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We have only scratched the surface of possibilities that AR and VR can bring: Train your mind for the future

Jan Korenko, Senior Lecturer in the School of Digital, Technologies and Arts at Staffordshire University
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The pandemic has changed the world as we know it, accelerating digital transformation globally and changing the relationship most people have with technology.

Digital innovation is increasingly blurring the borders of what classes as entertainment and work meaning it is essential that the next generation of tech leaders are equipped with strong digital skills to serve them in the jobs that do not exist yet.

Augmented reality or virtual reality is a rapidly growing field that is predicted to boost the global economy by 1.8% by 2030. The technology merges the physical with the virtual, immersing a user into a digital reality that feels like real life. AR adds a digital dimension to a physical space, whilst VR implies a complete immersion that locks out the physical space.

The use of AR and VR technologies is becoming increasingly commonplace and is being used in sectors like education, manufacturing, retail, transport, and healthcare to name just a few. For example, if you want to see how furniture would look in your home, AR can be used to place virtual images into your physical surroundings through a smartphone screen. Similar technologies have been used in architecture and the real estate sector to create 3D visualisations of an exterior, interior or product showcase which can work as a dedicated VR simulation, and in healthcare to train medical students through wearing a VR headset to follow surgical procedures.

In a field that is rapidly expanding across numerous industries, there is a gap in the jobs market for individuals who are specifically trained in the use of AR and VR. To further drive innovation and growth, professional training and degree qualifications is the logical next step for young people wanting to make their mark in the digital technology sphere.

Digital skills are needed now more than ever before, with data from the European Commission highlighting how 44% of adults in Europe lack basic digital abilities, let alone the advanced skills needed to develop complex industry-leading technology. To amend this deficit, more students must pursue higher education in technology fields, including AR and VR, to learn core skills that will drive digital innovation and improve their future job prospects.

University courses will be key to teaching young people these new skills. For example, our Augmented and Virtual Realities degree at Staffordshire University teaches students about the design and technical processes involved in the creation of ultimate immersive experiences and hyper realities, as well as their uses in both a corporate and casual setting. 

As well as skills specifically linked to AR and VR, studying for a degree-level qualification teaches students transferable skills to thrive beyond their studies. Students acquire key skills including 3D asset creation, level design, world-building, visual scripting, as well as interpersonal skills such as creative thinking, problem-solving and team working through a range of different hands-on projects. This does not only prepare students for a career as visual designers or programmers in specialised fields of VR and AR, but other creative fields like film, visual effects, animation, games design and many more.

This is important with many jobs in the sector not yet defined and where the technology possibilities are endless. Research from Dell Technologies has concluded that 85% of jobs in 2030 have not been invented yet. Whilst this does mean that necessary skills will continue to evolve as new working demands are created, it makes it even more important for young people to specialise in technology areas that are fast growing. VR and AR degrees will lay strong foundations to build upon as technologies develop and will give a head-start when future careers require such skills as standard.

Partnerships with businesses also help highlight the vast array of opportunities available to young people in the sector. Staffordshire University, for example, has strong industry ties to companies like Epic Games.

We have only scratched the surface of possibilities that AR and VR can bring to a variety of industries. With the digital transformation continuing to develop at pace, a future-facing degree in these technologies will ensure young people have the skills necessary to thrive in future careers.

As digital acceleration continues to evolve, our need for tech-savvy young people grows with it, and a degree in the augmented and virtual realities will ensure this demand is fulfilled.

Jan Korenko, Senior Lecturer in the School of Digital, Technologies and Arts at Staffordshire University

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