The Oculus Rift may be best known as a gaming platform, but Facebook’s Oculus Education division has been working over the last year to expand its appeal to schools, libraries, and museums. Having previously donated 100 Rift headsets and computers to California public libraries and sponsored VR research programs at universities, including MIT and Harvard, Oculus Education today announced pilot programs that will bring its VR gear to educational institutions in Seattle, Japan, and Taiwan.
The initiatives for Seattle and Japan appear to be fairly narrow in scope: In Seattle, the Seattle Public Schools will develop an educational VR creation course and learning program focused on high schools, and the Technology Access Foundation will collaborate with Oculus to develop best practices for training educators in VR. For Japan, Oculus plans to use VR to aid high school students with distance learning, specifically bringing educational opportunities to students in remote parts of the country.
The Taiwanese initiative is larger. Oculus is working with the Taiwan Internet and E-Commerce Association to bring VR to a collection of public libraries and museums across the country, an effort that will include donations of both Rift and Go headsets. Recipients include the American Innovation Center, Kaohsiung Main Public Library Museum of Contemporary Art in Taipei, National Central Library, National Museum of Natural Science, National Taiwan Museum, National Taiwan Museum of Fine Arts, New Taipei City Library, Social Innovation Lab, Taipei Public Library, and Taroko National Park Headquarters. Here, the goal will be to let citizens experience VR for themselves, and each institution will develop its own VR programs, potentially using immersive art creation tools.
In addition to training instructors in the proper use of VR, Oculus aims to use the pilot programs to better understand how educators and students employ VR for learning and collaboration. The company is also looking for feedback that its product development teams can use to improve their future releases.
If you’re interested in seeing how educational content can look in VR, Oculus points to a few particularly compelling examples. For the Rift headset, the educational app Titanic VR lets you explore the famously sunken cruise ship, and has recently been updated with additional content. And the Unreal Engine 4-powered Hoover Dam: IndustrialVR is also available for Rift. Oculus Go and Gear VR users can try Breaking Boundaries in Science, which focuses on the life stories of science pioneers Dr. Jane Goodall, Marie Curie, and Grace Hopper.