Setting Up Virtual Reality in the Classroom (Part 1)

Boy using a virtual reality device
Boy using a virtual reality device

With so many different VR options hitting the market these days, it may seem like a daunting task to even get started outfitting your classroom(s) with this new technology. In this series, we’re going to walk through the all the steps you’ll need to take from choosing the right headset for your environment to setting up your VR station!

The first decision to make is “which head-mounted display do I want to invest in?” In this article, I’m only going to touch on the major 2 desktop options out there- the Oculus Rift and the HTC Vive. Both are excellent choices, but do vary in some significant ways.

While this is definitely not a comprehensive list, it does highlight key features and drawbacks for each option.

Oculus Rift

The first consumer version of the Oculus Rift hit the market in Q1 of 2016, and has been wildly popular.

Pros

-Positional Tracking is done using sensors on the headgear+a base station that is typically placed on a desk.

-Each Rift comes with an Xbox One controller.

-Oculus Touch, motion tracking hand controllers with buttons, will also be available to purchase sometime in 2016.

-Starting price of $600, making it $200 cheaper than the Vive.

Cons

-At the time of writing this article, Oculus Touch is not available yet, leaving users with less options for user input controls.

-Built to be more of a seated VR experience. Because of the way the positional tracking works, you’re not really meant to get up and move around without some extra hardware.

HTC Vive

Pros

-Because of the included handheld controllers and positional tracking system, the Vive is a truly immersive VR system out of the box. You have the ability to stand and move through VR environments.

-Slightly more flexible graphics card options than the Rift.

Cons

-$800 price point, making it $200 more expensive than the Rift

-While standing to play is super immersive, the headset is still wired, making it somewhat hazardous to play.

Final Thoughts

From an education and training perspective, the biggest deciding factor is probably going to be one of space. The Vive requires a bit more space, with more specific location requirements for its positional tracking. This also means that in smaller spaces, you’ll have less flexibility for multiple VR stations within the same classroom. You’ll need to consider how important full, standing immersion is compared to the need for multiple stations in your space as you’re making your decision.

At the time of publishing this article, neither the Rift or the Vive support Macs. Both headsets also have fairly beefy computer requirements. For a comprehensive hardware spec comparison, here’s a great article. Our next post will talk a little more in depth about computer options.

 

Continue to Part 2...