Interested in getting your students out of the classroom and into the circulatory system, onto the grounds of Versailles, or even circling the moon? Virtual trips like these used to be more akin to Star Trek than the real world of learning, but in the last few years more economical and abundant technologies have made it possible for anyone to have an impressive VR experience for very little cash!
Last week at the Academic Technology Open House, our student assistant Elizabeth Rodrigue provided a demonstration of Google Cardboard, a fifteen dollar headset that uses your smartphone as the conduit for a pretty impressive 360-degree video experience. Here's what she had to say about it:
Google Cardboard is a headset apparatus with two lenses that uses your phone to create an immersive 360 experience. Though there are tons of apps that work with Google Cardboard, at the Academic Technology Open House we chose to showcase Google Expeditions, an "adventure" app that allows instructors to take a class to almost any place in the world they can imagine. "Expeditions" range from underwater scenes to ancient ruins or large cities. You can even take a look at different careers! The instructor uses their personal mobile device to work as a "guide", and the app provides the guide with a paragraph about what is being seen, three questions to ask the students, and key points that can mark certain areas in the scene for students to look at when clicked upon. The students are the "explorers" and are immersed in the experience with the headsets. After some initial skepticism, the Google Expeditions presentation was well received, and by the end of it many faculty and staff were excited about how they could utilize it.
The Cardboard headset is quickly becoming a logical choice for those looking for an entry-level VR experience, and recently sold their ten millionth headset. Google Cardboard can also be used as a viewer to access any of the thousands of 360-degree videos that are housed in YouTube by using the youtube app in iOS or Android, and setting it to "Cardboard" mode by clicking on the goggles icon in the bottom right. An example of such a video can be seen below, which allows the viewer to experience a current art exhibition at the Hirschhorn Museum at the Smithsonian in Washington D.C. This was created by the New York Times as a part of The Daily 360 video series, through which the NYT releases a different 360-degree video each day on a topic of cultural, social, or political importance. The whole series can be accessed here.