Technology

Meta VR headsets in schools will have supervisory controls, exec assures

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A Meta executive has assured parents and teachers that Meta Quest headsets tabbed for use in school settings will come with measures and controls that allow teachers to supervise students using them.

“This is not going to be used in the classroom unless teachers feel they have complete visibility and control of what’s going on,” Sir Nick Clegg, President of Global Affairs at Meta, told Sky News. “And crucially, that parents, particularly of the younger kids, feel that too, otherwise, why would you use this in an educational setting?”

Clegg’s cautious tone arises from increasing worries about child safety in the metaverse. Meta has introduced a new program enabling schools to incorporate virtual and augmented reality into their curriculum. The initiative allows teachers to manage the use of VR headsets for multiple students simultaneously in the classroom.

Students age 13 and older will have the opportunity to explore the metaverse directly from their classrooms, engaging in immersive educational experiences. These activities could include virtual tours of museums, language practice in diverse settings, and exploring 3D renditions of otherwise inaccessible environments.

Clegg also noted the company has introduced a “shared mode” feature, which prevents children from accessing the Meta Quest store to download new apps or games into a school-provided headset. In addition, this mode ensures that other users cannot identify the school user.

He continued: “It’ll be a much more engaged, participatory, and immersive experience than is currently the case in the classroom and an entirely safe one for that reason because the teachers will be fully in control.”

The school-oriented product is expected to be launched by Meta later this year.

How is Meta’s virtual reality being used in schools?

In a 2023 blog on Meta’s site, Clegg wrote, “This isn’t science fiction or wishful thinking — it is happening right now.” At N and S high schools, Japan’s largest online schools, more than 6,000 students use Meta Quest 2 headsets to engage in virtual reality learning. “Their teachers report that this enhances the learning experience and enables students to nurture social skills even when they are physically far away,” he said.

Meta still draws a wary eye when it comes to children’s safety. Recently the parent company of Facebook and Instagram was criticized for lowering the minimum age to use its WhatsApp messaging service in the UK and Europe, to 13 years old, from 16. The UK-based advocacy group Smartphone Free Childhood deplored the change. “WhatsApp are putting shareholder profits first and children’s safety second,” Daisy Greenwell, the group’s co-founder, said in a statement.

Featured image: Canva

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