The launch of the new Oculus Go, a standalone VR headset targeted at the masses, could be an affordable option for the education sector and provides an alternative to the mobile based Google Cardboard. But how does this new standalone headset match up? This article is going to give you an insight into the potential of the Oculus Go as an educational tool for the classroom.
The Oculus Go was released in May 2018 and retails at £199 for the 32GB model and £249 for the 64GB model. Out of the box, the Oculus Go looks very slick. The straps are easy to use and it sits comfortably on your face without the need to hold it to your eyes, unlike approved Google Cardboard headsets. We are going to compare the most important factors for schools when choosing which headset to get for the classroom: experience, content, battery and price.
In terms of immersion, the Oculus Go wins hands down over mobile VR. In fact, in my opinion, the Oculus Go gives its older brother, the Rift, a run for its money. Not only is it more than half the price, it doesn’t require a powerful computer to run it and you don’t have the nuisance of wires tying you down. In comparison to mobile VR (of the same equivalent cost), Oculus Go provides a much sharper experience through its 2560 x 1440 resolution screen and the transition when turning 360 degrees is far smoother.
So why shouldn’t all schools purchase the Oculus Go? Well, firstly, it’s important to note that Oculus recommends that all users should be 13 years old or older. This is the same for the Oculus Rift, HTC Vive and even Playstation VR. Based on this guideline, all primary school children are ruled out from using the Oculus Go. Secondly, although some companies are starting to create portals for managing multiple devices, there is still not one clear solution for doing this. Therefore, in a classroom with 30+ students, it can be difficult to monitor and track what students are really using the devices for (which is one of the many benefits of using Google Expeditions).
If you’ve only used mobile VR before, you’ll be blown away by some of the content available on the Oculus platform. Some of the games that I found myself glued to (Dead & Buried and Affected – The Manor for example) are incredible and really provide you with a new level of immersion.
For education however, content is still relatively limited on the Oculus platform. You can download many of the popular apps available on the Play Store (Discovery VR, MEL Chemistry VR and Unimersiv for example) but the big blow for its educational use is not having access to Google Expeditions. The Oculus platform runs separately from the Play Store and so many of the VR apps available on the Play Store will not be available to Oculus users. This is a big problem for a lot of people as it limits what the devices can be used for in the classroom. I’m sure that as the Oculus Go increases in popularity and the number of developers increases, more and more educational apps will become available for users. This poses the question; is it too soon to buy VR headsets for the classroom?
For me, battery life is very important. For schools to invest in new technology like VR, they need to be certain that they will get a full days use. Unfortunately, the Oculus Go is disappointing from this point of view. A full charge takes around 2 hours and the maximum use you’ll get from it is also around 2 hours (from my experience of watching videos, playing apps etc.).
On the other hand, mobile VR (with a good sized battery), you can run Google Expeditions or other VR apps for around 4-5 hours. If the phone has fast charging capabilities, you’ll also manage to charge the device in half the time as the Oculus Go.
For the quality of experience, the Oculus Go is a bargain in comparison to the Oculus Rift, HTC Vive and Playstation VR. Mobile VR can be done cheaper but it doesn’t provide the same level of immersion. If you decide to purchase new phones, make sure you get one with a gyroscope and accelerometer otherwise it won’t work with VR apps. I’d also recommend one with a 5.5” screen, 2 or 3 GB RAM and a respectable screen resolution (1080p). You could also go down the second hand route and get some good bargains on EBay.
In terms of a VR headset, I’d recommend making sure it’s Google Cardboard approved. Some of the ‘unofficial’ headsets can provide a nauseating experience and using them for more than 2 minutes can give you a headache.
Personally, the choice between Oculus Go and mobile VR depends on your situation. If you’re a primary school, you’ll need to go for mobile VR, as this is suitable for children aged 7+ and you’ll have access to Google Expeditions (the most popular VR app across primary schools from my experience).
From a secondary school’s perspective, I would lean towards the Oculus Go as it provides a much more immersive experience. However, the current problem is the level of educational content available to schools. If you’re currently in this dilemma, I would recommend waiting another year and assessing the situation again. By then, hopefully we’ll have a much clearer picture of the Oculus’ potential for the classroom and there will be more content available to use.
If you have any questions regarding virtual reality in schools or you are interested in finding out what options are out there, please don’t hesitate to contact firstname.lastname@example.org. Alternatively, please visit our website at www.primevr.co.uk.