More thoughts on VR: Free VR apps

This morning I continued my experimentation with the HP WMR headset I am currently playing with, trying the below apps:

  • Home: A VR Spacewalk
  • Sharecare VR
  • Geogebra Mixed Reality
  • VR Museum of Fine Art
  • Google Earth VR

I picked the above due to being free and also being listed by Steve Bambury on his list of Educational VR Apps.

20190908_101117_MixedRealityThe first app I tried is one I had tried in an initial demo I received on using VR so is an app I was at least passingly familiar with.   Basically, you are put in the position of an astronaut on the International Space Station.   The app is reasonably intuitive once you get going, with instructions offered to you at each stage.    I must admit to feeling a little disoriented at times but on reflection this isn’t surprising as, being an astronaut, you would be working in zero gravity resulting in no clear sensation as to which way is down.   Overall a fun little app which may have a place in science or possible design technology lessons or even to help provide context for space-based stories written within English lessons.

20190908_101515_MixedRealityMy next app on the headset was Sharecare VR.   This app lets you pull apart the human body and look at its constituent parts including the skeletal and circulator system.   I didn’t find this app instantly intuitive however it is relatively simple meaning with a little effort I got to grasp with what you can do.   I can see clear uses in Biology lessons looking at how the human body is constructed and getting a better understanding of the various parts.   It may also be useful in Sports Science or Physical education courses.   My feeling is this app might be useful either as a starting point before teaching specific areas of the human body or might be useful to provide the context to ensure students see how individual components of the human body relate.

The possibility of using Geogebra in VR sounded interesting to me as I am familiar with the desktop based version so I was eager to use this app. Must admit to being a little disappointed by it however not being a Maths teacher, this may be simply because I don’t quite understand how the app might be used in lessons.   The app comes with a number of geometric shapes and patterns in 3D which you can scale and move around.  The controls are rather simple however I felt they were maybe a little too simple resulting in limiting what you can do.    Overall this isn’t an app I really think I can pass any judgement on; Will leave that to the Maths teachers.

The Museum of Fine Art as a VR experience sounded interesting, being able to explore a Museum but in VR.   My first issue was that the space I was experimenting in was a little small to get the best out of this app.   I suspect it would be so much better using the backpack mounted and therefore wire free Z-Series workstation however on this occasion I was wired to the PC in its desk-mounted setup.   A bigger space also may have made things better.   The app easily lets you explore the virtual version of the museum and walk, or teleport, around various exhibits.   Each exhibit comes with a description providing information on the exhibit.     I found this app quite interesting albeit I am not sure why, after using it and exploring once, you would want to then revisit.   It may however allow art students easy access to revisit masterpieces as and when they need without the difficulty and cost of travelling to a real rather than virtual museum.

20190828_083817_MixedRealityMy final app for the weekend was Google Earth VR and I must admit I really enjoyed this one.    I found myself visiting schools which I had worked with previously in the UAE, visiting my family home, doing a flyover of my current school and also visiting a couple of famous locations.   The provided tutorial easily prepares you to be able to get the best out of the simple control system so almost immediately you can begin flying around earth.    I found myself stepping back when jumping into a location on the edge of the Grand Canyon so you do have to be careful.    The limitation I did find is that some locations don’t have detailed street view maps available so you can only fly over rather than step into the location.   This was the case for some locations in Al Ain in the UAE which I was hoping to explore, having previously lived there, however exploring the UK seemed to work in most locations.   The free ability to fly around the UK and visit different locations is likely to have potential applications in a variety of lessons including providing context in English lessons, exploring different structures and architecture in Art or in Design Technology lessons or visiting different parts of the world for geography lessons.   I am sure the free form ability of the app will present applications way beyond the above suggestions.

It is clear that there are a number of very useful and interesting free apps available for a WMR headset like the HP unit I am using.   I suspect and hope this will increase over time.   The apps I looked at provide a useful starting platform once you have a headset and suitable PC or Laptop.    My next plan is to explore a couple of paid apps where I think I will focus on free form apps most likely mainly focussed on the STEM or STEAM subjects.    Am looking forward to seeing what additional applications to education might be possible.

 

 

 

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Author: garyhenderson2014

Gary Henderson is currently the Director of IT in an Independent school in the UK. Prior to this he worked as the Head of Learning Technologies working with public and private schools across the Middle East. This includes leading the planning and development of IT within a number of new schools opening in the UAE. As a trained teacher with over 15 years working in education his experience includes UK state secondary schools, further education and higher education, as well as experience of various international schools teaching various curricula. This has led him to present at a number of educational conferences in the UK and Middle East.

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