Despite the notion that virtual reality is some kind of futuristic technology concept, the fact remains that virtual reality has been around for a long time. Virtual reality has actually existed in some form since the 1950s, and yet it is only just starting to break into the mainstream. While virtual reality startups have raised over $1 billion since 2012, the industry is expected to grow to $15.9 billion by 2019, according to Citi analyst Kota Ezawa.
Thus far, virtual reality has been reserved primarily for gaming, with some professional use seen in military and aviation. However, virtual reality is slowing starting to make its way into education, and the potential for how it can shape K12 learning is both fascinating and exciting. Students can take concepts from the textbooks and explore them as if they were actually immersed in the setting.
Not surpisingly, Google is leading the way as it comes to virtual reality in the classrroom. The technology giant starting making waves in this realm three years ago at the 2014 Google I/O, when it launched the Google Cardboard Headset. Following the development of the aumented reality tool known as Google Glass, the Oculus Rift Headset became available to mainstream users and then HTC Vive — allowing users (mostly gamers) to immerse themselves into virtual reality applications. Now we’re seeing these devices and more, like the Microsoft Hololens and Samsung Gear VR in classrooms.
Here are some of the current virtual reality apps suited for education:
Geography: Google Earth VR on HTC Vive is one of the sharpest virtual reality apps available for education. While the app in and of itself allows for a truly amazing experience of flying around the world like a superhero, this can easily be fit into many geographic lessons. Students can explore what geographic locations look like from a real perspective in birds-eye view after looking at a flat map, or they can visit notable landmarks using the “Tours” feature that Google has already made readily available.
Biology: Anatomy VR is a free app that provides a rendition of the human body (skeletal system, muscular system, etc.). It also has Journey into the Human Brain that takes its users on a digital exploration from the outside to the inside of the brain.
Astronomy: Another offering from Universiv is the International Space Station which provides impressive imagery allowing students to know what it feels like to be an astronaut!
Foreign Language:The Language Room app, also from Unimersiv, lets users learn a new language by actually speaking to other people from around the world. The user is identified by a country flag, and can speak about culture or other topic, and also play simple games together.
History: Microsoft Hololens’ Holotours are a mix of virtual and aumented reality. Students can take a tour to see historical sites while hearing local facts that relate to each of the visuals being shown. It combines panoramic video and holographic scenery with spatial sound to give the students an experience close to real-life. The only downside to this app is access — the Hololens is by far the most expensive of existing virtual reality technology in 2017.
Create Your Own VR: InstaVR & Vizor VR are two apps that would let the students create their own virtual reality experiences. This will be particularly beneficial to students with plans to pursue a field in technology, while also allowing their creativity to flourish. Both apps allow students to add 360 pictures into a sequence and export into any major headset, including HTC Vive and Oculus Rift. Vizor VR has more robust editing features; however, will also be more difficult for students to learn.
Are you looking to incorporate VR into your classroom? Or have you already done so? What has been your experience?
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