What is Virtual Reality?

Virtual reality (VR) refers to computer-generated environments that simulate the physical presence of people and/or objects and realistic sensory experiences. At a basic level, this technology takes the form of 3D images that users interact with and manipulate via mouse and keyboard. More sophisticated applications of virtual reality allow users to more authentically feel the objects in these displays through gesture-based and haptic devices, which provide tactile information through force feedback. While enabling people to explore new environments has compelling implications for learning, to date, virtual reality has been most prominently used for military training. Thanks to advents in graphics hardware, CAD software, and 3D displays, virtual reality Is becoming more mainstream, especially in the realm of video games. Oculus VR, a company focused on designing virtual reality products, is developing the heavily-anticipated Oculus Rift, a head-mounted display for gameplay to make the game environments and actions more lifelike. As both games and natural user interfaces are finding applications in classrooms, the addition of virtual reality can potentially make learning simulations more authentic for students.

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(1) How might this technology be relevant to the educational sector you know best?

  • an immersive experience that allows students to explore can be more engaging. - mrskeeler mrskeeler Apr 2, 2016
  • I love the idea, and my brief experiments with VR have been overwhelmingly positive. I used to own an Oculus Rift DK1 (it cost US $300) and I took kids on tours of the solar system, a human cell, etc. Great, but it was just for one kid at a time. Most of the development has been for gaming, but educational uses are catching up: http://techcrunch.com/2016/01/23/when-virtual-reality-meets-education/ The main problem right now is cost, with the new devices costing US $600 and up (the Microsoft HoloLens? $3,000!). - davidwdeeds davidwdeeds Apr 4, 2016 - len.scrogan len.scrogan Apr 11, 2016
  • The ability of students to be immersed in virtual tours and have their choice of what to explore in the VR image or video is as close to real-life as it can get without being in a iMax theater. The low cost to bring this to students is a selling point for K-12.- kathyschrock kathyschrock Apr 8, 2016
  • There is much more potential here than the ordinary'virtual' field trip; much more. In fact, content is coming in six different flavors and a seventh involving cooperative learning activities through VR. See VR educational content taxonomy. Many companies are already producing in these areas, or planning to. We need to think bigger than the field trip. - len.scrogan len.scrogan Apr 11, 2016
  • The immersive experience is important with the unique trait of VR which is: the ability to BE part of the phenomenon, not only to SEE the phenomenon, for example. The experience of BEING can generate intrinsic motivation to learn, which is extremely important today. - guyl guyl Apr 15, 2016 I agree this is a key opportunity to use VR to make an exciting, immersive learning environment, and now it seems increasingly affordable. - keith.krueger keith.krueger Apr 25, 2016
  • It seems that VR is returning, and that the threshold for mainstreaming is lower now. Lots of potential for visualisation.- oysteinjohannessen oysteinjohannessen May 1, 2016

(2) What themes are missing from the above description that you think are important?

  • A mention of Occulus rift is interesting but less likely to be a classroom tool. A specific mention of Google Cardboard as an example would be more relevant. - mrskeeler mrskeeler Apr 2, 2016
  • Yes, I agree that Google Cardboard is the way to go for now. We're using plastic versions of Cardboard that we can buy for $20 and less. Another aspect to address is how students will develop for VR. Unity is one way, but it's too complex for younger kids. - davidwdeeds davidwdeeds Apr 4, 2016 Don't forget about the cell phone: sounds cheap, but it is not. You will need a $200 cell phone per headgear to provide a decent experience. I just tested Cardboard on a 14.95 LG cell phone and the problems were too many to mention. So let's not sell this to educators as an inexpensive technology, by any means. - len.scrogan len.scrogan Apr 11, 2016
  • Google Cardboard-approved devices is the norm in K-12, especially with the material being created for this age-group (Google Expeditions, Discovery VR, etc.). I believe you have left out the creation of VR images and videos by students and teachers and should not just concentrate on the game environments this technology brings.- kathyschrock kathyschrock Apr 8, 2016- len.scrogan len.scrogan Apr 11, 2016

(3) What do you see as the potential impact of this technology on teaching, learning, or creative inquiry?

  • Potentially bringing simulations into the classroom in a dynamic way. - mrskeeler mrskeeler Apr 2, 2016
  • With the costs reasonable AND having some kind of development tools kids can use...and a server and/or web platform they can share...VR will be advance beyond the "Wow, it's so cool!" stage. With everything in place, this will revolutionize education. As the article I linked to suggests, imagine kids being able to go on virtual field trips together, etc., etc. In the meantime, we do have virtual worlds...VR without the headsets! ;) - davidwdeeds davidwdeeds Apr 4, 2016
  • With a Ricoh Theta S camera ($350) and the http://round.me site, students and teachers can easily create VR experiences that can be embedded in Web sites, viewed with Cardboard devices, and shared. And, the collaborative virtual field trip is already here with Google Expeditions, where the teacher controls the images, but not where the student views. (Just like a real field trip!)- kathyschrock kathyschrock Apr 8, 2016
  • Here's some of the impact you can expect: currently 21% of my students get sick or cannot view VR comfortably. This is an international phenomenon. Here are some of the reasons why: I love VR/I hate VR - len.scrogan len.scrogan Apr 11, 2016
  • 3D and VR are becoming the chief technology used to diagnosis vision problems and early reading deficits in the youngest learners. Based on what I have observed in terms of educator interest at the last ISTE conference, FETC, and most recently, SXSWedu, watch for this trend to skyrocket on the radar of educators: VR can actually identify problems associated with early learner reading difficulties. See my recent SXSWedu presentation. See this explanation. See this new supportive research. Learn about one of the medical experts now making these connections here. This is big, and could affect all vision screenings in schools, who are currently using a screening approach that is 150 years old and highly unreliable.-
    Apr 1, 2016
    BTW, VR also can also be used for treatment of these issues. It is both Dx and Tx.- len.scrogan len.scrogan Apr 11, 2016
  • There are VR applications which allow students to hold/move around a heart or lung, etc. I think it was a company affiliated with HP. - keith.krueger keith.krueger Apr 25, 2016

(4) Do you have or know of a project working in this area?

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