The Oculus Rifts and Quests baby brother holds it head way above what came before it, and showcases VR in a more affordable all in one package. Does this make is more accessible to schools and classrooms?
About three years ago i was in the market for a new phone, and being the Samsung fanboy (I now have a note 10 plus and am trying to justify me buying that by writing this post on it) I was i was hanging my nose over the Samsung Galaxy S7. Still a great little phone, despite the battery being a little weak. I didn’t buy it for the free Gear VR that came with it but it was most certainly a bonus, and i remember the day i went to pick it up and tried VR for the first time.
It made my phone over heat, was a little jittery, and there was screen door effect though that has never really bothered me. Despite all those things i thought it was great, really great. Being great is one thing, but i do try to justify my unnecessary purchases of technology, to both myself and more importantly to my wife, i thought if Im impressed with this, how much will my students love it.
I already knew the answer to that. It was designed to amaze people and my little group of 7 years olds would go crazy for this, and of course they did and continue to do so.
That was three years ago, and i find myself in a classroom again, and because of an unexpected birthday gift i have the Oculus GO in my hands.
I have tried the Gear VR numerous times with my class and it is a great experience for both the students and the teacher. Though of course, when the phone is new you do worry about it when its strapped to the face of a 7 year old. With the GO you don’t have that worry, there is no phone, or no detachable phone to plug in. It is a standalone headset, which also means the chances of a wire pulling what ever expensive computer you have onto the floor is removed as well.
Having had a gear VR for over three years, you can see immediately the improvements that have been made. It is really smooth at tracking your head movements, which means the chances of motion sickness is greatly reduced, i don’t suffer from this but my wife managed a good 20 minutes in Ocean Rift without getting dizzy, this is something she didn’t manage in the Gear VR.
It is a similar weight, but seems to sit better on the face now, and the straps seem more secure so it means you don’t have to have a hand on it to be sure it doesn’t fall off.
This is good because the Oculus Go has a Controller included in the box and even a battery, for it. This controller is way better than i thought it would be, and is really easy to use, my students picked it up faster than me. (generations hey) and even when wearing the headset you can see an image of the controller, with a long pointer ( a little like a lightsabre to be honest) so you know exactly where to press to navigate menus and games.
The screen door effect is really reduced and, although not as good as the HTC Vive or the more expensive Rift or Quest, for education it is a great compromise. The apps, currently numbering over a 1000, it has available are similar to the ones that i used on my Gear VR and have been upgraded for this higher spec headset, however it would be nice to see a few more on subjects that teachers would use. I am not sure VR gaming which what the majority of the apps available are, is ready for mainstream yet, but what is suitable for classroom use have great implications. I mentioned these in another post here and here so wont do so again here.
The headset it currently available on Amazon for anywhere between 150 and 200 USD, depending on which day you check it out. Which is expensive, but it comes with the bonus of not having to use your more expensive phone or computer into it and the worry that comes with that if you use it in school. It will also likely come down in price after a year or so of being in the market, and with new ones being developed, so for schools especially if using it to add value rather than as a full part of the curriculum the price is not completely prohibitive.
Being easier to use, with just one purpose means it is better suited to younger students, and the set up time for teachers is reduced. If you have a large class this is a huge time saver, where the students can self direct themselves to try with out the teacher having to hand hold them all the way through.
It is not however a toy, there are considerations in using this kind of technology with students especially younger ones, and if you are a teacher you may need to address these to get the use of these past your management. For me i use it for very brief periods or as a station learning exercise, not as a full lessons. I don’t think the content we have available replaces books or videos just yet!
There are a couple of reservations about the headset, but they really are minor ones. The battery takes a while to charge, about three hours in my experience, and lasts about 2.5 hours of full use. This should be fine if you are using it just for a couple of minutes to show students something but a problem if you have all the lessons in a row, so plan for that. 3 lessons in a row using this and you may struggle.
The other issue, and it may be a personal one is that it is difficult to mirror the screen onto your PC or your Whiteboard, though i will keep trying and if i find away that doesn’t require Command prompts and additional software i will let you know. I used to like sharing the screen so the rest of the class can observe what is going on and be more involved.
There is a way of doing it, which i will link here, but it is a lot more technical than it should be , which is an opportunity missed i think.
There are of course cheaper and more expensive options to use, and it follows pretty much a sliding scale with quality and accessibility. Check out here for a post about the VR options open to you. If you are in a university it may, and only may, be worth investing in a full HTC rift experience with the ability to walk in the virtual space, but for the price of the Oculus GO you can do a lot worse and in, not virtual, reality not that much better.
If any of you know of a way to share the screen easier, please comment, or if you have used this or VR, in general in education please leave a comment below. We are all new at this so sharing is most definitely caring !
Post by Marc of Making English Fun