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What to Expect from ISTE 2017

With the ISTE show a few days away, Futuresource will be scouting the show floor for the latest news and product releases from immersive technology providers. This is what we expect to see.

VR/AR a Supply Side Push from The Big Tech Companies

The early progress of Virtual Reality (VR) technologies in the consumer market has been moderate at best and poor, in many eyes. Large technology companies that have made significant investments in head mounted display (HMD) hardware are now partnering with vertical specific providers in B2B market verticals, funding initiatives to promote the use case and adoption of headsets.

Google is working with hundreds of content partners and has produced over 600 free to access ‘VR’ Expeditions. As part of its pioneer program, over 2 million students globally have taken a headset based expedition in a classroom setting and education ICT resellers in the US and beyond have started selling ‘Expeditions Kits’ to schools. Expanding the Expeditions platform, Google recently announced AR Expeditions allowing students to overlay the real world with virtual objects on their mobile devices.

Microsoft has been working closely with Pearson amongst other companies, to develop content for its HoloLens AR headset. Solutions trialled to date focus largely on STEM subjects with medical sciences expected to be an early front runner for adoption. While high costs mean large scale deployments of AR headsets to K-12 education, it will likely be many years off before we can expect the technology to draw significant attention on the show floor.

The majority of OEM’s selling PC devices to schools have now launched VR headsets and are expected to demo these wares at the show. With price competition in the bottom end of the PC market accelerating, we can expect to see major PC OEM’s and channel partners bundling VR headsets with large deployments of PC products as a value add to secure district roll outs.

Coding Robots Leading the Maker Market

‘Marker’ technologies have accounted for a growing proportion of EdTech show floors in recent years, with robotics a leading category in the space. Notable providers including Wonder Workshops, Sphero, Lego Education & Vex Robotics will inhabit significant booth space at this year’s Expo. Sales of robotics and coding solutions have the potential to grow rapidly on the back of global demand for STEM based learning but the market is currently underdeveloped. The ‘Coding Bots’ segment is a relatively new segment to the robotics market, with providers typically targeting elementary school children. These entry level, all-in-one, solutions like Dash & Dot and Sphero are providing a simple play based solution, targeting younger grades than the more complex ‘build orientated’ solutions from providers like Lego Education & Vex. Comparable to 3D printing, while there are some great applications for these technologies, the market is saturated with small players struggling to achieve scale. The commercial reality of the market today is that where schools are investing in the technology they are typically only purchasing a small number of robots, often to support extracurricular activities. Large deployments at a district level are rare. The requirement to demo these products is high, with the benefits of these hands-on learning technologies not immediately obvious to all. For providers, the challenge therefore is how to scale these innovative solutions when schools are unlikely to buy in bulk, but products require demonstration.

The First Signs of VPA Technology in Classrooms?

Virtual Personal Assistant (VPA) technologies have been mainstream for over five years, with smart phone manufacturers integrating virtual assistants into their products since early in the decade.  Making the jump from the mobile device to the home, major technology providers like Amazon & Google are now offering speakers with these assistants integrated, other devices are expected to follow. VPA’s have the potential to become the primary interface for consumer electronic devices.  Will ISTE set the stage for manufacturers to position these solutions for education environments? In the classroom, VPA enabled speakers could be used to answer questions, control AV and other connected equipment, act as a school intercom and in time, a range of applications will expand the group led exercise and instruction capacity of these platforms.

While the applications for virtual assistant technologies are numerous, there are significant challenges when bringing these solutions into the classroom. Questions around privacy, security, content restrictions and classroom management will likely inhibit market adoption in the short term. Longer term, the potential for virtual assistant adoption in the classroom is significant. Further, these platforms have the potential to compliment robotic tutors now being integrated into adaptive learning platforms. Where these adaptive platforms are typically designed to service the individual, the initial use case of classroom VPA’s will likely be to service the group. Will we see cross over of use case and data sharing between the two, will the individual and group virtual assistant merge into a single coherent interface for student interaction?  Will the virtual assistant I interface with at home also be my aide in the classroom? These questions are a long way from being answered. Perhaps ISTE’s Expo floor will help shape our thinking on these questions going forwards.

Futuresource’s latest report covering immersive technologies in the education market is now available. The report assesses the market opportunity for both virtual and augmented reality technologies and the use of humanoid and programmable robots in education, providing a detailed analysis of current market sizing and provision and an outlook to 2021, in both K-12 and higher education markets. For more information, please click here>>

About the author

Ben Davis

About Us

Here at Futuresource Consulting we deliver specialist research and consulting services, providing market forecasts and intelligence reports. Since the 1980s we have supported a range of industry sectors, which has grown to include: CE, Broadcast, Entertainment Content, EdTech and many more.