EdTech Mindset - Oculus Rift brings a new technological promise: living a fantasy

EdTech Mindset – Oculus Rift brings a new technological promise: living a fantasy

EdTech Mindset - Oculus Rift brings a new technological promise: living a fantasy

Palmer Luckey, the creator of Oculus Rift (a VR wearable), amazed his audience by offering the possibility to experience our most fantastic dreams. After a demonstration of its prototype in a games conference, his company raised 2.5 million US dollars (he expected 250,000) on crowdfunding (Kickstarter). Two years later, on March 25, 2014, Mark Zuckerberg, after buying it for 2 billion US dollars, posted on FB: “I’m excited to announce that we’ve agreed to acquire Oculus VR, the leader in virtual reality technology… Oculus’s mission is to enable you to experience the impossible. Their technology opens up the possibility of completely new kinds of experiences… One day, we believe this kind of immersive, augmented reality will become a part of daily life for billions of people… Virtual reality was once the dream of science fiction. But the internet was also once a dream, and so were computers and smartphones. The future is coming and we have a chance to build it together. I can’t wait to start working with the whole team at Oculus to bring this future to the world, and to unlock new worlds for all of us.”

VR-related technologies (in particular Oculus Rift) have dominated the technology innovation forums in 2014. The possibility of providing to the user the experience of “entering” and interacting with a virtual world opens new markets to many different industries/fields, including real estate, psychological treatment, medical training, education, gaming, Nasa research and training, car design, exploring new human understanding and experiences, and many more.

These technologies allow for a personal journey through mimicking the world as we know it (e.g. entering a human body, walking on the moon), as well as a personal journey through imaginary worlds (e.g. entering a digital game, having an elephant trunk). The added value of Oculus VR, compared to previous VR technologies, is what is being called “the sense of presence” and “immersive experience” it provides. The technology prompts the user to get immersed in the given virtual context and feel he/she is present in this virtual context.

VR wearables: Ready for the consumer?

The power of wearables comes from providing a more “natural” interaction with digital devices. All the latest VR wearables have only recently begun to be offered to the general public and most of them only to developers. The reasons are many. The devices themselves are far from fitting naturally to our bodies and they provide a “weird” image to the users. Many users complain of “nausea” produced by the brain struggle to differentiate between what the user is seeing and feeling (the user can be sitting on a chair at home and feel as if he is on a rollercoaster).

Oculus is still PC-based. To allow for a mobile VR experience, Oculus has joined forces with Samsung and, in December, released to the general market a wireless VR headset that rather than having its own screen uses smartphones directly. This is not the first VR headset using smartphones – Google cardboard project is a “cheap” and quite interesting option. There are other strong products still in development such as Durovis Dive.

There is no doubt the industry is strongly betting on VR wearables and showing a rapid growth on “promising” products to the general public. 2015 will be the stage to test such promises!

VR wearable added value to Education:

There are many concepts that are challenging to educators, who struggle to help students understand them. Imagine if a student could play with a ball on the moon, and experiment with different physical laws. Wouldn’t that enable a more intuitive learning approach? Virtual reality can mimic reality and allow for experiences that manipulate the environment, in order to help understand abstract or complex concepts.

What about education’s effort to enhance human values and promote a more harmonious co-existence among all living beings? Virtual reality can allow the user to experience through the other’s perspective, and enable understanding of diversity. The student can realistically feel like the other and have a chance to empathize with that other, whoever it may be, whether an animal or a different person.

VR-related technologies can enable educators to provide a learning environment where students can use their intuition to explore their ecosystem. By interacting with the environment, the student can naturally inquiry towards reaching a personal insight, a real understanding.

 (Read the full EdTech Mindset magazine here)