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Oculus Rift Virtual-Reality System Weighed by Higher Ed. Institutions

The much-discussed, rarely seen virtual reality headset known as the Oculus Rift continues to pique the curiosity of education-technology writers.

Last week, Campus Technology, a news source for higher education technology professionals, weighed in, examining how a number of colleges and universities are looking at using the new device. Included in the story was this quote from Mark Dunn, Yale University's director of outreach and recruitment:

"I would characterize what we plan to do with the Oculus Rift as 'enthusiastic experimentation...We know the content is great and the experience is exciting. We'll keep playing around with opportunities to put it to use until we find the perfect niche or niches."

The most common use so far appears to be virtual-reality college tours for prospective students. More from Dunn in the Campus Technology piece:

"[Yale] officers often visit high schools to meet with groups of interested students during the school day, and I can imagine an officer bringing along a headset to showcase to a small group of students," Dunn said. "I also think we will want to feature the headset during some of our on-campus outreach and recruitment events. This might seem counterintuitive, but our existing YouVisit content includes many campus spaces that we can't normally open up to visitors. Weather and timing can always make it challenging to see everything you want when you visit campus. A virtual tour station during one of our on-campus events would be its own attraction, and the headset itself is just so cool, it's easy to imagine high school seniors lining up for hours just to try it on."

In August, Education Week took a look at the K-12 implications of the Oculus Rift and some of its competitors. While virtual-reality technology has largely failed to live up to its substantial hype over the past 20 years (see timeline below), many believe the new devices are different.

The reasons?2-oculus-rift-australia-special-needs-students-280px.jpg

Better technology and lower cost. 

Oculus VR, the company behind the machine, which was recently acquired by Facebook for $2 billion, has largely eliminated the nausea and motion sickness that plagued many users of previous virtual-reality systems. When—if?—it is eventually released to the pubic, the Oculus Rift is also expected to retail for around $300.

To date, though, developers creating for the new platform have mostly focused on its applications for commercial gaming.

And I've yet to hear from a teacher in the United States who has used the Oculus Rift in his or her classroom with students.

If you're the first, let me know!

Photo: Teacher Mathieu Marunczyn of the Jackson School in Victoria, Australia watches as Daniel Goss, 16, plays a 3-D experiential game to grow accustomed with the Oculus Rift virtual-reality system. Luis Enrique Ascui/AP for Education Week


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