Oculus recently announced the’ll be expanding their educational pilot program by donating Oculus Rift and Oculus Go headsets to a number of educational institutions across Taiwan, Japan, and Seattle.
Dubbed Oculus Education, the new phase of the program is intended to bring VR headsets into schools, libraries, and museums, with what the company says is an overall goal of better understanding how teachers, students, and various institutions can use VR for learning and collaboration.
The company initially kicked off the program last year when it donated 100 Rift headsets to 90 libraries across California.
“Currently, these pilot programs will focus on training teachers and other instructors, as learning the particulars of any technology is a critical step in creating—and scaling—a program of lasting impact and value,” the company says in a blogpost. “The programs will also gather valuable feedback and lessons learned, specifically around the unique needs of individual institutions, that we can share with our product teams to inform our future discussions and plans.”
Nearby the company’s upcoming Seattle-based Oculus hub, Seattle Public Schools will see a special VR creation course and learning program, which is said to feature student and teacher collaboration across Seattle’s Ballard High School and Franklin High School. The course will allow students from both schools to cooperatively create educational VR content for eventual use in the classroom. Oculus is also partnering with Technology Access Foundation (TAF) in Seattle to better understand how to train educators to use VR, “and explore additional applications of VR in the classroom.”
In HTC’s backyard, Oculus is working with the Taiwan Internet and E-Commerce Association (TiEA) to distribute Rift and Go headsets to a number of Taiwan locations including: American Innovation Center, Kaohsiung Main Public Library Museum of Contemporary Art in Taipei, National Central Library, National Taiwan Museum of Fine Arts, National Museum of Natural Science, National Taiwan Museum, New Taipei City Library (Main Library), Social Innovation Lab, Taipei Public Library (Main Library), and Taroko National Park Headquarters.
As for Japan, VR headsets will earmarked for a distance learning program and educational apps for high school students, which the company says will help connect students in remote parts of the country to teachers through VR.
Oculus competitor HTC is also engaging the education sector by donation 100 Vives to libraries across California and Nevada, and creating a number of China-based, multidisciplinary VR educational programs via their startup VIVEDU, which has brought HTC VR products to Chinese classrooms spanning the gamut of K-12, vocational schools and university-level classes.
Google is also supporting VR/AR education with its Expedition Pioneer Program, which is bringing based on Google Cardboard and the company’s smartphone-based AR platform ARKit.
It’s amazing that one day kids will look back fondly on their first VR experience in the same way many remember the school’s computer lab, which was usually first stocked with a fleet of the ’80s era all-in-one Macintosh. While it’s still early days for educational VR apps, and educators simply can’t fill a room with VR headsets and hope for the best, it’s clear we’re in the beginning stages, which is a promising thought for future generations.