Virtual Reality is Here

 

As teachers and educators we like to immerse our children in topics to interest and excite them. With certain topics this is easy as we have to facilities and resources nearby to engage them, however with certain topics like history or geography this can be difficult as the places we are discussing are often not within reach.

How would much more thrilling would it be to stand in the place we are learning about? We can't take our classes on an educational visit to ancient Egypt for example when we are learning about the Pharaohs but what if we could take them there virtually? Well, with the power of Virtual Reality we can.

We have been introducing VR into the school by getting some children to create Google Cardboard VR headsets in the Future Technology Club. It may not look like much, a simple unassuming little cardboard box but through the use of  magnetometers, accelerometers, gyroscopes and external head cameras, which come as standard in most mobile phones, we have the opportunity to transport our children to amazing places.

 

 

We made the kits ourselves by using the Brother ScanNCut machine to cut out the Google Cardboard template, buying lenses on amazon.com for 80p a pair and a large pack of magnets for 30p each. The whole cost was less than £1.50 but for this the children had a compete VR headset! For those not used to crafting for about £10 you can buy a cardboard housing for a smartphone running Google's Android mobile OS, a lens kit, some magnets, some velcro and a rubber band and an easily programmable Near-Field Communication sticker tag for launching the companion mobile app.

The cardboard app comes with 7 “experiences”;

YouTube lets you watch a selection of Youtube videos on a simulated theater screen.
Street Vue lets you wander around in a VR version of street view.
Exhibit lets you look at a few 3D recreations of objects.
Earth Flyover lets you zoom around a city in Google Earth. Push the “button” to start flying forward, push it again to stop.
Photo Sphere Viewer lets you look around in pictures you’ve taken using Android’s built-in 360º panoramic feature.
Windy Day is a cute, cartoony environment where you can watch animals sneak around as leaves fall.
Tour Guide has you explore the Palace of Versailles.

 

 

The children loved making their headsets and took it into their classes to show their peers, there was a great buzz as pupils had a chance to immerse themselves in a roller coaster ride. Teachers were excited about the prospect of VR and what implications it could have for their practice.

As with any new technology there needs to be discussion about its implications upon the world. With the emergence of VR there is a real fear that people may become plugged in but may not plug out. We need to ensure we talk to our children about being plugged in all the time- it is a real danger.

 

However on a more positive note we hope to create a class set of VR headsets and with the use of devices download many useful apps which could be used across the curriculum.