Learning English Using VR

Other than gaming, VR (and AR) will be a useful medium for learning a second language. Technology has already revolutionized the way students learn English. How? Just do a quick search online for online teachers. Just a few years ago, students in non-English speaking countries were piling into English training centers to improve their English. Classes in these centers are taught by foreign expats who are often overpaid for the quality of work they provide. Now, students can find English speakers online. This is not only more convenient, but it is cheaper and in many cases more useful.

This article is not about online schools though; it’s about VR. Imagine the possibilities. Speaking to a teacher in VR using an avatar or sitting in a virtual classroom. In some form or other, it is coming. In the meantime, educational VR is starting to take route. Google has created Expeditions for virtual tours of foreign lands. There are also VR apps that help students learn vocabulary by selecting objects. Inside of slicing open a frog in science class, why not do it in VR?

VR has a lot of improvements to make in the education industry, but it will get better and better. It is engaging and can motivate students to learn. It can be immersive as well. Take the new VR experience “Little Molly VR” for example. Students are transporting into a little village of dogs. Their job is to find lost gold; they walk around and get clues from the local dogs. In order to be successful, they have to understand the English. The kids don’t even know they are learning while they play.

The future of VR is exciting. Like all new technologies, if used properly, it can enhance students’ learning experiences.

How to Become a VR Developer

Before I begin this blog, I must admit, I’m a newbie. Though I have years of design experience and some knowledge of web development, I’m new to the VR field. However, I want to learn and plan to be able to create VR content by 2017. If you look at the date of this article, that would be about three months. Check back to see if I can do it.

How am I going to do it? I have done some research and have a plan. Here it is.

Start from the beginning. Though I have some knowledge of HTML, I’m going right back to the basics. Through www.codecademy.com, start from lesson one. My objectives will be to fully understand HTML, CSS, and Java. Why? Understanding these languages won’t help me create VR. However, it will get me into the coding mindset before I tackle the coding I will need for VR development.

Java, oh, Java. I don’t know why yet, but understanding Java will help me understand C# (C sharp). And yes, you guessed it, from Java I will move to C#, which begs the question, why C#? I don’t know that answer either, except for the fact that it is used in Unity. When creating programs in Unity, you must (or should?) include C# code. What is Unity? If you are reading this article, you probably don’t need any explanation. It is the program many game developers use to create—get ready—games. Oh yeah, you can use it to create VR as well. You will just need a software development kit (SDK) for Unity and you are good to go (it might not be that easy, but it’s a start).

So, where was I? HTML, CSS, Java, C#, then Unity. Anything else? Yes, Blender. I have no idea how to use this. I have played with Unity a bit, but Blender is a new space for me. It is a 3D creation suite. I forgot to mention, you can get Unity and Blender free; what a deal!

That’s the plan for now. I’m almost through with HTML and CSS and ready to move to Java. I’m sure as I go I will find other skills I need, requiring me to change the steps I plan to use to become a new VR developer. After I create my first VR project, I will have to figure out how to get it to work on my phone and goggles. Should be exciting. It will be easy to give up, but like anything else in life, you must fail and fail before you succeed. Persistence will be the key.

I would love to hear from any VR (or AR) developers and share how they learned the trait.

What about AR?

I just connected with a fellow blogger on WordPress and he mentioned augmented reality (AR). I must admit, I don’t know much about it. So, I did a little research and … wow!

I though the possibilities of virtual reality (VR) were endless, but AR is incredible. It is just like the movie Minority Report. You know, where Tom Cruise can just click at buttons in the air and maps or pictures show up.

In a few of my blogs, I discussed the possibilities of VR, but I now want to consider AR. How will it be used?

If you don’t believe how incredible this technology is, check out this video:

Technology in the Classroom

As a teacher, I see the wonderful technological tools that can be implemented in the classroom. Tools that can make the class more engaging and interesting for the students. However, is it possible for teachers to use it too much?

Let’s first look at what teachers have at their hands in the 21st century. To start, the computer. When I was in school, teachers didn’t have computers and projectors at their disposal. Now they do. On these computers they have access to software such as Excel, Word, PowerPoint, and of course the Internet. Then, on the Internet, the supplementary materials are endless. Teachers can find online games, pictures, videos, articles, … you name it.

Other than the desktop computers, teachers and students have cameras, video cameras, iPads, calculators, smart phones, and now, virtual reality.

