The virtues of virtual reality
With the COVID-19 virus, our lives have seemingly moved to a virtual reality, plugged into computers, limited to the traveling space of our own backyards. What if we could travel though?
What if, with the aid of technology, we could travel the world while staying home? What if we could go further?
How you may ask? Through virtual reality. Virtual reality or VR is a fake 3D environment individuals can enter and interact with through the use of a headset and a controller.
Gary Lambert, the media production educator at Champlain Valley Union High School, believes there’s a lot of educational potential with VR, and for the last couple of years, he has been experimenting with new ways to bring the technology to students.
“I think there are applications for (VR) in lots of different classes,” he said. “There are lots of different ways VR could potentially be used to put students in an environment, either a custom-built environment or even on virtual trips. With VR you can take virtual trips to real locations and experience what that place looks like without having to actually go there.”
Through VR, students can travel to places that previously seemed out of reach due. For example, students of history classes could visit famous historical sites and museums all around the world while remaining in their classrooms.
Jason Fearon, a visual arts educator at CVU, is pretty keen on the idea as well.
“If I could take my art students on a virtual tour of galleries, I think that would be very engaging. Instead of having to take them there, which would be really expensive, we could sit in the classroom with the headset on, and I could give them a virtual tour where they look at the pieces while I talk about each one.”
Fearon goes on to elaborate on how VR could impact specific students.
“For students who will never go to Italy, because they can’t afford the trip, it could be a great way for them to at least experience the awe of standing in the Sistine Chapel,” he said.
Lambert explains how one CVU teacher has already tested out virtual trips with one of her classes, using Google cardboard, which combines a person’s phone and cardboard, to provide the VR experience for a fraction of the price. The class went on a virtual tour of the historic Jamestown Colony in Virginia.
The uses for VR aren’t just limited to virtual tours.
“VR could be used in science classes,” Lambert said. “For example, If you wanted to look at a molecule, you can actually see a molecule in 360 degrees and see what DNA looks like. There are astronomy applications, too. For example, there are programs that let you walk on the moon and look at stars.”
A popular game for CVU students with VR headsets appears to be Saber Blast. Aiden Pricer-Coan, a student at CVU and an avid VR user, speaks highly of the game, stating Saber Blast is one of his favorite VR games. Pricer-Coan says the game can be difficult, explaining at times he starts sweating due to the demanding actions the game requires.
Lambert, who is also a fan of Saber Blast, admits that while playing Saber Blast he also starts sweating.
Currently, CVU only has one VR headset. However, Lambert is hoping to expand on the number of sets, explaining that the technology has been around for quite some time, but only recently has the price come down.
“Before you had to be hooked up to an outrageously expensive computer system in order to run a VR environment, However, now the technology is much cheaper and you no longer need to be hooked up to a computer,” explains Lambert.
Lambert encourages students to experience VR for themselves.