When you think of virtual reality for kids, you might imagine a young child in a VR headset playing video games, exploring far-off-places and inevitably bumping into pieces of furniture or walls.
You wouldn’t be far off, but virtual reality, especially in relation to kids and young students, is so much more than video games.
What is Virtual Reality?
Virtual reality is a simulated experience that can be similar to or completely different from the physical world. There are different types of virtual reality, including augmented reality, mixed reality and extended reality.
Each type of virtual reality uses a combination of projections, sounds, and sensations to simulate either an entirely artificial world or a version of the physical world with virtual features or items added to it.
The History of Virtual Reality
While computers as we know them were not invented until the 20th century, the world virtual has been in use since the 1400s!
Virtual, meaning “being something in essence or effect, though not actually fact,” has been a term used since Renaissance Europe, often to describe paintings of spaces that did not exist.
Virtual was used as an artistic term until about the 20th century, when it expanded and exploded into so many different forms and applications.
Virtual Reality Terms to Know
Before diving into virtual reality for kids and its many applications, there are a few terms to cover in order to understand the application of virtual reality, especially in education.
Virtual reality terms we’ll cover:
- Augmented Reality or AR
- Virtual Reality or VR
- Mixed Reality or MR
- Extended Reality or XR
- Head Mounted Display or HMD
- The Metaverse
Augmented Reality or AR
Augmented reality is a type of technology that uses smart devices (like a mobile phone) to overlay digital images in the physical world. Augmented reality has multiple applications, and many of us are familiar with AR from a “fun” level.
Virtual Reality or VR
Virtual reality falls under the umbrella of extended reality. VR describes a fully immersive experience in which a user generally wears a headset that blocks out their surrounding physical environment.
Instead of the “real” physical environment, the headset projects a 360-degree digital environment that a user can explore and navigate.
Mixed Reality or MR
Mixed reality is similar to augmented reality with an added layer. Mixed reality allows a user to play virtually, while using their physical environments. While immersed in a digital reality, mixed reality also allows users to use their hands and feet to interact with their physical environment. One incredible application of mixed reality is in healthcare, where physicians can conduct surgical simulations.
Extended Reality or XR
Extended reality or XR is a sort of umbrella term used to describe the other realities (virtual, augmented, and mixed) we explored above.
The term XR was first coined in the 1960s by Charles Wyckoff. Wyckoff, an innovative photographer and photochemist, filed a patent for his silver-halide “XR’ film, which could be used to photograph extremely bright light events, such as nuclear explosions. Because no film could previously capture bright light events without overexposing, the XR film exemplified the “next-level” in film photography.
Head-Mounted Display or HMD
A head-mounted display is a display device, worn on the head or as part of a helmet with small, optic displays in front of the eyes. HMDs have many uses virtual reality uses, including gaming, learning, aviation, engineering, and medicine
The metaverse is a network of extended reality experiences that blur the lines between the physical and digital. It’s a network where people can access digital, 3-D content. It’s not an app, website, or offering by a single company. There are a few factors that define the metaverse, including:
- The metaverse is made up of many different, connected virtual worlds
- The metaverse is built by many different groups
- The metaverse will enable people to connect with each other in new ways
- The metaverse can be accessed with many different kinds of technology
Makerspaces are workspaces where people with common interests can meet, socialize, and collaborate on shared interests. The maker movement in education is based on hands-on learning through building things.
Makerspaces allow students to tinker, problem-solve, or to "learn through play." Educators can create guided activities that have a purpose, but that are not single-mindedly focused on the end result.
A Virtual Reality History Timeline
1838 - Stereoscopic Photos: English scientist and inventor, Charles Wheatstone, discovered that viewing two side-by-side images through a stereoscope could give viewers a sense of depth and immersion. His invention, the stereoscope, became the groundwork for the popular VIew-Master and, later, for modern VR headsets!
1929 - In 1929, Edward Link invented what he called the “Link Trainer”. This was the first example of a flight simulator, which was entirely electromechanical. A small motor device mimicked turbulence and road disturbances, and the Link Trainer was used to safely train pilots in the US military.
1935 - Science Fiction-Led Virtual Reality - Believe it or not, some of the more incredible advances in science and programming came from science fiction. In the 1930s, science fiction writer Stanley G. Weinbam wrote a short story called Pygmalion’s Spectacles. This story presented a comprehensive and specific fictional model for virtual reality goggles. These goggles gave the wearer an immersive experience of a fictional world through images, smell, taste, and even touch.
1950s (Sensorama) - In the mid 1940s, cinematographers like Morton Heilig worked to create more realistic cinema experiences. Patented in 1962, Heilig’s Sensorama was a cabinet-like contraption that simulated all the senses using stereo speakers, stereoscopic 3D disciples, smell generators, and a moving chair!
