Virtual Reality As An Educational Tool?
For the purpose of transparency, this article was created using a purchased copy of Virry VR. The use of a purchased copy does not affect my opinion.
Until now, apart from my small use of YouTube 360 (you can read my impressions here) my experience with the Playstation VR has been all gaming. But, as someone who likes wildlife/nature programs I was interested to see what Virry VR was when it first appeared on the Playstation Store, it turned out to be the first pay for 360 video application.
Priced at £7.99, I thought this would be worth a purchase, due to my previously mentioned interest in wildlife/nature – but I was surprised at what this small application offered. This really opened up my eyes to the true potential of what this technology could offer on many different mediums. One such way would be a strong use in educational institutions to help offer experiences most people would never get to experience.
What made feel this way is due to Virry VR placing you into the Kenyan Savanna’s, and giving you the chance the see these animals as close as possible, and even closer to any sort of safari could offer. This is done by the real-life filming of a number of animals using the latest video recording technology. Meaning you can observe and feed a number of animals, or even join a Rhino in a mud-bath from distances you could only dream of – with distances from as little as 2cm.
You may wonder how they got that close to these magnificent creatures, and I will tell you how. All the footage was captured at a UNESCO heritage site in Lewa Downs, Northern Kenya – which is home to large number of animals. Meaning it gives you chance to witness elephants, lions, leopards, hyenas, vervet monkeys, zebras and rhinos in ways you have never before.
Not only does this allow you to be close to animals, it is also narrated by female voice; who will tell you information about the animals, as well as ask you multiple choice questions. There is also some interaction with the game via the Dualshock 4, this in very minimal and is only when you are requested to drop food for the animal you have chosen – all you do in these situations is shake the control to drop the food close to the camera. Where this is only minimal and not on every animal you select, this does at least give some interaction with the 360 video format.
As well as the two sections with the animals in (Savanna and Woodlands), you also get the chance the look around a relaxing waterfall scene. In this you can move around and change your view by looking at the paw symbols and pressing X to move. You are not given any information or asked any questions in this mode – for me this is just a break from the animals and to offer a chance to relax. To finish it off they have a Virry Live option where you can watch live HD footage from cameras than have been setup, but this is a subscription service (you get three months free with the app).
Taking the content that is shown, discussed and the questions you are given in Virry’s app, the aim of the developers was clear – education. They are aiming to educate users and possibly the future generation of what these creatures go through, the heartless reasons their hunted by poachers and to increase the conservation efforts to reduce the culling of the animals.
Given all the above that this one application offered, it got me thinking of how virtual reality could be used as an education tool. The possibilities of this are endless, and not just with wildlife . I will name a few opinions on how I imagine this could broaden education; imagine footage from in space, inside volcano’s or even a reenactment of war – I could continue but it shows what it could achieve. Also from my experience with Virry VR I could imagine watching something like BBC’s Plant Earth documentaries in this way, it really would give it the next level – as well as staying educational.
At the moment I think the only restrictions of introducing this into the education system, is the cost of what is on the market – as it will be a hell of a lot more expensive than sitting a class around a TV. Also the recommendation it is used only by ages 12+, for health and safety reasons – meaning it would only be acceptable for the later years in the education system.
But, my eyes have been opened to how the virtual reality hardware could mould the future – and not just in gaming.
Article originally created for http://www.gamesbulletin.uk