Virtual Reality is a popular technology that is used on cell phones, video games and other entertainment. But have we really thought about what is going on within this computer hardware that is manipulating your brain? Virtual reality is defined as “the use of computer technology to create a simulated environment” with the senses of sight, hearing, and touch . This technology is extremely popular for gaming, but it can also be used as a very powerful learning tool. Imagine being able to really show your students the massive stature and detail of the great pyramids as if they are really in Egypt. Or even a combination of the two most popular uses, with an educational VR video game. Real estate companies are even getting in on the action with virtual house showings .
History of VR
The concept of virtual reality reaches back as early as 1838. Sir Charles Wheatstone was the first to use a tool called stereopsis, which basically alters our perception of depth and 3-dimensional structures that is created by our eyes having binocular vision . This concept displayed that showing each eye the same image but at different points of view allows the image to appear 3-dimensional to the viewer. This exact method occurs within any modern-day virtual reality headset, just at a much more advanced and detailed scale.
The most common virtual reality devices used today are big brands such as the Oculus Rift, HTC VIVE, PlayStation VR and more. These devices typically range from about $500-1000 CAD depending on the brand and specifications. These devices are incredible, however not everybody can afford those prices along with the gaming computers and consoles that are required for using them. There are also a few submarkets of these devices that are cheaper and easier to access than some of the more popular devices.
A unique device is the Oculus Go. The Oculus Go is a stand-alone device that does not need to be powered by a gaming pc or gaming console. This device is the first stand-alone VR device that runs entirely on its own and doesn’t require connectivity to a phone. Users can also download games and educational apps on the app store. The price starts around $200 which is already less than half of most VR devices. Unlike other VR devices, there aren’t any additional costs. It’s perfect for getting the VR experience at a low cost while still managing to use most of the apps and games that VR headsets typically run.
I would also like to mention the use of VR enclosures for smartphones. These headsets range from $10-100 CAD and all you need is a smart phone. This is truly an amazing and innovative solution because most smart phones already have all the features that a VR headset requires. Your smart phone already has all the computer power, battery, high resolution screen, and gyroscope for head movement. Once you find a smartphone VR headset in your price range, it’s as simple as downloading some VR apps and sliding your phone into the headset.
How VR can be used for learning?
VR devices can be a helpful tool for educational purposes. There is a very long list of educational apps for VR devices but there are two that I specifically want to mention.
The learning opportunities for Google Earth for VR are limitless. It is the closest you’ll get to seeing historical buildings with your own eyes. Check out the streets of Stockholm Sweden, take yourself back to the past and view things how they were decades ago (via historical imagery on google earth desktop), zoom over the grand canyon. You can go anywhere and see locations from a birds eye view inside your headset or be right there in the street and be able to look around with your actual field of view.
The other app I wanted to discuss is Number Hunt. This app is a VR educational game where users shoot numbers with the respective mathematical operator weapon. I think apps/games like these are perfect for immersing users into new and cool technology but still learning along the way. The type of games that combine learning and gaming are great solutions for children struggling to focus on homework. What kid wouldn’t want to practice their times tables while playing a virtual reality first person shooter game?
Virtual reality is only getting better and is an extremely powerful technology that should not be ignored. The learning possibilities and experiences are truly endless. This year has been a difficult one for learning due to Covid-19 and millions of students across the world are learning from home. Virtual reality can assist students with their learning because most of these students have access to a smartphone, which can grant us a convincing virtual experience when we aren’t able to leave our homes.
 Bardi, J. (2019, July 03). What is Virtual Reality? VR Definition and Examples. Retrieved July 06, 2020, from https://www.marxentlabs.com/what-is-virtual-reality/
 Barnard, D. (2019, August 06). History of VR - Timeline of Events and Tech Development. Retrieved July 06, 2020, from https://virtualspeech.com/blog/history-of-vr
 Five Innovative Ways You Can Use Virtual Reality in the Real Estate Business. (n.d.). Retrieved July 08, 2020, from https://rubygarage.org/blog/virtual-reality-in-real-estate