Originally published in 2015: Technology leaders like Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg are convinced that virtual reality is going to be the most common way people access the internet in the near future. So much so that Facebook recently acquired one of the forerunners in the VR space, Oculus Rift, and numerous competitors are about to be unleashed on to the consumer market in the coming months from companies as large as Sony, Samsung, and Microsoft.
So, given that virtual reality is going to be a huge part of our lives in the coming years, how do you bring that sort of technology to the classroom in a cost effective way? The cheapest Oculus Rift costs around $350 and is not recommended for the general consumer market. Well, you might be surprised to know that you can bring true VR to your students for less than $10, and it works really well. Introducing, Google Cardboard.
Google Cardboard is one of my favourite technology developments of the last year. It takes the millions of dollars of development funds, Kickstarter campaigns, and angel investments, that other companies have aquired and says “forget that” we can do the same with the contents of the average household recycling bin and a smartphone.
Google Cardboard is a fully functioning VR headset made from cardboard — just add your mobile phone, and a couple of plastic lenses. Cardboard uses your smartphone’s expensive technical gubbins — the screen, the gyroscope, the internet connection — and using cardboard as a frame creates a virtual reality headset almost as good as anything else currently on the market.
And if you’re really looking to challenge your students you can even have them create their own Google Cardboard from scratch using the free template provided by Google. This is open source hardware.
Google has encouraged third-parties to develop their own versions of Google Cardboard so you pick one up from many different suppliers, but probably the easiest is Amazon where you can grab one for less than $10.
It’s not perfect, but I’ve been amazed at how well Google Cardboard works considering how it’s made. This is still a concept in development but there are already a plethora of apps available on the Google Play Store which let you wander around an art gallery, fly over 3D cities in Google Earth, or wander around a Spanish Villa.
Google Cardboard creates a buzz with students while they’re learning coding, production and design, and the science behind how a technology like this works. Give it a go, for $10 it’s worth a try.