News & Events to Inspire STEAM Education

Innovation Lounge: Demoing Virtual Reality at Garden Grove Library

Innovation Lounge: Demoing Virtual Reality at Garden Grove Library

Dec 2, 2014

Recently we organized a virtual reality demonstration at an Orange County Library which resulted in some spectacular reactions. Previously, Qgits has hosted web development, 3D printing workshops at this library as well as giving students a hands on look at remote controlled drones. Now, it was finally time to show them what VR could do as we continued our recurring Innovation Lounge series.

See also: Flying Quadcopters with High School Students at Garden Grove Library

We choose Garden Grove library because we wanted to start introducing the exciting concepts of virtual reality to people who were already immersed within a world of education. This particular location was directly across the street from an Orange County high school meaning that kids were studying there on a daily basis.

Since virtual reality naturally allows for people to depict stories, the idea that VR would be regularly used in libraries in the future was something that we wanted to spark. These people were surrounded by books already, it only made sense to introduce them to something that would give them the ability to jump into a world and explore a story like no other.

The demonstration began with me quickly telling the students what this device was. Some had seen the Oculus Rift in a South Park episode a week beforehand and others had watched funny Youtube videos of people riding virtual rollercoasters, but they never had experienced it firsthand.

I showed them the Oculus Rift DK2 and mentioned to them how the syncing of the attached headtracking camera worked. Then, demos were loaded up on an old Windows 7 HP laptop so that a couple of kids could try it out. While individuals put on the Rift, I hand out a Google Cardboard headset with a brand new Note 4 inside. For the most part, everyone enjoyed the experiences, but we did encounter some issues along the way.

Heavy Duty Computers are Needed to Run This Thing

Every once and a while the laptop computer that was loading the VR experiences would crash leading to multiple restarts. This was so much of a hassle that it was easier just to dish out quick mobile VR demos rather than trying to get the Oculus working on the old computer.

Wires, Wires, and More Wires

One thing that stood out right off the bat was that people had an instinct to move around when testing out virtual reality experiences for the first time. They wanted to swivel on the stationery office chair hoping to turn completely around. Some would lift their hands up and wave them around while others wanted to get up and walk around the room.

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Being that the DK2 had wires running from practically every which way, occasionally users would get tangled up within it. The Google Cardboard however allowed for people to walk around the room if they wanted to. Just a simple lift of the Google Cardboard up would give them the option to quickly peer down to see where their feet stood in the real life environment, followed by a couple of steps moving forward while looking around joyfully into the virtual worlds.

One kid even ran around the room at a fast rate of speed, which is something that I normally don’t see. Trust me. I’ve attended a lot of virtual reality events and see tons reactions, and to see a kid instinctually start moving around shows that virtual reality will have to get rid of the wires eventually. Now I know that saying that the wires have to be removed is going to ruffle some feathers in the VR community, but it must be said. Take the early effects that Samsung’s Gear VR has already had for an example. Mobile is definitely the way to go.

Choosing the Right VR Experience is of Mass Importance

Virtual reality is a special way of telling stories, but the trick to showing people the new medium for the first time has everything to do with making sure they try the right one. For the most part having only one demo for individuals to experience will receive a a wide variety of mixed reactions. It turns out that is much more captivating to have them choose what type of VR content. This gives them options to select what might intrigue them.

If the students at the Library weren’t sure what they wanted, then would I guide them through a couple of possibilities. Of the DK2 experiences we had downloaded, I mostly went with the cyberpunk hacking game known as Darknet because of its beautiful design and its optimization for performance. Being that the laptop running the content was having issues at time, it was critical to show experiences that wouldn’t cut out half way through.

Screenshot of the cyberpunk hacking game Darknet

Screenshot of the cyberpunk hacking game Darknet

Another Oculus Rift application that the kids seemed to enjoy was a space relaxation experience called ‘Solar System.’ This put the people on a platform hovering next to the Earth and Moon where they could see stars and gaze around in wonder at being able to see the world from a new perspective.

Although the Rift DK2 was getting good reactions, the Google Cardboard lit everyone’s faces up more. It was quick to load, easy to pass, and had a decent amount of content (not as much as the Rift, but more apps are being added regularly). Everyone loved the Rollercoaster app, even though it caused a bit of motion sickness. There was also another space relaxation experience that garnered a bit of smiles, and a dinosaurs experience tended to captivate the younger students the most.

Virtual Reality Will Change Education Forever

Being that we were showing VR off inside a library right across from a school, we wanted to focus on the educational aspects of this new medium. We mentioned that in the future teachers will be able to load up virtual reality content for their students. Soon, kids will be able to put on VR headsets and experience their lessons like never before.

Whatever classes future students will take, there is will eventually be a simulation to immerse them so much further. There will even be entire classes taught in Virtual Reality. In Biology, people could fly through the blood system of a person seeing what it looks like inside. In Astronomy, they could transport out to outer worlds exploring the vast amounts of space that the universe has to hold. History lessons will give the kids the ability to travel back in time and see what those moments in time were like. Time travel apps could even be actual 360-video content of recorded events showing exactly what occurred from a unique virtual reality-enabled perspective.

Learning to program will also be taken to a whole new level. Live coding will enable people to change their entire virtual worlds will a few segments of code. Demonstrations like RiftSketch show what coding in the will look like once implemented into classrooms.

But Always Give Them What They Want

As much as we had to offer during this VR demo, the students still wanted more. There was especially an inclination to try horror virtual reality experiences, and kids always love to play games. Jump scares typically give the best reactions anyways. We didn’t really have any horror experiences loaded up and ready to go, but we did direct them to where they could by a DK2 headset or where to go to get their hands on a Google Cardboard starter kit. From there, the kids could download whatever apps they were interested in. The reactions we got at the library were fantastic though, and a couple of photos can be seen below:

A happy high school student smiles while entering the virtual world of Darknet

A happy high school student smiles while entering the virtual world of Darknet

Kids gather around as their mom tried out virtual reality for the first time

Kids gather around as their mom tried out virtual reality for the first time

This kid took off around the room like it was nothing

This kid took off around the room like it was nothing


Innovation Lounge is a recurring series where we bring in local influential players in the growing Southern California maker movement and have them speak to students about what they do best.

Matt Terndrup - I’m a virtual reality, wearables, technology art journalist and STEAM Educator who focuses on emerging trends in the maker, hacker, and inventor cultures. I like to travel around from place to place researching what is being made. TwitterLinkedin 


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