Today’s virtual reality (VR) is not to be confused with Second Life, the virtual worlds program developed more than a decade ago by Linden Labs. Today’s VR may represent, however, a second life for all things Internet. An elaborate claim, I know, but I’m dead serious.
While it’s still decidedly experimental, VR today is no longer cost prohibitive. People don’t have to invest in high-end computers and elaborate headgear to experience fully immersive, 360 degree VR. They need nothing more than a smartphone and a viewing device that can be purchased for $10.
My first truly compelling experience with VR was through my Motorola Droid and a Google Cardboard viewer I built myself—along with 50 other people: educators, administrators, designers, and technologists—at the recent WCET Conference in Denver. Here’s what that looked like:
Yes, absolutely. The experience delivered a sense of wonder that will find its way into our classrooms sooner than later. Assembling Google Cardboard was one of the best sessions at the Conference and was a fabulous “tie in” for many of the other sessions, including the general sessions: “We Need to Be Ready for IOT” (Part 1 and Part 2).
If you haven’t been following it, IOT is an acronym for the “Internet of Things,” which refers to the growing list of physical objects that are network-capable, allowing them to send and receive data via wireless technologies and the Internet. And while we’re on the topic of acronyms, WCET is a division of the Western Interstate Commission on Higher Education (WICHE) and is short for the WICHE Cooperative for Educational Technologies.
The promise of IOT and VR (and its dapper cousin AR—augmented reality) is, as the kids might say, fully “off the hook.” So, the TLC will be, as the adults might say, “preparing for the onslaught.” In the forthcoming year, the TLC will implement several IOT features in the Teaching & Learning Center, which is being developed in the basement of the Old Administration Building. And it will purchase equipment for VR and AR experimentation—notably for next month’s Winter Institute (all participants will receive a pair of Google Cardboard goggles).
While building out the Teaching & Learning Center has been slow and much is still unfinished, we invite you into our chaos to tinker with our (Internet-connected) things and to glimpse a little of the future location for informal faculty meetings, reading groups, and brown-bags. Go ahead and have a chat with our Amazon Echo, which is already a kind of teacher’s assistant in a number of classrooms across the United States. Test-drive the newest Microsoft OS (Windows 10) on the holy trinity of touch-screen monitors, and have a genuinely human conversation with the TLC analysts and specialists, Jereme, Sam, and Elizabeth—and our GA Alex—about the emerging tech gizmos and applications—Smartmarker, Swivl, PhraseExpress, Lynda.com—that can be utilized in teaching and learning.