aming has brought VR to the masses. Sony’s PlayStation VR requires a PlayStation 4 to function, Oculus Rift got its start as a game accessory, and the Steam games marketplace is a core part of the HTC Vive. But HTC wants people to know that VR isn’t just about entertainment, and on Tuesday it published a video about how it can be used in the classroom to prove it.
The video highlights the immersive experiences that can be created in VR. Instead of looking at dated illustrations of dinosaurs in a textbook, for example, students could examine an animated 3D model that stands right in front of them. Or they could take a virtual trip into space rather than merely watching footage of a real spacecraft launching into orbit.
HTC’s video focuses on how Immersive VR Education is creating these and other educational tools. The company’s Engage platform supports up to 30 people — the average U.S. classroom, according to the National Education Association, has 25 students — taking virtual field trips or using telepresence apps.
These tools can help people learn more in the classroom. University of Oklahoma emerging technologies librarian Matt Cook told Inverse in January that VR will help students and professors by closing the physical distance between them.
Cook also said that VR allows people to experience things in ways that aren’t possible with smartphones or laptops. “You can manipulate a 3D model right now on your cell phone if you go to the right site, but what you can’t do is, kind of, experience it, in the same way you experience an object in the world,” he explained. “Unless you have a system like this.”
Chinese gaming company NetDragon Websoft is working on similar tech. It wants to use VR to enable virtual instructors that analyze head movements to see if a child is paying attention. (They also gather information that will eventually be used to display targeted advertisements.)
Finally, there’s Google, which made the ultra-cheap Cardboard headset to bring VR to the masses. One of the company’s goals is to make Cardboard available to students so they can take virtual field trips to visit places they might never experience otherwise.
Now HTC is highlighting Immersive VR Education’s work to show that the HTC Vive can serve a similar function. Whether it’s collaborating on a virtual whiteboard, examining a 3D model of a ship, or tossing a skeleton’s components around, VR promises to make learning more accessible and immersive. The future of education is here, and we have video games to thank.