I’m pretty excited about the Oculus Rift. Incase you’ve missed it, the Oculus Rift is a Virtual Reality headset that was initially a kickstarter project that while successful on kickstarter has since found even more big money backers. Playing on it goes something like this:
We’ve seen VR headsets before, several were released in the mid 90s such as the Virtual I/O iGlasses and Virtual Boy (does that count?) but they never really took off for various reasons; Of course most blame Craig Charles in Cyber Zone (don’t bother looking it up). This time however, I believe it’s different and that it will have uptake. As any successful technology is bound too have an effect on education I wonder what that effect is, I think an even effect bigger than the surge of top notch surgeons we’ll undoubtedly see after the release of simulator surgeon 2013 .
I think its success will be based on a number of things:
- The Cost
At £200 for the development kit the Oculus Rift, while not cheap is still less than the price of an iPad.
- The Backers
John Carmack is it’s Chief Technology Officer, Gabe Newell gives it the nod (with various Valve games already supporting it), Cliffy B is an investor. For those not really interested in gaming, imagine that Scorsese, Lynch and the Coens had all just invested their own time and money in Coronation Street the Movie. You wouldn’t have thought it could be an interesting project; but check out the talent!
- The Development Tools
This is the most important to me. The development tools are accessible. The source SDK, Unreal Engine and Unity all support the Oculus Rift! Even more exciting is the prospect of using it with technologies such as WebGL.
But suppose it does take off? What does it mean for education? There has been some chatter on the web about serious games and, of course, educations best friend; second life. These posts explore the learning experience of simply emulating being in a situation, but I think there are much more available to us than that. For example, Mark Johnson blogged about the immersive experience of the Oculus Rift and how it might engage learners by limiting the learner’s environment and being able to get closer to the emotional aspects of learning. If they get bored you can’t just pick up your phone to tweet ‘bored’. You have to tell the experience somehow, look away perhaps. Now how does a VR MOOC respond to that?
I think Marks post is exciting, but education isn’t just about consuming stuff? For a device that doesn’t even have a consumer version the development tools for the Rift are astonishingly accessible and I wonder what else is down the road. Being easily able to create and share immersive experiences sounds pretty good to me. While I don’t think we’ll see classes of students all wearing headsets, the Rift seems fun and I don’t mean fun in the same way we tried to convince kids the Raspberry Pi was fun; actually fun enough to drive them to do something with it.
Edit: since posting this I’ve been playing with getting my Rift working with WebGL trying to get my web browser ‘Rift Enabled’. I’ve not got very far yet but I think getting HTML 5 3D is pretty cool. I’ve been using websockets to send the tracking information. Since I’ve only been giving the tires a kick I’ve been posting updates about my playtime on my experimental blog, the first of which can be found here.
Surgery Simulator 2013, combine this with the Oculus Rift for instant Surgeons: