Hey folks, been ill the last few days but I’m back at it today!
When I first became a teacher at Full Sail University, I taught in class called Virtual Reality. We had head mounted displays and tracking systems. It was a cool class but was definitely ahead of it’s time. I’ve been following the progress of a new VR headset called Oculus Rift with great interest and wanted to share some of my thoughts on it since I am probably the only education blogger on the Internet who has used Virtual Reality for a long time.
Here’s the intro video explaining Oculus Rift.
There was a recent story from Kotaku where the author played games on the Oculus Rift for 5 hours straight.
One of the games he liked was Half-Life 2.
When Alyx jumped into my arms at the start of the game, my hands jerked off my mouse and keyboard as I tried to catch her in real life. It really is that immersive. As I played I found myself occasionally just staring at Alyx’s emotional face and looking up or peering down over ledges, just to see the wider view. It’s amazing the power the eyes have over your sense of place. At times I literally forgot I was really sitting in my living room.
So that is good. He also had some bad times.
By the time I hit the one-hour mark in Episode 1, I was queasy and had a minor headache—two afflictions that would remain until after I finished playing.
I suspect the queasiness had to do with movement in the game. There is generally a choppiness and blur whenever there is a fast-moving object. And, while, after a few hours I no longer consciously noticed the blur, the queasy feeling never went away and would grow stronger every time I was forced to make repeated, quick spinning movements (though in gunfights I was so immersed that I didn’t notice the feeling).
I can understand his problems having experienced them myself. Virtual Reality is a technology that has very demanding levels of performance. When you put on a set of headphones to listen to music, bad headphones will create a bad experience. Even so, you don’t get ill. This is because our vision is our dominant sense. If you replace our vision with an artificial reality, you have to get it right or else our brain gets out of wack. For example, if the system doesn’t update at least 60 times per second, we will notice it. If the tracking system has some lag in it, we will notice it a lot. This will then conflict with our inner ear, where our eyes tell is we are moving, but our ear says we aren’t. This dichotomy is hard to overcome.
Another factor that is important is field of view. This is how wide our vision is. We can see approximately 180 degrees with our peripheral vision. The best VR goggles I have seen only do 110 degrees. Oculus Rift doesn’t do more than 90 degrees yet.
From what I have seen, the Oculus Rift developers are aware of all of this and are trying to make better versions. In fact, it hasn’t been released to the public yet so they have time to improve it. In theory Virtual Reality will be a massively powerful communication technology but it’s also one of the hardest to get right.
Where I see this impacting education is in realistic simulation of places around the world. It will revolutionize the whole concept of a field trip. I’ve been following other technologies necessary to make this happen like creating virtual models from photographs. The pieces are coming together to create an exciting communication technology. Perhaps in a few more years it will be time to create a class on Virtual Reality again!