Traditionally, the learning and teaching environment has been constrained by physical space and time. This no longer rings true. With educator tools like Virtual Reality entering the classroom, education continues to undergo a pedagogical shift where the focus is turned towards bringing students to the center of learning. Newer resources such as the VR sharpen that focus.
When it comes to virtual reality in education, the biggest factor is always about the content which is to be used in the classroom. However, another important issue revolves around the hardware used, and which VR device makes the most sense: All-In-One (AIO) or viewer + phone. We will make a quick examination of both devices and see which one may be best suited for providing an immersive learning within classrooms.
The Viewer Option
Most are now familiar with the Google Cardboard, and any viewer option is essentially a device worn on your head which contains two focal lenses, allowing each eye to focus on a separate screen. The result is a stereoscopic image, which produces a 3D effect.
The thought by many is that a viewer provides a cheaper option when it comes to VR. Such devices can be found for as low as $10 US and up, which appears to be quite a steal. However, these devices require a (typically) Android phone, which can be many hundreds of dollars. Putting both together will incur higher costs for a school.
Some may say, “But every kid has a phone, we’ll use those.” This simply is not the case, and if it were, as parents and teachers we know that those phones are undoubtedly filled with much more important things such as Instagram images and a music library which would be the envy of industry professionals, as recent as two decades ago.
VR content is “heavy” (MBs) and requires space on the phone and high processing power. Setting this up in schools can be time consuming, requiring such mundane tasks as loading the content in the smartphone, adjusting it once inside, and sufficiently deleting once the learning module is used. Phones can (and will) fall out of devices, especially during setup and cleanup. This has to be considered.
In some cases, this can be a reasonable option. If your school has already purchased phones for other uses, it is a good way to re-purpose those resources. Viewers are not expensive, and this is a good way to try out VR, and get a taste, or to add more device options should you also get AIO devices. But if you wish to invest in VR for the longer run, it would appear that an AIO VR headset is the better option.
Fully-Integrated All-In-One (AIO) VR Headset
AIO devices are now being offered in the $200-250 US range. This may appear quite a bit more than the $10 option, but the more expensive choice may actually be the cost saver. AIOs are self-contained and do not require separate phones, which may fall and break, or inadvertently leave school premises in a school bag.
The benefits of an AIO are many. Because these devices are dedicated for VR usage, good, vetted content can be contained on the device and remain there. Any proper setup would allow for both online and offline usage, as this is the reality of schools in every country, which do see interruptions in connectivity, and uneven bandwidth reliability.
A self-contained headset can be an easy plug and play solution. It is a perfect platform where technology and content can come together to provide an unprecedented learning experience. With an integrated headset and controller, students can follow their own path of learning by navigating and interacting with an extensive repository of immersive modules, such as can be found in Veative VR’s massive library of STEM experiences.
But it is not just the storage space within the VR which is of interest, but that this device has the processing power to perform its duties every day, all day. It is a dedicated device which has required elements such as proper jacks, speakers set at the right position, a mic for eventually speech recognition, and so on. These are more easily managed devices as well.
For EdTech companies, it is important to understand the requirement of the schools in order to provide the best learning experiences for students the world over. If a school permits phone usage, then a viewer + phone combination might make sense in certain scenarios. However, we can see that an All-In-One VR can be the best solution, and the most economical.