Is edtech the future for HE catering?

Both VR and AR present multiple, exciting opportunities for learning and student experience optimisation, says Prof David Russell

Until recently, virtual reality and augmented reality were the talk of science fiction, rather than our world. However, very suddenly this technology has become pervasive across a range of sectors and industries to optimise operations such as astronaut training and development, patient rehabilitation within healthcare and automotive manufacturing. 

Virtual reality is a computer-generated simulation of a three-dimensional image or environment that can be interacted with in a seemingly real or physical way by a person using special electronic equipment, such as a helmet with a screen inside or gloves fitted with sensors. Augmented reality is the integration of digital information with the user’s environment in real time. Unlike virtual reality, which creates an entirely artificial environment, augmented reality utilises the existing environment and overlays new information on top of it. Augmented reality is often utilised in conjunction with a smart phone.

Indeed, both virtual reality and augmented reality present multiple, exciting opportunities for learning, development and student experience optimisation. There is scope to enhance how students explore the campus and how they interact with the environment around them. Augmented reality in particular presents an opportunity to market products to students, such as food and beverage offerings, by actively engaging them in the process and encouraging interactivity.  This can be done through the likes of iBeacons that target and tailor offers to students as they walk past a catering outlet; this innovation will positively influence students in order to drive key strategic, commercial and experience objectives. Similarly, our work with the Rugby World Cup 2015 allowed us to see augmented reality being utilised first-hand. The tickets were equipped with technology that allowed fans to create a 3D interactive experience through their smart phones – a first for major sporting events. We hope to see this trend continue within major events through our role as Food and Beverage and Hospitality consultants for Expo 2020 Dubai.

Due to the successes of the virtual reality and augmented reality technologies within industry, there is now collaborative discussion throughout the higher education sector about how to cost-effectively leverage this innovation to enhance the student experience and optimise student recruitment potential. Will physical open days become a thing of the past, or will students still want to come and get a first-hand experience? Will traditional lectures and seminars be over taken by virtual reality training simulations? And will food and beverage marketing be entirely digitalised to encompass augmented reality functionality? Whilst the future is uncertain, we can be sure that this technology will be infusing our lives in new and exciting ways…

Professor David Russell is the founder and chairman of the Russell Partnership, the UK’s leading Strategic Food Consultancy



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