Do we need Virutal Reality in education? Oculus certainly (and obviously) thinks so, going by the latest news that the Facebook-owned VR pioneer is targeting the future classroom.
Although virtual reality is experiencing slow adoption in the consumer market, one area where it has untapped potential is in the classroom where virtual worlds could help students visualize and learn about history, science, and culture in an unprecedented fashion.
To capitalize on VR’s increasingly instrumental role in visual education, Facebook-owned Oculus VR announced today that it’s distributing a number of its tethered, high-powered Rift headsets and standalone Go headsets to education institutes around the world, starting with Seattle, Taiwan, and Japan.
Described as pilot programs under the company’s existing Oculus Education division, these initiatives will put VR headsets in libraries, museums, and schools to help train teachers and other participants on how to use VR in education, as well as help Oculus better understand the role of the technology in the classroom through feedback. In the past, Oculus has worked with the California State Library, conducted research with MIT and Harvard, and partnered with other schools and institutions in the US for VR apps, training, and studies focused on education.
In Taiwan, Oculus is working with the Taiwan Internet and E-Commerce Association (TiEA) to put headsets in libraries and museums so members of the public can interact with exhibits and visual learning apps free of charge. In Japan, Oculus is focusing on applying VR to aid with online education and so-called distance learning, which is the teaching of students who cannot be physically present in the classroom. And in Washington, Oculus is working with the Seattle Public Schools system to develop a course on education VR creation, so students and teachers can work together on creating VR content for the classroom. The company is also working with the city’s Technology Access Foundation (TAF) to help train educators on how to use VR for teaching.
To boost its education efforts and provide classrooms with examples of top-tier educational VR apps, Oculus is releasing three new experiences on the Oculus Store today. One titled Breaking Boundaries in Science is focused on highlighting the contributions of female scientists like Jane Goodall, Marie Curie, and Grace Hopper. Another, called Titanic VR, which was first released in early access last fall, is a tour of the British passenger liner that sank on April 15th, 1912. It includes virtual re-creations of the sinking and a video game-styled mission structure for exploring the ship and its history. The third and final new educational VR experience out today is Hoover Dam: IndustrialVR, which is another early access Oculus title now seeing a full release that’s focused on touring the structure and understanding how it operates. All three experiences are available for free on either the Rift or the Go and GearVR devices.