Engaging children in educational pursuits is a fickle old game. A popular route to success has been with edgy content from shows like Horrible Histories. Based on the books of the same name these highlight the gruesome side of life in the past, in a way that engages the younger members of a family.
This unusual approach not only makes the shows and books more popular but triggers children's questions about history. It tricks them into thinking about what it would be like to live in a particular period of history.
A new piece of tech is doing a similar thing, but for biology. By wearing a special Virtuali-Tee t-shirt (or getting a parent to put one on) children can use a related app to view their or an adult's insides in real time. This in itself is pretty impressive, but users can then zoom in and around each of the organs and see them working in full 3D.
The result has that same slightly squeamish, gruesome feel to it. Like Horrible Histories it completely changes how children experience the topic. Biology is no longer something learned at a distance from text books but is instantly applied to their or others' bodies.
This "squeamification" of education is then taken to the next level by popping the smartphone in a VR device, like Mattel’s View Master or Google Cardboard. This provides a first-person view of the experience.
While the technology to achieve all this has existed for some time, it's the combination of content and tech that makes the real difference here. In fact, children may not even see it as learning - it’s just a fun look at their insides.
Educationally this is substantial though. Not only does it offer a creative and unusual way to communicate the basic facts of anatomy but it delivers this as a lived experience rather than text or illustrations in a book.
Because the learning is about their own bodies, children instinctively apply it to themselves.
Seeing it in action ourselves, there are all sorts of extensions and applications that spring to mind. One mooted by the developer is to link the beating of the heart to a heart rate monitor on a smartwatch so it matches the wearer’s real heart.
If you want to get in early on Virtuali-Tee there is a Kickstarter project where you can back it.