Universities in Hiroshima are increasingly incorporating the metaverse into their classrooms and extracurricular activities.
You can talk to people far away as if you were right next to them by creating an avatar that represents you.
It could be used in novel ways, such as providing a place for kids who aren’t in school to meet online.
Metaverse can support children who are not in school
“While being absent from school, I didn’t have the opportunity to speak with people other than my family, and I was spending days feeling distressed and depressed,” said Noa, a 16-year-old first-year high school student from Hiroshima.
But things changed when she participated in a metaverse program last fall to assist children who were ill and unable to attend school. “I could spend quality time while feeling relaxed,” she said.
A local group set up the program to provide these students with a place to stay, and three people attended.
Noa entered the virtual reality realm by creating a female avatar with cat ears. She then went on a trip with others and listened to a high school student describe what it was like to be absent from school.
People who are nervous around other people in real life may find it easier to communicate with others in a virtual environment, where they don’t have to worry about how they look or what they look like.
“Students who were silent at first could make a presentation on a (virtual) stage in the end,” said Kenichi Okamura, 23, who oversaw the program’s production. “I really felt the potential of the metaverse.”
There has been an increase in the number of students who do not attend school in recent years. To address this, the Hiroshima Prefectural Board of Education collaborated with the Tokyo-based non-profit Katariba to provide metaverse-related activities as a way for these students to learn.
The board of education’s center for assisting these students hopes that by providing them with opportunities to learn about topics that interest them, they will receive a more diverse education.
Meet new people in metaverse
Eight students from Hiroshima Institute of Technology’s HIT Metaverse club were having fun taking pictures under a cherry tree in a metaverse environment.
The students met in the metaverse despite being in different locations on campus or at home. They accomplished this by donning virtual reality goggles.
They each had their own avatar on the screen, which they used to communicate with one another and make friends.
“What is fascinating about the metaverse is that you can get to know people without being constrained by where they belong or how they look,” said Yosuke Tanaka, a 19-year-old first-year university student and the club’s leader.
He met someone in the metaverse when he was in his third year of high school who told him he should start a club when he went to college. He started the club right away when he started college last spring. There are currently about 20 people in the club.
Tanaka appears in the metaverse as a female avatar named Ramune.
He also attempts to contact similar clubs at other universities. He speaks to a metaverse club at Hokkaido University, for example, and gives a talk at a VR club event at the University of Tokyo.
“We hope to expand our activities so that many people will learn about the metaverse,” Tanaka said.
Metaverse in classes
The metaverse is also being used in classrooms. Hiroaki Kanoe, a science education professor at Hijiyama University in Hiroshima’s Higashi Ward, taught some metaverse classes last year.
“By looking ahead with neofuturistic perspectives, I wanted to try and see how the classes can be expanded,” Kanoe explained.
He invited third-year students interested in becoming teachers to the virtual seminars and asked them how they saw the metaverse being used in education.
Students discussed various applications for the technology, such as keeping a metaverse environment open during the summer to reduce student absences or using the metaverse to help people overcome their fear of speaking in front of a large group.
“Compared with online classes, you can feel the presence of others as if you are in a classroom,” said Soko Hamaen, a 21-year-old third-year student who took a metaverse class.
“I hope to explore the uses of the metaverse while making clear the purpose of what to do with the technology, instead of jumping at it only because it is new,” Kanoe said.
According to some estimates, 1 billion people worldwide will be involved in metaverse activities within the next ten years, and the global market for metaverse technology will reach around 100 trillion yen by 2030.
Simultaneously, as more people use virtual space, bad behavior such as verbal sexual abuse is on the rise. This demonstrates the need for rules to be established so that everyone can feel safe in the virtual world.
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