Trekking Through the World of Virtual Reality

For the past few months, I have immersed myself in a world of nonstop virtual reality and all the wonderful software available. Because this first semester was merely for me to familiarize myself with virtual reality, there isn’t much quantitative data that can be provided at the moment. All experimentation will be conducted in the Spring of 2018. While there aren’t numbers that can be mentioned, there certainly are innovative VR applications that can be. My research this semester primarily focuses on educational apps for students with disabilities. With this guideline in mind, I was able to work around the limited number of educational apps that were offered on a limited number of platforms.

Since I am only interested in the HTC Vive and the Oculus Rift, finding apps are much more difficult when limiting myself to these two VR headsets. My search started from the Oculus app store onto Viveport and even to the online gaming platform many know and love, Steam. After searching through hundreds of apps, I’ve listed a few that I thought would not only be interesting to use in a classroom setting, but also for anyone to experience, because after all VR is known for the immersive experience.

1. YOU by Sharecare:

YOU by Sharecare is a real-time simulation of the human body. It allows anyone to navigate and explore an anatomically accurate 3D model of the human body, its organs and, and their functions. You are able to visualize how your body works, customize physiology, and simulate diseases.

2. theBlu:

theBlu by Wevr is an immersive experience that allows audiences to explore and bask in the wonders of the ocean through different habitats and are able to encounter beautiful underwater species on the planet. The experience includes three episodes: Whale Encounter: An undersea encounter with the largest species on earth, Reef Migration: Witness the magnificence of an undersea migration on the edge of a coral reef, and Luminous Abyss: Venture into the deepest region of the ocean to discover the iridescent abyss.

3. Lifeliqe VR Museum:

Lifeliqe VR Museum by Lifelique Inc. is an interactive experience that allows teachers and students to learn K-12 science in an exciting and immersive way. There are 10 categories of 3D models that cover Life Science, Earth and Space Science, Physical Science or Math. Lifeliqe’s immersive learning experience empowers teachers and can help students visualize scientific concepts and environments that typically are not accessible.

These three apps genuinely piqued my interest while conducting research specifically because when I had spoken to educators who worked with students with disabilities, they had mentioned that students typically had a difficult time grasping concepts. With these apps and their immersive experiences for students and educators alike, they are a great way to help students visualize and put words into pictures to help them better understand difficult or confusing concepts. What I noticed and found rather interesting was that a majority of the educational VR apps out there were particularly focused on the sciences. When trying to look for mathematics or history, the number of those apps were slim to none. At some point I questioned why there were so few educational apps as well, but then remembered that perhaps it was the fact that virtual reality is still a rather new technology just like artificial intelligence that is going through a developmental phase. At the end of the day, I’ve learned just how difficult it really is for educators to be able to find VR software that really is educational and beneficial for their students. I’m looking forward the continuing on my virtual journey and hope to see more progress in my research as time goes on.

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