Virtual Reality Test Kitchen: Reflections

Two weeks ago, The Digital Learning Commons hosted the Fund for Innovation festival where we had the opportunity to showcase virtual reality tools and invite members of the MIIS community to do a few test runs. 

Virtual Reality Tool #1: Google Cardboard 

What’s a google cardboard? Think of the image viewers back when you were a kid. Remember those? 

Image result for picture viewer old school

You place a disc with photos and click away until you cycle back to the first photo.

What makes the cardboard viewer different?

Image result for google cardboard camera

The card boards provide a 360 virtual experience for you. This breaks the 2D mold from back in the day. I found google cardboard viewers great , but rather limiting. It’s difficult to navigate with only a cardboard tab to go back and forth between images. Most of the time I had to take my phone out to hit the ‘back’ button to get to the main page. 






So what?

Accessible 360 panoramas for everyone to view from all over the world. I got to ‘visit’ Venice, downtown Tokyo just from the seat of my chair. One prospective student visited the DLC and wanted to know of any sites to visit in Monterey. He had an hour to kill. I recommended Asilomar beach a few miles down the road. “What’s it like?” I realized I could show him through google 360 viewer. Luckily, someone did post a 360 photo of Asilomar beach. We were taken to the shores of Asilomar beach within seconds. I’m usually terrible at describing scenes and I would have to resort to google images, but this is such a difference. Within seconds, he was dashing out to his car to Asilomar beach. 










ThingLink 360 

Thing Link 360 provides a more immersive experience with images. Using a Theta 360 camera, the 2D experience one frame experience is shattered. The 360 image allows user a new layer of accessibility. What do I mean by that? It provides an immersive experience that a 2D photo cannot provide. We created a sample Tour of the MIIS Campus and we didn’t just stop at providing a 360 image of the Samson Center or the Morse building, but embedded content for people to experience. 

When you check out the garden, there are bubbles that appear which you can click on and check out. Many are soundbites from students, some are videos of the MIIS experience and others provide more in depth information about the location.

Now what? 

When I launched this prototype project, I crowd sourced the interview opportunity on the MIIS facebook group asking for students to share their insight about MIIS. I asked what areas of campus they wanted to know about to what area do they love the most. The stories they shared are available in the 360 tour. This prototype project shattered my perspective on how immersive ‘reality’ experiences can work. In the past, I was never a fan of a photo tour of a place. I wanted to see the place for myself, on my own pace and on my own terms. Utilizing a 360 photo experience enables a sense of freedom or ‘accessibility’ we have no witnessed with other technology. Sure a video or a photo can show me what a place looks like, but a 360 photo gives me more of an in depth experience, leaving a bigger impression on me and making remain curious, hungry for more. 

HTC VIVE Virtual reality headset 









Watching students and community members getting their ‘feet’ wet with VR was exciting. It was as if they were venturing into uncharted territory. The excitement and curiosity was clearly visible. Cries of excitement and laughter erupted as they navigated through a virtual campus or started to paint a 360 image in a black canvas. 

Concluding Thoughts

Virtual Reality expands opportunities. There is no bias, there are not a lot of rules. It’s all a learning process for everyone and I think that’s the beauty of VR. It is a blank canvas for people to explore new realms and express ideas. 

I see great opportunities with virtual reality especially with digital learning. VR can further expand students understanding of the world. Take google earth for instance, we now can ‘fly’ to a different part of the world and have a birds eye view of the area. Google 360 can take us on sight and make us feel like we are experiencing walking down the Santa Monica boardwalk or your old neighborhood (*Note: Someone needs to have taken a picture prior) 

I joked with my parents that I flew over their hometown in China, a city in Gansu province and saw the local park we use to frequent with my Grandparents. They did a double take. How was that possible? Can I fly a plane now? Am I a pilot? Nope. Merely a VR user that plugged into Google earth. They were floored. The impossible, now possible? Seeing other places through your own perspective felt like the sci-fi world. Well, science fiction is no longer fiction. It’s real. Ideas that once seemed impossible are now possible. I look forward to seeing where VR can take us.