Octagon Studio

How virtual technology can take learning to a new level

Indonesia’s Octagon Studio is driving innovations in virtual education with apps that allow users to learn by exploring and interacting with immersive environments

Tom O'Connell
October 10, 2018
How virtual technology can take learning to a new level
Innovators in virtual reality education say immersion in virtual environments can help learners retain 90% of information - compared to 10% from reading Photo: Shutterstock

Learning theorist Edgar Dale popularised his Cone of Experience theory in 1946, a pyramid-shaped hierarchy showing the percentage of information that is retained using various teaching methods, where learning by doing and learning by simulation and modelling lead to 90% retention.

Today, virtual-education startups like the Indonesia- and Ireland-based Octagon Studio are implementing Dale’s theory with applications that put learners in front of their subject in virtual space to reach that base of Dale’s pyramid of retention.

“With the virtual technology, the whole aspect of the pyramid can be covered more compared to conventional learning methods, such as reading a book,” Octagon spokeswoman Stella Setyiadi told Southeast Asia Globe. In Dale’s pyramid, reading occupies the opposite end of the learning hierarchy, with just 10% retention.

Octagon makes learning apps that use augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR) and mixed reality (MR) for headsets like Microsoft’s HoloLens, the company’s own Octagon VR Luna headset, handheld devices and 2D objects like flashcards. With VR, users tour virtual worlds using a headset, while AR overlays digital content on top of a real environment using a tablet or smartphone. MR is a combination of the two, enhancing real environments with augmented features and information.

The company also produces a range of flashcards for its OctagonEdu 4D+ line that display holographic versions of the 2D images on the cards; point your phone or tablet at a card showing an elephant, for example, and a little 3D elephant suddenly appears in front of you that you can interact with. With another set of food cards, you can virtually feed your new friend. The flashcards are aimed at STEM learners aged five to 12.

With the studio’s Dino Park AR+, users wielding a tablet computer enter the torch-lighted gate of a dinosaur theme park to become immersed in a world filled with long-extinct behemoths. One mixed-reality app, Humanoid 4D+, teaches anatomy using a tablet computer and a small cardboard model of the human body that users interact with to learn about the muscular and skeletal systems.

The apps plunge users into immersive worlds where all the information on a subject can be found with a few finger swipes and physical exploration of virtual environments.

“VR headsets and apps make virtual tours possible,” said Setyiadi. “It can take you anywhere, anytime while you’re lounging on the couch in the comfort of your home. Inside the Animal 4D+ app, for example, you are able to read some info about a jaguar, hear its roar and a voiceover explanation, and watch its movement and the colour of its fur in 3D.”

Octagon’s products are used as teaching aids and supplements, and Setyiadi said teachers like them because they add variety to their teaching methods. And, she said, the cards “add an element of surprise [because of their] hidden content and techy aspect”.

Octagon was founded in 2015 in Indonesia by inventor and entrepreneur Michael Healy, who has lived and worked in Asia for 25 years. Its hardware and software are used throughout Asia, the US, Latin America, the UK and Europe.

The company has a few new products on the horizon. It’s developing augmented-reality glasses as well as flashcards for chemistry, cell and DNA structures, architecture and mechanics for learners aged nine to 12. And it’s building artificial intelligence into the cards that will allow children to ask questions about the subject they’re studying.

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