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Hyper-personalization: AI with the metaverse will reshape learning

Published 7 September 2023 in Technology • 6 min read

Emerging technologies, especially AI and XR, are on the cusp of realizing their transformative potential, particularly in the realm of education.

Over the past year, attention across the board has shifted away from the metaverse to advances in AI. While AI’s breakthrough moment took decades to materialize, many wonder if this same moment for the metaverse is finally about to happen.

Big technology companies must think there is promise in the idea because they continue to make large investments in extended reality (XR) gear. XR is an umbrella term for virtual, mixed and augmented reality. The devices are becoming lighter, less bulky, and more powerful with each generation.

And even though the various metaverses remain disconnected – and the grand idea of a 3D internet isn’t yet a reality – it’s impossible to ignore the millions of people interacting in XR metaverses every day as they play games, collaborate on projects, and use augmented reality (AR) to try out items before making retail purchases, travel virtually to faraway destinations, and even dance in raves.

As explained by Ori Inbar, Co-Founder and CEO of Augmented World Expo (AWE), during his keynote address at this year’s event in Singapore recently, there’s good reason for the skepticism about the metaverse. Advancing XR devices is hard because they rely on complicated optics and physics, and building high-quality, 3D immersive experiences is an expensive and time-consuming process.

AI will undoubtedly accelerate XR

Nevertheless, fueled by AI, the months it used to take to develop an XR experience will soon be reduced significantly. And the even better news is that this high-tech power combo of AI plus XR is bound to reshape education, offering more personalized and interactive experiences that drive more impactful and tangible outcomes.

IMD has already launched its first ChatGPT capabilities, allowing learners to ask questions about the topics covered in classroom sessions and gain invaluable insights grounded in the research and thought leadership of IMD faculty. The next frontier is to integrate IMD’s “expert AI” capability into XR worlds that challenge learners to think critically while helping them widen their perspectives and to work on developing new skills.

Hyper-personalization in practice

As AI models continually learn from interactions in XR worlds, their understanding of students becomes more refined and precise, enabling tailored learning experiences that engage and adapt. Unlike conventional educational settings, constrained by a single instructor’s capacity, AI-driven learning permits students to pose questions and receive answers based on the collective expertise of numerous faculty and vast sources of information.

This bespoke approach gains even more traction when integrated with the metaverse. These virtual worlds empower students to exercise their own agency in an environment ripe for individualized learning.

extended reality
“Advancing XR devices is hard because they rely on complicated optics and physics, and building high-quality, 3D, and immersive experiences is an expensive and time-consuming process.”

There are additional benefits. Emilie Joly, the Co-Founder and CEO of Zoe, an immersive 3D creation platform, says we absorb and retain information more effectively when we interact with 3D experiences. She explains: “The information stays with us because it’s engraved in our physical memory. Immersive learning is an amazing way to build this muscle memory. Studies show that students’ learning outcomes improve tremendously when going through an immersive simulation.”

Jeremy Luisier, a Senior Technical Trainer at Unity, a platform for creating and operating interactive real-time 3D content, highlights the acceleration brought about by AI in students’ ability to create distinctive applications.

“Using AI tools, learners ask for instructions and procedures on how to try something new – and even get code samples that are often quite good,” he says. “This helps every student in a room move forward simultaneously, as opposed to waiting for one-on-one instruction from a trainer. The contrast to traditional lecture scenarios is remarkable.”

Ensuring accessibility and inclusion is pivotal

Embracing new technologies also means tackling the challenges of inclusion, fairness, and accessibility. While the promise of immersive learning is enticing, it must not inadvertently widen existing disparities but rather work toward narrowing them.

Within XR experiences, the non-player characters and players’ avatars must represent the diversity in the real world, ensuring an equitable representation. If you can build your own avatar, you should be able to build someone who looks like you. This extends to scenarios, immersive worlds, histories, and cultures in XR. A learner must feel and see themselves in the digital learning environment. While AI could be a powerful tool to support the creation of the vast heterogeneity that exists in the real world, we must also ensure the inherent biases in AI are kept in check.

Designing learning experiences with accessibility in mind is imperative. For instance, strategies like enhancing the visibility of characters, adjusting text and background colors, or increasing brightness for individuals with visual impairments are some XR accessibility techniques to name a few.

Beyond physical impairments, ensuring equitable access to technology and bridging the “digital divide” between those who have full access to digital technologies (such as high-speed internet) and those who do not is essential. Access to the state of the art in education must remain democratized.

AI learning
“Immersive learning is an amazing way to build this muscle memory. Studies show that students’ test scores improve tremendously when going through an immersive simulation.”

One approach is to use technology that works on low bandwidth and mobile devices to make learning open to a broader audience. For example, by leveraging AI, a low-fidelity version of an XR experience could exist as a role-playing game on platforms like WhatsApp. Leticia Jauregui, Global Head of Education Partnerships and Immersive Learning at Meta, believes that VR can break down barriers and increase equity and access within education.

“While it’s still early, we’re already seeing how transformative these technologies can be in education, demonstrating promise for the future in how we learn, train, and connect,” she says. “Virtual reality offers educators new ways to inspire students and creates greater opportunities to engage and interact with content.”

For those aiming to integrate such technologies into their organizations, whether for learning or consumer applications, prioritizing inclusion and accessibility as a foundational principle is crucial.

Tackling intricate problems like sustainability

Looking ahead, the union of technologies within the metaverse is an exciting prospect for education. The convergence of AI, blockchain, and other innovations can reshape education by offering innovative methods to engage students and equip them for real-world challenges.

For instance, the metaverse can be a formidable tool in addressing complicated goals like sustainability and achieving carbon neutrality. The metaverse can aid learners in comprehending and addressing complex problems such as how human decisions in the present could accelerate or decelerate climate change in the future.

By stepping into a 3D world where you’re able to make these decisions, and then using systems dynamics – modeling techniques that simulate future outcomes, helping us to understand the long term impact of decisions in complex systems. Imagine the visceral impact on a learner who walks through the results of their choices. An experience like this will have a far longer-lasting effect than hearing a lecture or reading a business case.

Digital twins in XR are also aiding sustainability. These virtual representations of real places or processes are enabling organizations to gauge the impact of different decisions on their carbon footprint, offering insights into potential strategies for reducing their environmental impact.

As the metaverse evolves into a canvas for innovation, and AI facilitates and accelerates the delivery of more interactive and personalized learning journeys, the outlook for education looks very different and brighter than ever.


Sarah Toms

Sarah E. Toms

Chief Learning Innovation Officer

Sarah Toms is Chief Learning Innovation Officer at IMD where she leads the Learning Innovation and AI strategy. Sarah previously co-founded Wharton Interactive, an initiative at the Wharton School that has scaled globally. A demonstrated thought leader in the educational technology field, she is fueled by a passion to find and develop innovative ways to make every learning environment active, engaging, more meaningful, and learner-centric. Sarah is an AWS Education Champion, and has been on the Executive Committee of Reimagine Education for 8 years. She has spent more than 25 years working at the bleeding edge of technology, and was an entrepreneur for over a decade, founding companies that built global CRM, product development, productivity management, and financial systems. In addition, Sarah is coauthor of The Customer Centricity Playbook, the Digital Book Awards 2019 Best Business Book.


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