1960 (The First VR Headset) - In 1960, Morton Heilig was also responsible for patenting the first example of the head-mounted VR device! Named the Telesphere Mark, this headset provided stereoscopic 3D and sound for wearers. Heilig’s Telesphere Mask resembles today’s VR headsets, and set the course for a fast development of virtual reality from 1960 through today!
1961 (Headsight) - Two engineers working for Philco Corporation developed the Headsight, which incorporated a video screen for each eye and a magnetic motion tracking system. The Headsight was developed to allow immersive remote viewing of dangerous military situations. A viewer’s head movements would move a remote camera, allowing them to naturally explore the environment.
1965 (The Ultimate) - In 1965, scientist Ivan Sutherland introduced what is widely considered to be the first head-mounted display system for use in immersive simulation applications, aptly named “The Ultimate Display.”
1969 (Artificial Reality Art) - In 1969, virtual reality computer artist Myrn Kruegere developed a series of experiences which he called Article Reality. His computer-generated environments responded to the people in them.
1970s (Flight Simulation) - During the 1970s, GE produced a computerized flight simulator with three screens arranged to create a 180-degree experience.
1982 (Sayre Gloves) - Up until 1982, there was a ton of research and application around the visual element of virtual reality. In 1982, scientists Daniel Sandin and Thomas DeFanti developed finger-tracking gloves, which could detect finger movement within a virtual setting.
1987 (Virtual Reality in Born) - It wasn’t until 1987 that virtual reality had a real name. Jason Lanier, founder of the Visual Programming Lab (VPL), is credited for coining the term “virtual reality.”.
1991 (Virtual Reality Arcades) - In the 1990s, virtual reality became accessible to the public through a series of arcade games and machines. Players would wear VR goggles and play on gaming machines using immersive stereoscopic 3D visuals.
1991 (The Mars Rover) - In 1991, NASA engineer Antonia Medina developed a VR system that allows pilots to drive a Mars rover.
1993 - 1997 (Sega and Nintendo) - Throughout the 1990s, video game companies Sega and Nintendo developed and marketed a series of VR devices and 3D gaming consoles, including the Sega VR-1 and The Nintendo Virtual Boy.
1999 (Enter The Matrix) - In 1999, the Wachowski siblings released their film, The Matrix, which features characters living within a fully-simulated world. The Matrix is credited for bringing widespread attention to the idea and applications of simulated realities.
2007 (Google Street View) - In 2007, Google introduced Street View, which allowed users to navigate just about anywhere in the world using stree-tlevel 360-degree images.
2012 (The Oculus) - While the Oculus was first prototyped in 2012, a Kickstarter was launched to fund the product. It brought the prototype VR headset a ton of attention and $2.5 million in funding.
2012 to Today - After the introduction of The Oculus, Facebook (now Meta) purchased the company. From here, seemingly every tech giant got into the virtual reality game, and the world of virtual reality is expanding in ideas, applications, and possibilities.
2019 - Kai Frazier starts Kai XR to fill learning gaps caused by the digital divide. By using her 260-degree camera to explore and capture the historical sites of Washington D.C., Frazier is able to bring the nation’s capital to all school-aged children looking to explore through virtual reality and virtual field trips.
Kai XR takes kids on virtual field trips around the world and beyond, on any device and wherever they are.
Leveraging interactive 360° technology, our digital learning platform puts kids in the driver's seat and empowers them to dream big, develop 21st century skills, and explore the universe around them.
With Kai XR, the world really is their classroom. If you’re looking to bring VR into your classroom, get started with Kai XR today.
The Benefits of Virtual Reality for Kids in the Classroom
With rapid development in the virtual reality space comes more applications and opportunities for learning. Kai XR was created to explore the many learning applications of virtual reality to make learning about all subject matters available to every type of learner.
By both using common tech in the classroom and expanding the use cases for virtual reality, educators can continue to keep their students ahead of the curve in the rapidly changing classroom and the classrooms of the future.
VR Can Connect to All Types of Learners
Virtual reality can be used to bring experiential learning to all types of students. Experiential learning describes a type of learning in which a student can engage in direct experiences related to the subject.
These types of interactive lessons increase knowledge and participation. Experiential learning through virtual reality also allows students to develop real, immediately usable skills and to relate their values to the lesson plan.
How to Use Virtual Reality to Connect to All Types of Learners:
- Using Makerspaces: Students can use makerspaces, both physical and digital makerspaces, to create, tinker, and explore real concepts using physical objects or digital landscapes.
- Engage in Visual Learning: Students can use virtual reality to take a voyage to the moon, under the sea, or to explore a British fashion house—all without ever leaving their classroom.
