Virtual Reality – my first impressions of the potential

It was just a typical Friday night spent in a burnt-out office killing zombies, rescuing friends from a monster-filled labyrinth, and enjoying the view from the top of Machu Picchu. Okay, so maybe it was atypical, but all of this (and more) is what I experienced during a Virtual Reality Meetup in Brussels. Developers showcased and gave demos of their games so that early adaptors could see the possibilities that are already available with Virtual Reality without having to invest in a headset.

One of the demos was a game called Dungeon Director. It was developed in just 48 hours by a team at a Virtual Reality Hackaton that happened the other weekend here in Brussels. It actually is a game that requires collaboration between all players in order to survive and escape the labyrinth. The Dungeon Director has a tablet with a map of the labyrinth and must set light beacons that the players can see over the walls in front of them so they know which direction to walk in order to stay safe from monsters, avoid traps, and escape!

Dungeon Director in action at the VR Meetup. Photo by Fred Bourgois.

While the hardware for VR is currently quite expensive, just like other technology, the price will eventually go down. Google Cardboard is probably the easiest entry point for teachers and I hope to attend a Meetup in the near future about developing apps and experiences for it.  Their expeditions have the best potential for classroom use in the early stages of development. I have been impressed with the quality of the New York Times VR app´s content (which is mostly 360 degree videos) and think there is some great material to help teachers provide an immersive and unique learning opportunity.

I was the only teacher there, but there were quite a few university professors and researchers there. Virtual Reality does seem to offer some unique opportunities and will be massive in entertainment and gaming (where the big $$$ is), but after seeing the different headsets and tools in action this weekend, I am convinced that in a decade or two, VR will be a game changer in education as well and I encourage teachers who have an interest in technology to follow VR in some way. A good place to start is by following a blog called The Road to VR.

One example of the innovative use of VR that educators should be interested in is work being done by an organization called Woofbert. Sadly, it is not made for Google Cardboard, so you would need a more powerful device to access it. Their VR app allows for you to explore the world´s best museums and cultural destinations, and even interact with what you discover! They want to ¨democratize access to art and culture¨ and I think this is a vision that many educators support.

Have you had any VR experiences with your students? What potential unique learning opportunities does it provide?

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