My Ideal Platform for VR Development — A Thought Experiment

Persona: Angela, 16 — SLC High School Student

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School’s okay, I guess. I ace my classes but it’s just not engaging. I’m kinda techy & feel like I could learn at a much faster pace than what’s happening in high school.”

Angelique is an above-average high school student in a wealthy neighborhood of Salt Lake City, Utah. She’s been in Gifted & Talented for years, knows she’s ready to move past high school but not sure college prep is what she’s looking for. She’s heard a lot of lip service about learning Twenty-first Century skills (as well as problem solving & critical thinking) but hasn’t seen the products of it. She’d like to learn some coding, and possibly even more about VR — which she’s recently been introduced to at an after-school library presentation — & creating her own VR content & virtual worlds. Most of all, she needs to feel engaged in learning, which she doesn’t feel a traditional high school is doing for her.

VR Experience: She’s played around with Cardboard but feels like it’s not interactive enough. She created virtual graffiti with Tilt Brush in the HTC Vive (& really wants to get one) at a trade show & is very eager to learn more.

Questions

  • How accessible would each VR platform be to your target student in terms of price? Take into account location, age, and income. She’s had the newest iPhone, like her dad, since she started getting phones. The Daydream VR platform seems like a good match, as it is much cheaper yet quite interactive when compared with the Vive. Many homes in her neighborhood (dubbed Silicon Slopes) have a Vive & she just needs to give her dad a good excuse.
  • How interactive does your lesson need to be? For example, do I need to pick things up or could I get away with just looking at objects? The lesson needs presence & immersion. 3DoF with a controller might be okay, but this is going in the direction which sees a future of 6DoF VR labs in schools — like the Apple II labs of the ’80s. This lesson will need the freedom to move things around in virtual space.
  • How realistic do your visuals need to be in order to teach? For example, could I use 2D images and videos in a 3D Environment or do you need high poly 3D models. Images don’t necessarily need to be photo-realistic or bridging the uncanny valley. However, they should be virtually realistic. Many students like Angelique have come into contact with Cardboard apps & are definitely nonplussed by looking at panoramas that they can’t interact with.
  • Does my student need to feel like a participant in the experience or can they be a passive viewer? Could they be both? I have received feedback from a couple hundred students, at this point, in the development of my tech startup. The consensus is that it must be interactive. They must be participants. The Digital Natives have higher standards for what “technology” really is. And, I don’t believe that, from their point-of-view, passive viewing of an “educational” experience — whether on overhead projectors, iPads or even with HMDs — is true technology integration. These students might be satisfied with short spurts of passiveness — while some learning objective is being virtually modeled, for instance — but, on the whole, learners should be engaged in a situated learning process. Down with the lecture, virtual or otherwise!
  • Given the answers above, what are potential platforms you could use for your experience? Samsung Gear VR is at the left, low end, followed by Daydream in the middle-right & HTC Vive at the optimal right hand side.
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