U.S. Department of Education Embraces VR/AR With $680K EdSim Challenge

by Jamie Feltham • November 3rd, 2016

Just like children, VR and AR are the future, so we should be creating experiences that have both in mind. In fact, the U.S. government wants you to do just that with its new education competition.

The U.S. Department of Education this week announced the EdSim Challenge, looking for new educational simulations that use virtual and augmented reality technology, created by the VR, AR and videogame development communities. That means apps that demonstrate genuine use cases for VR and AR in the classroom, be it through an Oculus Rift or a HoloLens.

The official site notes that simulations must “strengthen academic, technical, and employability skills,” with a particular interest in software that has “clearly defined learning goals” and builds “diverse skill sets.” That means software the goes beyond initiatives like Google Expeditions and helps students to develop skills that they could some day use in the workplace.

If you need a clearer picture, the department has put together the above video, though we’ll warn you in advance that it’s more than a little cheesy. An Informational Webinar will also be hosted on November 16th for those hoping to find out more.

The deadline for submissions is January 17th 2017. Five finalists will be announced later that winter. Following that, they’ll experience a virtual accelerator and innovator’s boot camp in the spring to enhance their projects before a winner is announced next summer.

Official criteria for the finalists selection includes content that considers learning outcomes, engagement, commitment, implementation strategy, and scalability and expansion. Five finalists will be selected, each winning a $50,000 cash prize, with one grand winner then getting $430,000. Samsung is also offering up a bunch of products to each finalist, including a Galaxy S7 edge and a Gear VR. Along with the Korean electronics giant, Oculus, Microsoft, and IBM are sponsoring the competition.

It’s a great chance to demonstrate the educational value of VR, something that companies are only just beginning to tap into.

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