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Virtual reality at a new level for language learning

With this device you can learn a new language easily while wearing 3D virtual glasses and walking around. While wearing the glasses you see your natural environment with a virtual layer overlaid. Looking around in your living room small labels will appear next to the focused objects hinting the object’s name in foreign language. Later the suppliers plan to create virtual travel trips to e.g. Paris  or London, so you can learn the language while walking around in a virtual city.

Language learning with 3D glasses is seemingly a new idea. That said, competition is already open. After a brief search I found at least two applications for Google Glass: in form of translation or in form of subtitles. The idea to use virtual reality for language learning has been tried in several cases, such as avatar languages, Whereas such learning environment does not seem to be mainstream, language learning in virtual environments in general seems to have an advantage, suggested by research.

I found it quite easy to learn a bunch of vocabulary in a new language with card systems like Anki. However, learning the correct pronunciation and to use words in a conversation is much more difficult for me. Usually it happens that when I’m relaxed I remember the word, but in a conversation I often search for it. It is like the “stress”  of the conversation speed closes my brain’s memory. Sometimes foreign language have sound combinations that do not exist in my mother language. I like conversation based approaches with grammar rules embedded in the sentences, such as Duolingo.

When using virtual reality for language learning, specifically with 3D glasses, the graphic and processing of movement in the virtual environment should be in an acceptable way. It is known from flight simulators that movement in virtual environment can cause motion sickness. It is caused due to the virtual graphic which likely looses visual cues from the natural environment. The motion sickness is temporary and diminishes after a few minutes to hours after use of the virtual reality. So perhaps if you want to use such a device you want to spend a bit time in testing it before you buy it.

The second thing that concerns me is if the application detects the objects correct, things such as a sofa or a chair can look very different and it would need a certain level of artificial intelligence to detect them correctly. So again, the product seems to be something that you should try out carefully before you buy it.


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