I’ll never forget the first time I tried on Google Cardboard. I received my first viewer shortly after the product was announced in 2014 – I had no idea what to expect.
My partner and I had just been visiting her family in the UK and knowing that I would be getting a Cardboard viewer I had been taking 360 degree photos the entire trip. The first time I used Cardboard I saw a photo sphere that I had taken outside of her aunt’s house in the Northern Lake District. I was floored. It felt like we had never left and were instantly transported back. Using Cardboard allowed us to re-experience the memories we had made on the trip. Our first experience with Cardboard left us with tears in our eyes.
Three years later and Virtual Reality has grown by leaps and bounds. High-end VR headsets like the HTC Vive and Oculus Rift are now on the market and VR viewers that use smartphones are cheaper and easier to find than ever before.
With the MakerBus we’d had the chance to use VR viewers in educational workshops and public pop-ups around Southern Ontario and I’d like to share some of the mind-blowing things we’ve learned about VR.
- VR Fools Your Brain: Many people who are short-sighted still need to wear their glasses while using VR. On the surface this doesn’t seem to make sense, since the VR user is looking at a screen directly in front of their eyes. As it turns out optical distance and actual distant are two separate things, meaning that while the VR lenses are close to your eyes, they focus light in such a way that our eyes think the images are far away. So if you’re someone who needs glasses to see things in the distance, you may still need them to use VR.
- VR Doesn’t Have to Be Expensive: When doing VR workshops with the public, we often have people ask us how much it costs to get started with VR. If you have a smartphone from the last 4-5 years, you can get started exploring VR for next-to-nothing. With a bit of searching, you can find Google Cardboard headsets for as little as $1.39 (including shipping). Many of my favourite Cardboard apps are free, making Google Cardboard an extremely cost-effective VR solution. Even older phones like a Nexus 4 from 2012 can power a Cardboard viewer well. If you’re an organization like a library or a school, ask community members to donate unwanted used smartphones and soon you’ll have a army of VR viewers!
- VR is Hugely Educational: VR can be an amazing educational experience – just imagine having the ability to instantly take a field trip to anywhere in the world. Programs like Google Expedition are embracing the educational potential of VR. To see a great list of education VR apps, I recommend visiting this blog post from Unimersiv.
- VR is Creating New Forms of Art: VR is giving artists the ability to create and build in virtual environments. Check out this video from a program called Tilt Brush.
Tilt Brush takes 3D modelling into a virtual environment and allows artists to move around their creations in virtual space.
A different program called Sound Stage allows musicians to use a virtual music sequencer to compose original music.
These are the early days for VR art. Just imagine what possibilities the future will hold!
What do you find interesting about VR? What potential do you see in it? We’d love to hear your experience using VR. Leave a commend under this blog and we can discuss how VR can, is, and will be used in education.
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