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Harvard Business Review says Leaders Need to Know This About Spatial Computing


Group of education professionals.

If your algorithm looks anything like ours these days, then you see the term spatial computing popping up everywhere – news articles, tech blogs, even that one friend's overly optimistic holiday wish list. But what exactly is spatial computing, how it is being used and how can education leaders tap into this new technology to benefit students? 


Spatial Computing is an umbrella term referring to technologies that blend the physical and digital worlds to create immersive experiences. These technologies allow users to interact with computers in a more natural way by bringing digital information and objects into our physical space. Spatial Computing technologies include Augmented Reality (AR), Virtual Reality (VR), Mixed Reality (MR) and more. 


These technologies cater to a generation accustomed to digital experiences. In a recent article published by the Harvard Business Review, Cathy Hackl defines business sectors currently investing in spatial computing. By embracing these technologies, businesses not only address current challenges but position themselves at the forefront of this technological revolution. 


A few business sectors mentioned in the Harvard Business Review are outlined below. 


Manufacturing 

One of the first sectors to truly embrace spatial computing, Manufacturing, is among the first to be highlighted by the Harvard Business Review. Companies such as Ford, Boeing and Siemens use spatial devices to provide remote assistance, display digital instructions, create and manipulate 3D models, and optimize factory layouts. These applications reduce errors and costs while improving efficiency. 


Watch this short video by Jeff Winter to see how Microsoft’s HoloLens are used to overlay holographic guides in worksites to improve training and efficiency while reducing errors.  


Gaming, Media & Entertainment 

Gaming, Media and Entertainment industries have also flocked to new spatial computing technologies. According to Statista, the global AR and VR gaming market is projected to generate $38.6 billion in 2024 with an annual growth rate of 10.77% (CAGR 2024-2028). Furthermore, companies such as Disney are creating immersive apps for new VR and AR technologies.  


Communication 

Both B2C and B2B Communication companies are shifting to spatial computing. Apple recently announced that the new iPhone 15 will record spatial photos and videos, BNP Paribas hosts holographic meetings across their global offices, and Salesforce and T-Mobile are using prototypes of Google’s recently developed Project Starline to meet with customers face-to-face while miles apart without wearing glasses or headsets.  


However, one notable sector was not included in the Harvard Business Review article – Education


Education 

Education sectors are an early adopter of spatial computing, particularly Virtual Reality. While the exact investment figures are difficult to track due to the spread of institutions and the number of startups that have emerged, universities and medical schools are actively incorporating VR technology into their students’ daily lives. Some prominent examples include University of Southern California's Institute for Creative Technologies utilizing VR for simulating historical events, Stanford Medicine leveraging VR to train surgeons in complex procedures, and Morehouse College creating the world’s first Metaversity.  


While costs remain an inhibitor for most K-12 schools, this trend highlights the potential of spatial computing to revolutionize education by creating immersive and interactive learning experiences. 

 

How Education Leaders use Spatial Computing to Enhance Teaching and Learning 

In classrooms, VR can be a powerful tool to ignite student interest. Teachers can whisk students away to faraway lands, immersing them in new cultures and historical periods.  VR can also foster collaboration, allowing students to work together on virtual projects or conduct reenactments of historical events.  


Beyond sparking curiosity, VR offers a practical solution to resource limitations. Dissections and experiments that require expensive equipment or pose ethical concerns can be recreated flawlessly in a virtual world. Similarly, complex lab experiments can be conducted in a safe, virtual environment, allowing students to repeat processes and explore different variables – all at a fraction of the cost. 


The power of Virtual Reality extends beyond the physical classroom. Online learning platforms can leverage VR to create a more immersive and engaging experience for students. Virtual classrooms allow students and teachers to connect in a shared space, fostering a sense of community that video conferencing simply can't replicate. VR can virtually transport students to a classroom environment, even if they're miles apart, enhancing interaction and fostering a more collaborative learning environment. 


As we move beyond the initial stages of development, spatial computing stands poised to usher in a transformative era, akin to the rise of the internet and mobile technology. By merging the physical and digital worlds, spatial computing fosters a more intuitive and immersive way to interact with information and one another holding the potential to reshape how we collaborate, learn, and problem-solve across various industries. These new interfaces hold immense potential to reshape businesses in profound ways, and the journey has only just begun. 

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