Virtual Reality in Education – VR Field Trips

Edd, 4 yrs old, loves space. He’s particularly fascinated with the Moon, Mars and astronauts Aldrin and Armstrong. His other interest in science is paleontology. Using an android slate, the game engine Unity and Qualcomm’s Augmented Reality plugin, Vuforia, it was easy to ‘resurrect’ Dinosaurs. Edd watched in fascination, using the slate as a director’s viewfinder as he tracked an animated Triceratops walk around his room.

With the arrival of the Oculus Rift, I felt it was time to send Edd on his first field trip, to the planet Mars… in Virtual Reality. Needless to say, he enjoyed “being there” on Mars. He isn’t allowed to wear the Rift for long periods until I’m sure I’ve understood the relationship between the Oculus Rift’s Interaxial separation and his interocular. Children have a smaller interocular separation or interpupillary distance [1]Children have a smaller interocular separation or interpupillary distancethan adults. Further studies need to be done on optimal PC config to eliminate latency and other potential nausea inducing conditions that might occur in VR in an educational or classroom environment.

OculusVR have an important document on VR health & Safety [2]OculusVR have an important document on VR health & Safetywhich any VR developer, even school teachers or parents, should go through if they are considering introducing Virtual Reality into classrooms or in home education. I’ve only used 2D panoramas of the Moon and Mars so far, as stereoscopic panoramas would need to take into account the much smaller interocular separation of kids as mentioned, and the stereo pano pairs themselves found on the net were not optimally shot for Stereo comfort. I remapped / projected the panos for the Rift using the freeware; VRplayer.[3]VRplayer

Digital Assests of Pandora the planet from the movie Avatar - (c)

Digital Assests of Pandora the planet from the movie Avatar – (c)

Virtual Life and “What if Scenarios” for Immersive Eduation:

  • What if… we had all the digital assets of the Pandora world from the movie Avatar, running on a Virtual Reality platform, thus allowing real-time navigation of this fantasy planet?
  • What if… we went one step ahead, and inserted some Artificial Logic, or “rules” into this real time world, as seen in “Serious games” that scientists and environment experts use to model real-world climate change in scientific simulations? Would such Virtual Reality learning, drive home a topic like no classroom lecture ever could?

After watching a movie such as Avatar, it leaves the mind wanting to explore the fantasy world more. It does not become a boring lesson in social morality, but an experience that will leave a lasting impression on the audience, or a study group of young students participating with a teacher in an immersive environment.


JauntVR are shooting a true 360 VR film – “The Mission VR”

Socio – Political lessons from look-around 360 VR movies:

I am not privy to the screenplay of “The Mission VR”,[4]The Mission VR one of the true new generation 3D 360 VR films under production by JauntVR. But if the screenplay has scenes for example, from some historic event from World War II, or, if another Hollywood Studio is considering say, an American Civil History film, then, if these fully immersive scenes were made available to classrooms a history teacher could enable a history lesson, unlike any other – immersing the entire classroom right onto a battlefield or the aftermath of a civil unrest incident, explaining many aspects that shaped the future after the event…far beyond the “spectacle” of a battle scene.


VR Learning Civil Emergency – Home Learning System

 Virtual Reality – @Home Emergency Learning System:

The 2009 Swine Flu Epidemic threatened to shut down schools [5]The 2009 Swine Flu Epidemic threatened to shut down schools in many parts of the World. Countries such as France, had already put in a system in place that would have students “attend” school by listening and viewing lectures via TV Broadcasts and over the internet. Affordable Virtual Reality today allows a true “Parallel World” – a Second Life type learning environment where students and teachers can attend class, with true first person immersion and collaboration in cases of National emergencies.

VR learning @home, need not be during national emergencies only. For any medical reason if a student cannot attend regular class, there could be an option to don a head-set and log into a secure VR network running on a school’s (or Facebook) server – to be virtually present in a classroom. A projected image in the classroom, of a live webcam feed could allow classmates to interact with the student at home.

Virtual Field Trips – From the Classroom:

Virtual Reality in the classroom is already here. This Govt. Of Australia initiative allows students to raid Caves in VR,[6]Govt. Of Australia initiative allows students to raid Caves in VR in photorealistic detail. To put this into perspective… this is not a game world that students roam around in, but true Digital replicas of Real World locations. – The future of Field Trips is here. To further drive the point home, about what this means to the future of technology in education, consider this:

  • An entire classroom could visit a real world location in their own hometown, or a location half way across the world.
  • A teacher could use one single Digital Asset to devise multiple lessons that allows for “revisits”.
  • Each student and the teacher could ‘interact’ with other students’ avatars
  • Virtual Reality – Exchange student programs: Visiting students can log in and interact with the hosting school.
  • Students not able to attend class can log in and still participate in the Field Trip.

Meanwhile at home, Edd enjoys his first trip to MARS in Virtual Reality, while Elon Musk works on the 2026 Mars program[7]Elon Musk works on the 2026 Mars program which will allow us a choice: Be there in VR, or be there in person.

  • Some Moon panoramas are here: [8] Moon Panoramas
  • Mars panos (2D), here: [9] Mars Panoramas

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