Friday, 12 June 2015

Cardboard Virtual Reality

I've been itching to try virtual reality for ages, but it always seemed like something which would require expensive equipment. My old housemate creates virtual reality games, and had a lab or computer equipment in his room - it all seemed a bit unaccessible and certainly not something that would make its way into the classroom soon - then I found out about Google Cardboard! Google have developed virtual reality apps which can be viewed with simple cardboard devices!

I quickly looked online for iPhone alternatives and found there were some limitations, because iPhones usually require you to interact with them through touching the screen and the Google Cardboard viewers were developed to support phones with a magnetic button on the side. However I found some great apps available on the iPhone which required no buttons to be touched - hurrah. I quickly ordered myself and two colleagues some cardboard viewers. However for my birthday my husband also bought me a DodoCase - Smartphone VR viewer! This works with an iPhone and has a lollypop stick button in the side which simulates a screen touch! Hurrah!

The cases come flat-packed and can be assembled really quickly. They are mostly all cardboard, but have some velcro and two plastic biconvex lenses. You can buy really cheap kits online, or buy the material separately and build your own. Google shows some of the viewers they recommend, along with instructions on how to make your own from scratch and some customised glasses! I would love to get students building their own at some point-as I think this would be an easy, fun and cheap challenge for the students and something they would get a huge amount of joy out of! With a little more time/training/money I'd like to have students develop their own virtual reality apps too!

During the same week that I received this Google also launched their Google Cardboard App on iOs and announced Google Expeditions! Let me talk you a little bit through some of the apps I have played with so far, along with some of my predictions/dreams/wishes for the future!

Google has released this app for iOs now and it is spectacular. This app has several different elements to it:
Explorer - You get to explore a range exciting environments, from museums to natural wonders. I really liked having a peak at a space shuttle! It shows you Mars even! I hope they add more and more incredible places to this. I want to explore the Hadron Collider and explore rainforests!
Exhibit - This section allows you to look at a museum's items in 3D. Although this is the most basic section at the moment, it has a huge amount of potential. There is such a difference to interacting with an object, instead of just looking at it. Although you are obviously not with the object, by looking at in 3D you can imagine it very clearly. There is potential here to put on some very famous and very interesting objects. I loved taking a primary school group to look an ancient Greek pottery at the British Museum - they had to decipher all the clues they could from the objects!
Urban Hike - This section uses Google Streetview to allow you to explore Paris and other locations. Here you can gaze up at the Eiffel Tower or walk past Parisian cafes. After you have explored Paris you can try Tokyo, or even under the sea. I think they will add more and more locations to explore. I can also see them combining the game GeoGuessr - where you are dropped into a random place and have to explore, then guess where you are.
Kaleidoscope - When you open this section the word 'Google' floats in the sky - made of colourful bricks, (very similar to Lego). Once you touch the screen they start floating around the air, (think of Homer Simpson's chips in space) - the more you move, the more wildly they float around - when you stay still they hover in mid air - a beautiful Kaleidoscope, and has potential to act in a therapeutic way or be used in the art class!

This is an excellent way to introduce virtual reality to students, as they will all be super keen to try it out. They will love that it simulates where they are moving, but also that they can look all around them. The best part is when the roller-coaster loops upside down as students will lean right back and almost topple over! 

This labels itself as an immersive 3D virtual reality game  and says to play you must 'move around and climb the futuristic scaffolding and collect as many items as possible - while being in the game.'
I am rubbish with computer games, so when I played this I just kept falling off the side or not being able to navigate properly. Luckily for me, I have 9 and 12 year old brothers who were able to test out this app-and they said it is excellent!

In this game you look up at the sky, lock your target on a duck and the duck falls out of the sky. Basically a hunting game - so not ideal for school. However, the way that it works, by just locking the target on to something and not pressing any buttons, has got my mind spinning and I can imagine a huge range of apps that will use this technology...but in a more animal friendly way. Imagine an app where students are sent on a scavenger hunt - this could be in a museum, in a jungle, under the ocean, in space, in a fantasy world, in the past and more! You could also have lots of numbers or words floating around and students have to locate the correct answer.  It could be a simple game where they have to sort things, numbers or words, by locking their target on to all the words 

This one is best places in large spaces, like a park or the gym hall. My brothers tested this out for me in a restaurant, so it didn't quite work, but we could see the effect. What I like about this app is that it uses the camera, and just adds the 3D dinosaurs on top of reality. You can also try out Jurassic Virtual Reality-an app which has you explore a jungle full of dinosaurs!

Although not virtual reality, these glasses allow you to view many movie trailers in 3D. Personally I really enjoyed this Jurassic Park trailer...

There are some other apps I have tried, but haven't got the hang of yet, including some virtual flying apps like GyroTroller and AirRacer VR - I think I am just a bit rubbish at games, as I seem to move too much in this games and miss the targets completely! However, I can see students really liking this virtual reality experiences - allowing students to do things they haven't done before, like flying a plane!

Google have just announced Google Expeditions. Bringing together their virtual school trips, done through Google Hangouts, and Google Cardboard, they have created some virtual reality school trips! As this has just been announced, I have been unable to try it yet, but have signed up to do so soon! They have partnered with some great groups including the Frontiers of Flight Museum, as well as the Smithsonian Museums!
Check out their video:

Helping students explore the world from their classrooms! Perfect for our global/internationally-minded students! Explore Verona, where Romeo and Juliet lived, or travel under the sea!
"It allows us to go somewhere we wouldn't normally go!"


  • They will start to develop more Virtual Reality for tablets - like the iPad...but will obviously have to work on something a little more sturdy to hold the device in place!
  • There will be a huge rush of apps to come out over the next year!
  • There will be more apps which will involve movement - a cross between The Height and many of the Wi games. This will be a way of encouraging exercise and getting people more active. I can imagine everything from skiing down beautiful mountains, to jumping over hurdles in a huge Olympic stadium!
  • More and more movie trailers and full movies will be viewable in 3D using these glasses.
  • There will be loads more apps that make use of the phone's camera. 
  • There will be location specific apps - ones where objects and people from the past overlay the image you see through the camera - you could even visit places and have a virtual reality presenter guiding your through the location, (an actor dressed as a historical person taking you through an old house, or a actor dressed as an artist showing their work at an exhibition!
  • The Google Cardboard app will split into several different apps as they add more content to each component.
  • There will be more apps/tools to create your own VirtualReality apps in. Including easy ones even for young students!
  • There will be virtual field trips created with UNESCO
  • There will be virtual reality stories - or maybe even just apps that allow you to explore places from books (Hello Hogwarts!!!)
  • Museums and archives will not only be digitising their collections...but making 3D versions available!
  • There will virtual reality training apps both for adults and also for children to explore different jobs! - imagine apps for Firefighters so they can see what it is like inside of a burning building, or a virtual reality app for people to see what it would be like for astronauts to repair the outside of a ship.
  • Several students...and teachers...will injure themselves by walking into things!
  • Big things will happen
Here's a video to give you a little more details of what my viewer looks like...and it also shows you just how easy it is to use!