Oct 07 2016

Virtual Reality: Coming Soon to a School Near You

Soon students will sense movement, explore the human body in 3D and mix chemicals virtually thanks to companies like Oculus, Facebook and Nearpod.

Virtual reality has become a hot trend in K–12 education. Tech startups and giants around the world are developing virtual reality apps and gear that soon will emerge as the standard in classrooms around the world — beyond just goggles to use with smartphones. Here are a few of the more exciting ones.

Virtuali-Tee Looks Inside the Body

Students soon will be able to use a biology app to explore the inner workings of the human body by viewing markings on the Virtuali-Tee t-shirt from Curiscope. “Virtuali-Tee shows an interactive version of the anatomy in context and in 3D space, according to Ed Barton, Curiscope CEO. “It doesn’t need any expensive technology. It’s about applying the technology we already have in an innovative way.” It will be available this school year.

To use the T-shirt and app, two students stand facing one another. One wears the Virtuali-Tee shirt while the other points a smartphone or tablet running the Virtuali-Tee app directly at the shirt. The app reveals a realistic animation of the internal human anatomy, complete with all the major organs. Tapping specific areas allows the user to dive in and explore from within the body.

HapticWave Explains Technology Through Touch

Courtesy of Kent Bye/Voices of VR podcast

Researchers at Oculus and Facebook are working on technology that will enable users to feel virtual objects and sense the direction in which those objects are traveling. The technology is called HapticWave and it uses a circular metal plate set atop a ring of electromagnetic actuators. Users place a bare hand in the center of the plate and the actuators send vibrations to the user’s hand. A headset and accompanying audio complete the experience.

“I can see something like this being used in special circumstances, especially working with students who might have a wide range of disabilities,” says Monica Burns, an education technology and curriculum consultant and founder of ClassTechTips.com.

VR Games and Lessons Ready for Class

Chemistry teachers may find the educational application that Schell Games is cooking up in its laboratory compelling. Still in development, SuperChem VR supports high school chemistry. Students master the use of lab equipment while experimenting in a safe place without breakage or accidents. “Immersive VR enhances the real world of chemistry by providing instant cleanup, access to infinite resources, and observations at exponentially larger and smaller scales while simulating accurate physical actions in a completely safe environment,” says Yotam Haimberg, SuperChem project director.

SOURCE: Samsung Business USA, “Is Virtual Reality Ready for the Classroom?” June 27, 2016;

Meanwhile, educators who want to integrate virtual reality into their teaching will find no shortage of VR lessons from Nearpod. Soon Nearpod expects to offer more than 100 ready-to-teach VR lessons featuring objectives, interactive activities, open-ended questions, true and false questions, polls and quizzes.

“Nearpod VR works on any smartphone,” says Rajiv Parikh, Nearpod’s vice president of marketing. Nearpod’s platform is compatible with a wide range of operating systems and devices. “It provides flexibility and affordability that lets teachers use VR in a single classroom if resources aren’t available to support a school or districtwide program,” Parikh says.

With exciting and engaging products and technologies coming down the pike, virtual reality soon may become a simple reality in the classroom.


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