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The Future of Field Trips

So I just purchased my own Google Cardboard. And if you don't know what that is, well then this post is for you. Depending on your age you might remember a thing called a ViewMaster. You may have even had one as a kid. Well Google Cardboard is the 2015 version. Google Cardboard is the way to get an Oculus Rift-like 3D virtual reality experience for a fraction of the cost. It is basically a cardboard holder for your smartphone and takes stereographic images to the next level. So before I go any further, let me show you a very quick demo of what Google Cardboard can do (at least a few features):

So you get the 3D effect (like on a Viewmaster) because you are seeing two stereographic images (one with each eye) and because these images and videos are shot with a special 360o camera rig, that means you can take advantage of the gyroscopic tech in your phones to actually look anywhere in those images or videos (even as the video is playing).

Google Cardboard Not Needed

Now you don't actually need Google Cardboard to be able to take advantage of this technology. You can view these VR images and videos right on your computer. So for example, take a look at the Mythbuster's Shark video that I was viewing in my above demo. If you look on the top left you will see this circle that you can click on while the video is playing. And when you click on it you explore around the video.
You can also do this on your iPhone or Android phone. But it works way better because you can just move your phone around and it will move around the image based on the orientation of your phone. It works seamlessly within the YouTube app on an Android phone but on the iPhone you need the In360Tube app for it to work.

Google Cardboard Field Trips

Now there are many apps (iOS, Android) that try to take advantage of the 3D VR environment. There are games, videos and animations and a lot of this stuff is just kind of neat but so far there seems to be a lot of mediocre stuff as this technology just starts to be used. But what I foresee in the future is that this could be used to have virtual field trips where kids can be immersed in the location. Like the video below, we could send kids to far off places to explore the surroundings in a more interactive way (check out this one about the astroids around us). Right now there isn't too much but I feel like there will be a lot to see in the very near future. And once the content is there then I can imaging students in geography classes exploring natural formations or travel & tourism classes exploring far off cities or art classes exploring foreign museums. The possibilities are many.

Where do I get Google Cardboard?

When you go to the Google Cardboard page you will see a section where you can Get Cardboard. Now Google doesn't actually make the viewer (as far as I know) but there are several companies that do and they range in price and style. I bought mine on Amazon for pretty cheap. And despite the simplicity of these things (they are made of cardboard, right). You can get some that have nice options. Some even have slots so you can install head straps so you don't have to hold it. Some are more stylish than others. But regardless, you want to make sure that you get one that has NFC (near field communication) so that it has the "clicking" function for more ease of use. But regardless of which one you get you will likely get a flat piece of cardboard in the mail that you have to put together (origami style) to create your viewer.

Update (Oct 1, 2015)

It seems that Google is actively looking into using Google Cardboard for field trips as it seems they have some pilot programs already in place. See this article from the NY Times.

Update (Feb 15, 2016)

  • As mentioned Google was coming out with a virtual field trip program. Called Expeditions, these use Google Cardboard to take virtual field trips. Sign up and get info here.
  • Nearpod has started to produce content to exploit the Google Cardboard technology with Nearpod VR. Check it out here.
  • And there continues to be more and more videos out that use the VR technology, like this one on the solar system:

Update (Mar 6th, 2016)
Though this is just a prototype, Coke is looking at embedding Google Cardboard into their packaging:

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