Wow. I never thought I would say this, but I have experienced a bit of tech that will shift paradigms. The potential of this technology is game gaming. I was very impressed, as the experience far exceeded my expectations.
Now that my gushing is out of the way, it is time for me to say something with substance. I was lucky enough to spend some time in an HTC Vive over the last few days (about 4 hours so far). This thing is amazing. The environments are so clear and immersive, that I easily lost track of time and my physical location. I have used Google Cardboard and Samsung VR, but my experience with the Vive has changed how I define what true VR is.
Phone based VR, is OK. It doesn’t need to be knocked about or down; it provides a immersive experience and some level of interactivity. It has limitations though. With phone VR you get to be inside an environment, but I have found, that you never loose the sensation of viewing the environment, always feeling apart and disconnected somehow from the experience. I have found you never “feel” fully immersed in phone VR.
I was expecting only an extension of the phone experience when I put on the Vive. I was wrong. I soon found myself feeling completely immersed in the environment, the illusion only broken by the chaperone system, when I strayed too close to edge of virtual “play space”. This happened to such an extent, that at one stage, I tried to pick a virtual object off a virtual table, and ended up falling through the table. I had forgotten that nothing, that wasn’t me, was not physical and could not actually be touched.
So what does this mean for education?
I think the classroom use has enormous potential. I am struggling putting what this means into words, but will give it a go. VR is a new medium for artists. It is a way to see and experience most anything. It removes the limitation of physical location from the classroom. You can visit anywhere, in any time period (once someone makes the content that is!) You can also view things in a way that it is just not possible to do so in a classroom. Scale is what you decide and perspective is determined by you.
Imagine seeing the whole solar system at once, in scale. Now walk through it, to find earth. Now make earth so big, it fills the room. Step back and realise, that the sun is off behind you, huge, but in scale to your enlarged earth. Your between them.
Sounds a bit like a commercial, but I did that last night. It was my wow moment, when I saw the potential in VR to change the world.