Can Virtual and Augmented Reality Democratize Education?

Alan Smithson
6 min readApr 24, 2019


By: Alan Smithson

I just read a lengthy essay by Ray Dalio “Why and How Capitalism Needs to Be Reformed”. While I encourage you to read this essay, I will sum it up here.

Higher income leads to higher education which leads to higher wages which leads to paying lower tax which exacerbates the entire situation by pulling more money from the people who need it most.

Basically what he is saying is Capitalism is broken and education is one of the ways we can fix it…BUT…only if we can figure out how to democratize it so the bottom 90% of income students can access the top 10% of education.

“The top 40% of income earners spend almost five times as much on their children’s education as the bottom 60% of income earners do, while those in the top 20% spend about six times as much as those in the bottom 20% do.” — Ray Dalio

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Over the past few years, a group of highly dedicated, highly motivated and highly passionate people have been toiling away in computer labs and basement offices building what will become the tools that unlock the potential of unlimited, inexpensive and experiential education. Over the next 5 years, technologies such as artificial intelligence, 5G, quantum computing, virtual and augmented reality will revolutionize education in ways we can’t quite comprehend.

Just like the iPhone unlocked a world of useful applications that have made our lives easier, solved problems, connected us, given us a voice, and put the world’s knowledge in the palm of our hands, these exponential technologies hold the very real and very possible potential of creating a whole new education paradigm.

Imagine what it will be like to literally think of a question and an artificial intelligence-driven avatar of a world-leading expert appears beside you to explain in the way that you learn best and at the fastest pace for you personally based on data obtained from eye, hand and body tracking, heart rate, pupil dilation, gait and posture and previously obtained data.

Some people learn through audio, some through video, but everyone learns through experience. Virtual & Augmented Reality provides an opportunity to gain real-world experience anywhere in the world by simply putting a pair of glasses on.

“Major Corporations are seeing dramatic results from using Virtual Reality (VR), Augmented Reality (AR) and 3D Learning. United Rentals has reduced new recruit training times by 40%, Walmart employee test results have increased 10–15%, and Nationwide has reduced training time from an average of 3 hours to only 25 minutes” (Julie Smithson, “It’s Time to Teach in Voxels instead of Pixels”).

One of my first personal enlightening experiences in virtual reality was when I first stepped into a human heart. Walking around the outside of a 10x scale size heart beating away was simply breathtaking and I will never forget standing in the left atrium watching blood pump by me. I experienced what it was like to stand inside a human heart. I will never forget that experience.

CadaVR from Ryan James’s article, “Welcome to CadaVR: A Living Cadaver Laboratory on the Web”

Or the time I walked across an icy bridge crossing a chasm on my way to Mount Everest base camp. Or when I joined the shuttle crew on Apollo 11’s mission to the moon. Or when I learned how to drive a giant excavator digging a drainage ditch and filling a dump truck with the rocks.

I did all of these things, or at least my brain thinks I did. That is the power of virtual and augmented reality;

CareerLabs VR Excavator Training Simulator

“These technologies leave an indelible mark on your brain”

Virtual and augmented reality are able to deliver experiential education like no other technology we have ever built. The early statistics are not even close to fair to traditional learning means. Take a look:

According to a study conducted by HTC Vive in China, VR shows the ability to improve students concentration by six times resulting in improved learning effectiveness and persistence. Students concentrated more and maintained longer states of concentration compared to students without VR.

Stats on VR and Concentration from HTC Vive, March 2019

New VR/AR education platforms like Veative are providing K-12 education modules in a whole new way unlocking 3-dimensional learning for everyone through Google Cardboard and other inexpensive VR devices.

Veative VR Education Platform

So we have shown how VR can improve education and provide a new level of study for everyone, not just those with access to the best teachers and resources, but why do we need this and why now?

Why do we need democratization of education?

Private schools in the US spend about 70% more per student than public schools do, with the median private school spending about $23,000 per student in 2016, compared to about $14,000 for the average public school. There is clearly a massive gap that we need to overcome with education and as the costs of creating VR/AR content drop and the costs of the hardware become negligible ($199 for Oculus Go VR Headset), the idea of this technology becoming the way we democratize education is well within our reach over the next few years.

What if you could learn anything at any time, instantly?

This is not a crazy question, this is exactly the world we live in today with so many educational tools available to anyone with a smartphone and wifi. Here are a bunch of great resources:

You see, we have already begun the mass-democratization of education, but what is going to happen is educators and students who have access to more advanced tools such as virtual, augmented and mixed reality (XR) are going to continue to have a distinct advantage over those without.

Our goal must be to make the BEST education available to EVERYONE as quickly as possible.

I started this essay with a quote from Ray Dalio’s paper “Higher income leads to higher education which leads to higher wages which leads to paying lower tax which exacerbates the entire situation by pulling more money from the people who need it most.”

As we enter the exponential phase of humanity where artificial intelligence and robotics quickly reduce and replace the number of mindless jobs available, it is imperative that we begin to find alternative ways to educate people around the world using the most efficient and effective systems available and from all accounts, VR/AR/XR are these technologies so let’s find a way to make these accessible to everyone everywhere as quickly as possible.

I think that by using the smartphone that most people today have access to, we will be able to design a world where no one gets left behind regardless of their parents economic status or their location in the world.

Virtual, Augmented & Mixed Reality (XR) technologies can and will help us democratize education globally creating a new world where everyone has the chance to live their best life.


About Alan Smithson

“Alan’s purpose in life is to inspire and educate future leaders to think and act in a socially, economically and environmentally sustainable way.”

Alan is the CEO of MetaVRse, a global leader in XR Technology (Virtual, Augmented & Mixed Reality for Marketing, Retail, e-Commerce, Education & Training). Alan is a TEDx speaker and LinkedIn XR thought leader with millions of views of his articles and videos each month.

He is an Independent Global Advisor on the Business of XR to a select group of the world’s largest companies, chief investment advisors, and ultra high net worth family offices.

To book Alan for speaking engagements, email your request to:

About MetaVRse

MetaVRse is a leading Virtual, Augmented & Mixed Reality (XR) product development company focused on the business applications of XR technology. CEO Alan Smithson is an XR Advisor to SXSW, TechStars & TKS mentor and a Judge for Auggie Awards. COO Julie Smithson is the President of the VR/AR Association Toronto Chapter.

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Alan Smithson

Alan’s purpose in life is to inspire and educate future leaders to think and act in a socially, economically and environmentally sustainable way.