Google is using the power of its virtual reality (VR) platform to allow students at schools around the world to take trips to places that they might never have the opportunity to visit. The New York Times (deep link) reported that the Google Expeditions project will be bringing the program to schools at no cost to advance the project’s adoption. Each Google Expedition kit includes Google Cardboard VR headsets and ASUS phones for the students and a special application for teachers that controls the virtual reality trips.
Google will be sending Expeditions teams to launch the program by bringing kits to schools in the United States, Australia, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and Brazil. The teams will show teachers how Expeditions works and set it up, providing everything the classes need to take their virtual reality trips.
Google claims that nearly 100 virtual trips have been developed so far, including locations like the Great Wall of China, Independence Hall and El Capitan in Yosemite National Park.
Imagine being a student studying Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet and your teacher is able to transport you to Verona, Italy, the setting for the play. While there you are able to examine up close a location like a centuries-old building known as “Juliet’s House” which is home to the supposed inspiration for the Capulet family. Such a field trip would be cost prohibitive for most classes and a logistics nightmare, but virtual reality can get students close.
Of course, educators can utilize other existing virtual reality resources with the tools that the Expeditions programs provide. For example, StreetView (another Google project) now includes a virtual reality mode designed to work with Google Cardboard — this feature was part of an earlier article, Virtual Reality Takes You Everywhere.
The possibilities are only limited by the places that the user might want to visit — imagine the potential of sending students to visit distant places without leaving their classroom or offering tourists the possibility of sampling potential destinations while perusing a travel site.
Google is also working with a 16-camera system built by GoPro to produce customized virtual reality content for academic use. User-generated content for academic use might be a very interesting method of having students from varied locations interact with each other, a new type of “pen pal” for new technology.
If you are interested in more information about the Google Expeditions program, including dates when the teams will be in various cities and instructions on how to apply for the program, visit the Expeditions website here.