The US Department of Education has put together a competition called the EdSim Challenge with a $680,000 purse to facilitate next-gen education. The event calls upon augmented and virtual reality, as well as video game developers, to bring immersive simulation concepts to prepare the workforce of the future.
In the 58 years since Tennis for Two—the game that inspired Pong—was born, video games have slowly become a big part of modern life, but mostly in the last few years. In the year 2000, video games were a $7.98 billion dollar industry. In 2014, the reported revenue was $83.6 billion—more than double the film industry's $36.4 billion of the same year for theatrical releases. Video games have finally moved past the "awkward teen sitting in his mother's basement" phase and are downright taking over the entertainment sector.
With this rise in popularity, many of the tropes of video games have begun to leak out IRL (for non-gamers, that means "in real life"). This process called gamification has been working its way into both the corporate and education sectors for some time.
The concept of gamification is a system that rewards users for finishing assigned tasks, often times with larger rewards at particular points to keep the user motivated to get to the next level. Offering point systems and rewards for accomplishing achievements seems a natural progression to motivate the generations that have grown up surrounded by Zelda, Mario, and Pokémon.
With gamification at the core of this type of development, the US Department of Education launched the EdSim Challenge earlier this month. The purpose is to spark virtual and augmented reality educational experiences that combine current and future technologies with skill training and analytics.
Submissions will be judged and up to 5 finalists will be selected to move to the final phase, Virtual Accelerator. Here, the finalists will receive a prize of $50,000 and "gain access to expert mentorship as they refine their concept," according to the press release. The final winner will receive $430,000 as well as additional prizes from event sponsors that include Microsoft, IBM, Oculus, and Samsung.
'This initiative is an exciting example of how virtual reality and game technologies can be applied to give students everywhere the tools to prepare for future success,' said Johan Uvin, acting assistant secretary for career, technical, and adult education. 'We encourage developers from all disciplines to answer our call and help define the future of applied learning.'
Anyone interested in trying out their ideas on the future of education has until January 17, 2017 to submit their concepts. Per the contest's terms, you will remain all rights to the intellectual property that you give them, so the prize can help you turn that concept into a reality. For more information, make sure to check out the official EdSim Challenge page for complete rules and the criteria that each submission needs to stick to. Finalists will be announced before winter's over, and the big $430K winner will be awarded in the summer.