Academic labs test artificial intelligence, virtual reality and other innovations to boost learning, lower costs
MANCHESTER, N.H. — Cruising to class in her driverless car, a student crams from notes projected on the inside of the windshield while she gestures with her hands to shape a 3D holographic model of her architecture project.
It looks like science fiction, an impression reinforced by the fact that it’s being demonstrated in virtual reality in an ultramodern space with overstuffed pillows for seats. But this scenario is based on technology already development.
The setting is the Sandbox ColLABorative, the innovation arm of Southern New Hampshire University, on the fifth floor of a downtown building with panoramic views of the sprawling red brick mills that date from this city’s 19th-century industrial heyday.
It’s one of a small but growing number of places where experts are testing new ideas that will shape the future of a college education, using everything from blockchain networks to computer simulations to artificial intelligence, or AI.
Theirs is not a future of falling enrollment, financial challenges and closing campuses. It’s a brighter world in which students subscribe to rather than enroll in college, learn languages in virtual reality foreign streetscapes with avatars for conversation partners, have their questions answered day or night by AI teaching assistants and control their own digital transcripts that record every life achievement.