By Jake Buffalo
Virtual reality devices and applications are becoming increasingly popular, especially as the years go on and the technologies required to deliver virtual reality experiences are becoming more affordable. So, if you think virtual reality is a thing of the future, think again! There is a lot of content available today and suitable devices for experiencing virtual reality are not hard to find. Although there is a huge focus on video games for these types of devices, there is a lot you can do with them to create an educational experience for users.
In the ETC Lab, we have the HTC Vive and the Google Cardboard accessible for CLA students and professors to try out! In this blog post, I will give you a brief overview of each and let you know what kind of educational purposes they can have. We have a great list of some different apps and experiences that we found to be of interest. Take a look here: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1QJBMTpOtGAqF3P_5E7BMaUj518F3QBMV-OsroUe2nDw/edit#
The HTC Vive is a headset that brings you into the world of virtual reality through a variety of different apps available in the Steam VR store online. The Vive system also includes controllers that allow you to move around in the different scenes and perform different actions depending on which application you are using.
There are many different apps available for the Vive, ranging anywhere from artistic and cultural experiences to immersive games. For example, you may be put “inside” an audiobook through immersive storytelling and placed inside scenes that bring the narration to life. There are also apps that put you inside the paintings of famous artists like Vincent Van Gogh or allow you to walk through a museum with different historical exhibits. The options really are endless and can be applied to a vast array of CLA majors and your specific interests!
The Google Cardboard is a handheld extension that hooks up to your smartphone and allows you to look through its eyeholes at your smartphone screen to view immersive virtual content. Originally, the device was only available in actual paper cardboard, but now they are available in all types of materials and designs, with plenty of sturdier options for a better experience. One cool thing you can do with the Cardboard is watch 360° videos on YouTube from different places around the world. You can go on a tour of historic locations you have always wanted to experience, like Buckingham Palace, or even watch Broadway’s “The Lion King” from the perspective of the performers. There are some experiences that are more artistically based–allowing you to experience the “Dreams of Dali” or enter into Bosch’s “Garden of Earthly Delights”–that may be relevant for different art majors at the U as well.
In addition, you can download apps on your iPhone or Android and use them in the Google Cardboard. There are many different apps available that relate to art, culture, science, journalism and more! For example, New York Times has different news stories that are available in a virtual reality narrative with the Cardboard. You can even experience the life of a neuron wandering around the human brain. Augmented reality is another feature available that overlays visual content on top of your real-life surroundings using the camera on your phone.
Overall, virtual reality is not just for “nerds”–there are programs available for everyone and we continue to find more possibilities every day. So, don’t forget to check out the list of apps we have made to help you get started with virtual reality at the top of the page and get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org or come to our Friday 10am-4pm open hours if you want to try out some of these cool technologies!