Virtual Reality – The Reality is that VR is not ready for real time learning (at least not yet)

From: The Truth and Realities of E-Learning

Virtual Reality.  It creates a connotation of something so far out there (the future) and yet so close.  After all, if you read the sites and blogs who discuss VR especially in the classroom, it’s just around the corner.

That corner though is not one that is really that close by and that is where we start.

Google Glass

Oh, how the spider weaves its web is something or another ( always forget the line).  Anyway, I bet you remember when Google Glass was all the rage especially when folks in learning and training.

In fact, just a couple of weeks ago I read a post discussing Google Glass and how it will transform learning.

What I am trying to figure out is how is it going to do that, when the product is no longer available to the public?

The Explorer program was shelved in early 2015 and Glass was seen as a “long-term” project according to Eric Schmidt in a recent article in the Wall Street Journal.  (it is still being worked on privately).

Therefore the idea that Google Glass will transform learning as least for right now, isn’t going to happen anytimesoon. Unless that is, H.G. Wells is around and we can all jump into his time machine.

Google Cardboard

Let’s play a game.  If you have a smartphone say “Aye”.  If you have an Android smartphone, say “Aye, Aye”.  If you have an Apple smartphone, say “lucky me”.  If you have a Windows 8x smartphone say, “not yet” and if you have a Blackberry say, “I need to buy something else”.

If you said “Aye” you are in luck, because you too can experience a little bit of VR for about $10 (on Amazon) or build your own for free.

Here is how it works (if you are not technical don’t worry, your safe)

Let’s assume you spent $10 on Google Cardboard.

1. Fold Cardboard as shown with its little document thing. If you can’t find go on YouTube, plenty of folks show you how. Total time to fold into a viewer about five minutes. If you have zero skill sets, as your neighbor.

2. Place said smartphone in its little shelve like thing (I can’t thing of the term) in between your viewer.

3. If you have an Android phone, you are in luck – lots of apps available (you can find plenty more searching Google and other search engines) and supposedly more to come.

4. If you have Apple don’t fret, there are a few out there.  Windows, start fretting. Blackberry, do those things still exist?

5. There are some custom shops creating apps for learning to be used with Google Cardboard. No word on specifics yet or pricing.

6. Google Cardboard enables anyone to experience a bit of VR and because of its low price point, nearly anyone can buy one.

But wait. What if you do not want to use a VR mobile headset made by Google? No worries, because there are plenty of others out there, including ones who actually have lenses.

They are known as VR Headsets – Here’s a few

  • DodoCase  – The name can easily be mispronounced (heh heh) – Available now
  • Razer OSVR  – Open Source VR – Not ready for prime time, projected delivery 2016
  • Carl Zeiss VR One – Works with iPhone and Android – Available now
  • Samsung Gear VR – Works only with Samsung Galaxy.
  • Archos VR
  • Avegant Glyph – Expected Fall 2015. Reportedly you can enjoy 1,280 x 720 eye resolution (per eye)

With the exception of Glyph (more than $500) and Dodo which is around $25, the rest hit the sweet spot at under $200.  As more roll out, the price is likely to go lower which in turn means consumers acquire (not just early adopters).


Talk to anyone in the VR space and they will mention Oculus Rift.

You might have seen it at trade shows, but what you may not have been told is that Oculus is not ready for consumer purchases. Yes, you can get a Oculus developer kit one, but unless you are building stuff for Oculus headsets, which the masses in the training, learning and education markets are not, then that kit is about as beneficial of Google Glass is now.

While no firm date has been announced, many VR sites place OR for consumers in the 2016 window.

Who else are the ones to watch

Sony Project Morpheus – Projected release date early 2016. Available only for Sony PlayStation 4

HTC Re Vive – Projected release date Nov-Dec. 2015. No word on price point. It is interesting though and I’ll leave it at that.

I should note that there are just a few of the VR headsets in the market or going to market – okay it is more than a few, but there are others out there I did not mention, equally others in the soon to be (late 2015 or sometime in 2016).

What’s going to be the keys to VR success in learning

I firmly believe that VR will have an impact in learning by 2018, with solid growth if you for e-learning (online learning) by 2020.  The possibilities to provide online learning in an immersive environment is can’t be presented in just a few words.

In my mind, I see VR as a perfect compliment in K-12 (especially mid to high school aka secondary).

As for corporate environments, it will come down not to one vertical nor the “Millennial” or whatever comes next crowd, but the level of embracing technology for learning/training.

Is it a learning technology? I definitely believe by 2018 that yes, it will be seen at least in the digital (classroom learning tech) and e-learning (online learning tech) as a form of learning technology.

Just as I see it moving from the within the app experience to the whole new world of doing many items just by using your eyes – open a web browser, search for courses, etc. – add some gesturing – one go one step beyond what exists now.

To me the big difference maker to this whole VR experience will not be Google, rather Microsoft HoloLens.

HoloLens offers really the whole experience and if it delivers what they are promising (I know its Microsoft) it will garner a large audience.  The question is will it grab that audience and what if anything will Apple do?

If I was to put on my analyst hat, I would say that down the road (when that is, unknown) Apple will role out a VR device.

Just as I would say that long term you are likely to see other VR headsets coming from other well known tech firms – I mean who want’s to be left out of the party?

What will be the deciding factors?

I see three

  1. Price.  It has to be affordable. Look people always want free or cheap, but the reason some awesome products in the past never really took off was price – too expensive for the masses.  The same applies here.

Affordable to me would be in the $100-250 range, with $200 as the ideal sweet spot (ex. taxes and S/H). This includes the headset and the basics to make it work.

2. Apps. The more the merrier. If you have a few apps to start with, a few better be more than 10 and if at the end of the year you only have 20, uh, that’s not good.  As the year progresses (whenever you roll out), the design should be more immersive, thrilling and well, just cool.

The apps I am referring to are the apps that work with the product. If you can crossover and use apps designed for other VR headsets – then even better.

For custom apps (those created by L&D, HE departments, training and so forth) it will come down to whether it is open source (a must for education and HE) or whether it can be built without a huge time commitment and oh yeah, cost.

Within the apps, comes shops creating apps. Gear them towards learning/training (which is needed of course), but make the experience an ‘experience’ if you will with fun involved, and yep affordable.  That said, as with anything, if it is good enough okay even if it isn’t and someone wants to buy it for their business, firm, etc. they will.

That said, as with anything if it is good enough okay even if it isn’t and someone wants to buy it for their business, firm, etc. they will.

3. Usability. As with any form of learning technology it is about usability. If it is difficult to use – strike one. If it causes headaches for users – strike two.  If it is too heavy on the head or causes some other issue that cannot be solved due to the design of headset – strike three.

As with anything as it develops over a period of time, so will the headsets. I remember going to see a 3D IMAX film back in the late 90’s with a headset that was massive as though I was in a Star Wars film.  Today, they look like really cheap sunglasses.

Bottom Line

While VR headsets and VR in general is here, the real impact on learning (digital and e-learning) isn’t here. When it will arrive is truly the real question.

Maybe for your department 2015. Or for your school 2016. Training division, 2018. HR – for some 2016-17 for most, uh, whenever we land on Mars.

But for those who are ready to test it out or at least push forward,

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