VR at Warwick University – advice for teachers

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  • There’s a scale of sophistication in VR experience:
    • Google cardboard style, using mobile phones and non-active headsets, without controllers. The user is stationary, but with their viewpoint in the VR experience tracking the movement of their head on physical space. Interaction is limited to selecting trigger points in the VR space by staring at them for several seconds (directing a cursor at the trigger point). This is suited to relatively passive immersion, but as little physical space is reqiured, and the equipment is cheap and simple, works easily with large numbers of students. The experience is better if the user can sit on a swivel chair, and get the full effects of 360 immersion. Headphones are recommended when multiple users are in the same physical space. 360 video works well in this medium. There are also a small number of more interactive apps available, but development has largely ceased.
    • Oculus Go style headsets, using an active headset, but with the user still stationary. This adds a single hand controller, pointing a cursor and with a trigger button. Many more apps are available, including some chemistry apps.
    • Oculus Quest style headsets, which add two more complex controllers (with haptic feedback) and room-scale VR, in which the user’s viewpoint updates as they move around the physical space. This has great potential, but there are fewer educational apps available (Facebook/Oculus have pitched it more towards entertainment).
  • Warwick has no support services for VR, and very little equipment.
  • Headset hygiene needs to be done carefully.
  • The Oculus platforms aren’t designed for education. Configuring and looking after large numbers of headsets is time consuming. To purchase apps, each headset needs to be connected to a Facebook account with a credit card. There are no volume licenses available, so we have to buy an app once and install it on many headsets (which is stretching the terms of use a bit).
  • Warwick also doesn’t have a community of people who can develop content and apps (I could, but haven’t got the time). Apps are usually developed using the Unity platform and C#. 360 video is easier to produce, and high quality cameras are now reasonably priced (Insta 360 is the best option).
  • In the Arts Faculty we will be hosting a regular VR Club for enthusiasts and people who want to try things out and learn more. We have a set of Oculus Quest (12 I think) and Oculus Go (16). We should be getting some more up to date equipment when we move into the new building (probably delayed now until after Christmas). The VR Club will be the best place to meet people who can help you.

If you visit the VR Club in Teams, we can then keep you updated with news of events and opportunities. It’s quiet at the moment, as we haven’t restarted activity yet.

Dr Robert O'Toole NTF

Senior Teaching Fellow, Arts Faculty, University of Warwick. Fellow of the Higher Education Academy, National Teaching Fellow, Warwick Award for Teaching Excellence.

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