Google is today introducing the Expeditions Pioneer Program, a new initiative to help teachers and students use virtual reality in schools around the world.
At the center of the new program — which follows Google’s introduction of Expeditions in May — is, of course, the Google Cardboard virtual reality headset, or the View-Master augmented reality headset from Google and Mattel. But Google will also include in the kits Android-based ASUS smartphones and routers that let headsets work offline.
Google wants to deliver the kits to thousands of schools, initially in California, Connecticut, Illinois, New Jersey, New York, Texas, Australia, Brazil, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom.
“Although nothing replaces hopping on the bus for a field trip, we see a ton of potential for virtual reality as a powerful tool for teachers to engage their students,” Googler David Quaid — the developer of the Stereogram app for Google Cardboard — wrote in a blog post on the news.
Google has targeted the education market before, notably with Google Apps and Chromebooks.
Those products are missing from the new Expeditions Pioneer Program kits, but classes don’t really need them during the virtual field trips that Google has in mind.
In case you’re wondering how much educational material is out there for Cardboard and View-Master headsets, well, it turns out that some is available.
“Teachers can choose from a library of more than a hundred virtual trips to transport students to places like Mars, the Great Barrier Reef and the Great Wall of China,” Quaid wrote. We’re constantly adding more with the help of partners like PBS, educational publisher Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, The Planetary Society and The Wildlife Conservation Society. We’re also working with The Starfish Foundation to help students to explore their futures by producing career content including a day in the life of a veterinarian or computer scientist.”
For any school chosen to participate in the program, Google will send employees out to teach teachers and students how to use the technology. And they’ll arrive in style.
“The folks at Subaru, who invest in education as part of their Love Promise initiative, have created a set of sweet Expeditions Pioneer Program rides that will be rolling up to thousands of schools in the 2015/2016 school year,” Quaid wrote.