VR Allows Students to Dive Into Social and Emotional Learning
Some of the toughest, and most important, lessons young students need to learn are in the realm of social and emotional learning.
Adolescence is a crucial time for dedicated social-emotional development. Since adolescence is also an ideal age for virtual reality learning, VR presents a unique opportunity to place students in realistic social situations. Through this tech, students can safely practice social-emotional skills in a controlled environment.
SEL skills can help students:
- Develop their own self-awareness
- Enhance social skills like communication and teamwork
- Build empathy and compassion for others
- Learn how to manage strong emotions
- Develop coping mechanisms for stress and anxiety
- Set and achieve personal goals
- Make responsible decisions
How to use VR for kids to learn SEL skills
- Take virtual field trips to places with great social and historical significance
- Create post-field trip opportunities for discussions around self-exploration, empathy, and a more globalized perspective
VR Prepares Students for Future + Emerging Career Opportunities
As the world gears towards the metaverse, remote work, and cross-cultural collaboration, experience and knowledge of virtual reality are becoming a core competency. Just like most humans now know how to write and send an email, we can expect experience in VR to become just as commonplace as surfing the internet.
Already, the metaverse has had a profound impact on society.
How the metaverse is changing the world:
- Creating new opportunities for businesses and organizations to connect with their customers and employees
- Giving rise to new industries, such as virtual reality development, metaverse consulting, and more
- Creating new and emerging job roles in content creation, engineering, game design, and much more
How to use VR to prepare for emerging career opportunities:
- Developing VR lesson plans and immersive learning opportunities within the modern VR classroom
- Conducting career research and predictions using VR exploration.
- Helping students to identify skills, niches, and expertise to develop and or form tomorrow’s career in virtual reality and emerging metaverse careers.
VR Open Up Education Resources to Educators
VR opens educators, students, and entire school systems to opportunities that formerly would have been expensive.
Virtual reality brings into the classroom endless opportunities to explore places, build with virtually endless materials in a digital makerspace, and dive deeper into any and every subject.
How to use VR to open up education resources:
- Use virtual field trips to explore places both near and far
- Tinker within digital makerspaces to build communities and reach for the stars
Why Virtual Reality for Kids Works in the Classroom
Whenever a discussion around virtual reality for kids is broached, there are detractors who inevitably question its safety, its application, and its accessibility.
Here at Kai XR, we believe that we can empower today’s students with the 21st century skills needed for tomorrow by using the technology tools that students are already interested in and familiar with.
- Virtual reality is advantageous under supervision
- VR doesn’t always require expensive technology tools
- Students already have familiarity with VR
- Students are excited to learn using VR
Virtual Reality is Advantageous Under Supervision
Many educators and parents agree that VR can provide enhanced learning experiences for today’s students. In fact, a report from Common Sense Media found that 62 percent of parents believe VR will provide educational experiences for their children.
One of the biggest concerns parents have is exposure to violent content or dangerous users. Through supervised educational VR, everyone can rest assured that students are deriving only the best benefits from using VR to enhance their own learning—and their interest in continuing to learn throughout their education.
VR Doesn’t Always Require Expensive Technology Tools
The digital divide in education is something we cannot ignore. Often, it can seem that virtual reality learning requires an expensive “buy-in” from educators and parents. That’s not true for our VR resources at Kai XR.
Here at Kai XR, we have built an extended reality experience that does not require expensive tablets or high-level knowledge of virtual reality. In fact, we created Kai XR so that any student or educator can access our virtual field trips or makerspaces using an internet-enabled smartphone, tablet, or computer.
Students Already Have Familiarity With VR
If you’ve used an Instagram filter, tried on some “virtual makeup,” or if you’ve ever downloaded Pokemon Go, you’ve played with VR at some level.
In fact, once you explore the many applications of mixed reality, it turns out that many of us have engaged in mixed reality. This especially rings true for young students, who have only known a world equipped with handheld devices.
Instead of trying to protect against device use and VR in education, isn’t it better to lean into this generation’s enhanced digital literacy?
Students are Excited to Learn Using VR
Students are interested in virtual reality, period. Here at Kai XR, we offer over 100+ 360 virtual field trips designed to engage every type of learner.
Kai XR breaks educational barriers by making emerging technology accessible. We give educators the tools they need to help students develop the critical skills of tomorrow, today.
Empower Today’s Students With Virtual Reality for Kids
Kai XR was built by a group of educators, dreamers, and technologists who are united in a mission to bring accessible, virtual reality-based learning to all students. Together, we are building the future of education to inspire the next generation of innovators.
Kai XR uses cutting-edge 360 technology, allowing students to imagine themselves in new environments around the world, and throughout time. Through virtual reality learning, students enhance their ability to ask questions, make decisions, and draw conclusions.