I first heard about Google Cardboard on the Cult of Pedagogy’s podcast about new educational technology. So what is it and what does it do?
Google Cardboard turns your phone into a 3D virtual reality device. You can download movies that will transport you into the jungle, the streets of Paris, a beach, or the plant Jakku. You can turn around, look up, look down, and be completely immersed in a virtual reality world. It’s like those old ViewMasters, but cooler. As soon as I heard about it, I knew I had to have one, and once I got home I ordered one online.
A few days later I got my Google Cardboard in the mail. It was pretty easy to assemble the cardboard viewer and begin to download the apps that use it. The Google Cardboard app wisely provides you with a tutorial about how to use the viewer, but it’s really intuitive software and I was quickly about to start downloading other content by searching for “google cardboard” or “vr” in the app store.
Once I started to explore I found some really cool stuff. The Star Wars app has a Cardboard game that puts you on Jakku. As you’re looking around, the Millennium Falcon flies by overhead and BB-8 comes rolling towards you. There’s a cool dinosaur experience that my children loved.
But by far the most promising app I found was Vrse, which has several movies that you can download to your phone and watch. Rotate 360 degrees around the Saturday Night Live studio during Jerry Sienfield’s Saturday Night Live monologue or an episode of Celebrity Jeopardy, or watch a U2 music video that puts you right in the middle of the band.
But by far the most interesting content on Vrse are produced by those who are telling stories with it. The most talked about one is “Catatonia,” a horror experience in which you are wheeled around an insane asylum. All sorts of strange people jump out at you, and there’s always something ominous that keeps you on the edge of your seat. In the short films on Vrse you get an entirely new way to tell a story-you are a participant in the story and while you can’t control the pacing of the story, you do have control over what you see. I expect that all sorts of great content will be created using Google Cardboard.
The day after I got my Cardboard I brought it into my classroom and let my students play around with it. They thought it was supper cool. It was a lot of fun seeing a bunch of high school seniors amazed by something new. That doesn’t happen very often.
Since the projector is only around $20 and virtually (ha ha) all of the apps are free, the risk is low. So far it’s been endlessly entertaining, even if I haven’t used it for educational purposes. But those days are coming, I’m sure.
A couple of drawbacks to Google Cardboard:
- The apps can take up a lot of space. Most of the apps require you to download the content to view it, and because they are such rich and realistic environments, you won’t have the space for a lot of them. I assume you can delete the movies without deleting the app, but I haven’t tried that yet.
- The apps can be tempermental, although I have an iPhone 5, so newer models might work better. Sometimes videos had sound and sometimes they didn’t, and I was never able to figure out why (although I think it may have something to do with the other apps I had open at the time. Still, it works okay on the iPhone 5.
- It gave me vertigo after using it for a little while, so it definitely isn’t something you want to use for long periods of time without some Dramamine.
- A lot of the content is just okay. You can tell that we are very much in the early stages of this technology. Most of it is one and done.
I’m excited to see what developers will do with this technology for educational settings. I’d love to have a virtual tour of the Globe Theatre, for instance. So will it be something that will find its way into classrooms? Not sure yet. But we can have a lot of fun while we’re waiting.
Who am I?
I’m a Language Arts teacher that creates educational comics to make learning fun and engaging. Click the box below for a FREE comic lesson on Robert Frost’s “The Road Not Taken.” Or, check out my store.