions around the world.

Real Uses of Virtual Reality in Education: How Schools are Using VR, by Kelly Walsh, EmergingEdTech, June 14, 2017. Excerpt:

Virtual Reality took what has probably been its biggest step towards public recognition when Facebook bought the Oculus Rift, which had its consumer release in 2016. The Oculus Rift provides High Quality VR for about $500. Another popular high end offering is the HTC Vive, which typically costs a couple hundred dollars more.

20 Top Virtual Reality Apps that are Changing Education, by Matthew Lynch, Tech Edvocate, March 11, 2017. Excerpt:

Virtual reality is one of the hottest edtech trends. Not only are students allowed the opportunity to emerge themselves into a subject but can travel the world from their desk chairs. While not readily available in every classroom, programs such as Google Cardboard aim to make VR headsets cheap and accessible. The majority of students in the USA own a cell phone, and with many of these educational apps available on both iOs and the iTunes-enabled devices, they are becoming more accessible to more students. Educationally, these VR apps allow students to visualize concepts that were confined to the pictures in a textbook. Below are 20 Virtual Reality Apps that are changing education.

Using Virtual Reality In Education, by Michael Treser, ELearningIndustry, March 30, 2016. Excerpt:

[V]irtual reality is still very much in its infancy, and is not widely available to the general public. However, certain practical applications of the technology are already on the market. For example, one can create virtual panoramic tours with images overlaid with text, which enable learners to explore the object of study from all sides. As an example, here’s a virtual tour of the Boeing 787 jet liner created via the Roundme platform. This is not merely a collection of photographs, but a virtual environment that allows the user to move about and examine the plane both inside and out.


VR for hiring & promotion

Walmart is using VR to help decide who should get promotions, by Lydia Dishman, Fast Company, July 1, 2019. Excerpt:

Walmart, the largest private employer in the U.S. with 1.5 million workers, is using virtual reality to help find candidates for management positions in all 4,600 stores, the Wall Street Journal reported. The VR headsets and the assessment program were designed by Strivr, a Menlo Park, Calif.-based company.

Walmart’s idea for a VR assessment was rooted in seeing how its workers might respond to challenging situations and how they prioritize different tasks—things that would be hard to identify in an interview. So far, 10,000 employees have undergone the VR test as part of an initiative to identify potential high performers and cut back the overall number of managers in each store. This is part of a larger plan to change how many higher paid managers are overseeing teams and to give its frontline workers more decision-making power in their jobs, according to an earlier report in the WSJ.

As the WSJ reported, VR is a “touchpoint in our selection process. It’s not a disqualifier,” or a mandatory part of the promotion process, according to Beth Nagel, Walmart human resources market manager for the Pittsburgh area. For example, a 12-year veteran of a store in Pennsylvania got a promotion to team leader and a 10% raise after taking the VR assessment.


VR for advocacy/empathy

Is Virtual Reality the Ultimate Empathy Machine?, by Jennifer Alsever, WIRED. Excerpt:

“It’s disorienting—an experience you have never had in your life,” Bertrand says. “Afterwards, you now know someone in an intimate way that helps you connect.”

Virtual reality can help make people more compassionate compared to other media, new Stanford study finds, by Alex Shashkevich, Stanford News, October 17, 2018. Excerpt:

Stanford researchers found that people who underwent a virtual reality experience, called “Becoming Homeless,” were more empathetic toward the homeless and more likely to sign a petition in support of affordable housing than other study participants.

VR and Empathy: Tread Carefully, by iThrive Games, December 18, 2017. Excerpt:

Just because you can drop someone into the thick of (simulated) loss, fear, pain, and chaos using VR, it doesn’t mean you should. When you immerse players in a violent, intensely emotional, or graphic event that feels real, it’s possible you’ll cause them distress or trauma. Immediate reactions to trauma include shock and denial, meaning that a person shuts down and disconnects emotionally. Isn’t that precisely the opposite of what we’d want an empathy game to do — engage and connect people?

Evoking empathy and igniting action with virtual reality, by Tiffany Licata, Earthling, February 22, 2019. Excerpt:

Beyond the common goal in journalism and documentary filmmaking to elicit empathy in the hearts of viewers is the even more difficult task of inciting action – here comes virtual reality. The direct emotional connection is the reason why VR filmmaker Chris Milk calls it “the ultimate empathy machine.”

Can Virtual Reality Make You More Empathetic?, by Laura Sydell, NPR, January 9, 2017. Excerpt:

At a recent New York City fundraiser for the International Rescue Committee, attendees could step away from the mingling and have a more direct connection to the people they were there to help. A few seats were set up where the guests could sit down and put on a VR headset. Once they’ve donned the headset the guest is immersed in the world of a refugee camp in Lebanon. Cheryl Henson, an IRC donor, says that via VR she was in a family’s tent, watching children play.

Using virtual reality to make you more empathetic in real life, by Marlene Cimons, Washington Post, November 12, 2016. Excerpt:

“We are giving you the perspective of someone else, and hoping it forces you to feel sympathy for someone you might otherwise avoid,” says Jeremy Bailenson, a professor of communication at Stanford University and director of its virtual human interaction lab, which designed this experiment.

Teaching Empathy Through Virtual Reality, by Amanda Licastro, Stevenson University,

[P]reliminary trials indicate that virtual reality (VR) effectively evokes feelings of empathy in viewers. In both cases, the medium can provide the audience with access to situations outside of their everyday experience, offering a perspective into the lives of people unfamiliar to the reader/viewer.


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