All these tools can either enhance the learning experience or hinder it. Let’s look at the usage of smart phones outside the classroom. They can help an individual learn anything. You can use it as a calculator, dictionary, thesaurus, encyclopedia, language translator, book, or audio book. Or you can waste your time on Facebook. Sorry Mark, but you know what I mean.

The same can be said in the classroom. If a teacher uses all this great technology for movies or useless games to take up time, it hinders the learning process. At the same time, if a teacher just shows PPT after PPT, yes, the students will learn a little, but not much.

The key to making a lesson engaging is variety. Introduce the topic with a lecture, move to a group discussion, then a book exercise, then a debate, then a short video or virtual reality tour. A teacher should be creative and plan variety of activities to keep the students involved and interested. Use technology appropriately and sparingly.

Confused yet?

I am. I’m following all the latest VR news and it’s hard to see what’s coming. I mean, what VR headset do I buy? What phone does and will work best for VR? Can I watch some VR on Android and other on IOS, or can I use both platforms? Is it interactive? If so, what tools should I buy? Or, can I use the magnet on the screen to touch buttons?

What about developing? What platform should I develop for? Can I develop for the web? Or is that just 360 video? How can I use VR?

Oh, wait. I might not be able to answer the above questions, except for the last one. The possibilities are endless. Shopping, gaming, advertising, education, entertainment, and the list goes on and on. Somethings simply won’t work for VR, right? I mean, I just watched a computer science course from Harvard in 360 video. Why? I scrolled around and saw the students, but I don’t care to watch students taking notes. I just want to watch the lecturer and I can do that with a simple video. I’m not going to strap on a headset to watch it.

So, what will I use VR for? More accurately, how will I use it. For me, in the comfort of my own home, sitting in my favorite seat. What will I watch? Well, anything that I can’t do with video or in real life. If reading an article or watching a video is better, then that is what I will do.

But what about all the questions I could answer?

History of VR

Virtual reality is coming, right? Or has it been here for over a hundred years?

In 1838 Charles Wheatstone’s research created the stereoscope. He found that two flat images looked at through each eye could produce a three dimensional experience. One hundred years later, William Gruber created the View Master, which included disks containing pairs of small photos giving the view a stereoscopic view. Then in 1962, Morton Heilig patented the Sensorama. This was a full VR experience with sound, smells, and a vibrating chair. At about the same time, Heilig created the first head mounted display (HMD) for VR. In 1965, Ivan Sutherland created the Ultimate Display, which he claimed viewers would not know the difference between reality and virtuality. His ideas would have a lasting influence on the VR that is being created today. These were all before the phrase “virtual reality” was even coined.

Jump forward to 1993 (and past many other VR experiements), the Sega Genesis was released. This VR headset look very similar to what we have today, but it did not last. Same with the 1995 Nintendo Virtual Boy. Should have been no surprise, I mean, who would want to wear those headsets?

So, why is everybody talking about VR today? Why would I want to wear those headsets today? Why are you reading this blog?

Will VR last or fade away again? Google, Samsung, Facebook and all the big players are betting big, but the market will decide. I will tell you this, if I’m walking down Fifth Avenue looking for a store, I’m not going to quickly pull out my headset and do a search; I’ll just pull out my mobile phone. But, if I want to learn or buy something from the comfort of my own home, then maybe I’ll go with VR.

What do you think? VR has been around for over a hundred years and hasn’t really hit the mainstream. Will it stick or will something better come around?



How Will You Profit?

Are you a business owner? Do you rent out an apartment? Do you display your art? Are you a teacher?

How will you profit from the upcoming advantages in virtual reality? The possibilities are endless. Imagine owning a home that you rent. In the “old” days you would post some flat pictures on the internet. Now you can take people on a tour. Your potential customers can pop on a pair of VR goggles, then walk around to all the rooms looking any direction. Apartment owners are already doing this. So are universities. Instead of students going to the school to walk around, they are viewing the school using virtual reality or 360 video. It saves them time and money. At the same time, the school can show off their campus to more people.

How about art? If you have a sculpture, you can let the viewer circle around it. Heck, you could create a virtual art gallery with all your work. VR viewers could take a stroll from room to room viewing all your art. Then press the “add to shopping cart” button and you made a sale.

Do you buy clothes online? What is the biggest problem when buying something you can’t try on? That’s right, it arrives in the mail and you have to send it back. Those days will be over soon. Shoppers can try on the clothes in a virtual world and ensure they size is proper. Just ask Jack Ma, the mastermind behind China’s Alibaba. He already has plans to launch Buy+.

What other ways do you think VR will change the way we do business?