virtualreality

Virtual Reality enters the education sphere

BY ALEXANDRA HAYNES

Imagine a whole movie shot in 360° video, placing you in the center of the action. Now imagine the action filling your vision, the camera shifting seamlessly with the movement of your head, recreating natural eyesight. This isn’t a technological pipe dream – this is already happening.

Virtual Reality has been a concept long sought after in the hearts of gamers and sci-fi geeks alike (although those groups often overlap). Now that it has been produced, tech circles have constantly raved of its amazingness – but how amazing could it be in everyday lives?

WHAT YOU’LL BE

The goal of VR is accessibility. Your games will be suddenly accessible to you as a person – you will temporarily BE the character in your favourite series. Accessibility also involves non-recreational use – like the Veteran’s Day parade walk being streamed to disabled soldiers, giving them the sensation of, visual, participation.

WHAT YOU’LL FEEL

If you think these clunky headsets are good-for-nothing until they transport the wearer into a new world, à la Sword Art Online, you should make a stop at your nearest Best Buy and slip on a Samsung VR. The visual immersion is EVERYTHING – with visual realism, the body reacts. You feel like you’re moving simply because you can see yourself doing so.

This stuff works.

SOCIAL STUDIES APPLICATION

These headsets are soon to join everyday life, with schools – Papio South among them! – buying into VR tech to give social studies students hands-on tours of important worldly monuments and sites. For visual and kinetic learners, this is a way to connect to a lesson plan like never before. Jared Wagenknecht, a teacher already on board with this, says that he is “fascinated by VR’s ability to let you walk in someone else’s shoes, both figuratively and literally, to gain a different perspective”. He adds that gaining those perspectives is “why we teach social studies.”

“For the most part, students seem pretty excited about it,” Wagenknecht said. “It’s nice for students to be the ones in the driver’s seat rather than having to watch their teacher manipulate some form of media in front of the classroom.”

WHAT CAN IT DO?

VR brings up several interesting questions for the future, which is guaranteed to never be rid of it. The biggest question may be, “Could it be dangerous?” When the sight and mind spend so much time in a simulation, can the physical effects from your reaction to stimuli – like a raised heart rate from a jump scare – be long lasting? Theoretically speaking, could a person develop something like PTSD from an in-game trauma that became believable to the brain?

There is so much left undiscussed and still to discover about virtual reality technology, but it’d be a lie to say it isn’t an exciting addition to our world.

The line between fiction and actuality just got blurrier.