As far as most consumers are concerned the Oculus Rift is the next step in real-life video gaming experiences. It's affordable, completely immersive and works as one would expect. So aside from gaming, how could this device be used in education?
Whilst enjoying a good meal and cold one at Little Creatures with Ben Kuchera of Penny Arcade on the eve of PAX Australia 2013, we got talking about the Oculus Rift and what the device was like. It was clear that Ben was really enthusiastic and a great supporter of the device (just ask him about Quake on it) as a quality experience that genuinely lives up to the dreams we had of virtual reality back in the mid-90s. Thank The Lawnmower Man for many of these dreams. Our meal was cut short when I asked Ben if he had brought his Rift with him on his travels to Australia for PAX 2013. Like two 12 year old boys where one had a certain kind of magazine hidden in his tree house, we quickly tied up the bill and shot off to his apartment.
After a short setup and download of some demonstration programs, Ben had me setup and ready to experience the Rift in all its 720p glory; I'll get to the new Full HD 1080p version soon.
I found the Rift to be very easy to get used to, despite having to stop a few times from slight nausea that wasn't helped by the meal I'd had 30 minutes beforehand. The fact that I did experience such a somewhat undesirable feeling really emphasises how real this virtual reality experience was. It is so strange being able to move in another world and experience such depth and freedom in what you're playing. The feeling of escapism was very strong. And that brings me to the next part of my post.
As with any new piece of technology there are going to be massive potential benefits and probably some negatives. Whenever I've discussed virtual reality and the future of gaming and online interaction with friends and colleagues, I've expressed concern towards what it will mean for escapist habits and detachment from traditional society. In recent times due to my current role in education, I have been very curious about its use with kids who have disabilities. Rather than rewrite some of my thoughts on this topic, I will instead direct you to an article that Ben Kuchera recently published entitled,
Oculus Rift’s latest opportunity: revolutionizing special needs education with virtual reality
Clearly there is tremendous potential for this device to be used in almost any educational context and I am certain that virtual reality will be that next step in digital experiences, learning, recreational or otherwise. I'm anxiously awaiting the arrival of my Oculus Rift developer kit so that I can begin experimenting with some ideas on its potential in special education.
Before I finish I'd just like to send out a massive thanks to Ben Kuchera at Penny Arcade for introducing me to this wonderful piece of tech and to Nate and all the hardworking crew at Oculus for making many people's dreams come true.
Stay tuned for my follow up piece.