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Welcome to the Jungle: Amazon Odyssey

One place that has always fascinated me is the Amazon Rainforest. It also makes for a wonderful topic of study in schools and our Year 5 students have enjoyed learning all about this amazing place for a number of years now. In 2014 I wrote an article about using apps to gamify learning about the Rainforest. More recently VR has proven an absolutely amazing tool for immersing students in the deepest depths of the Amazon.

There's actually a brilliant range of Rainforest themed 360 content on YouTube from some of the biggest names in the game (BBC, Jaunt VR and National Geographic amongst others.) I recently made a resource that provided our staff with QR links to some of the best of these. A screenshot from this can be found below:

The one that we chose to use with students is the first on the list - the stunning Under The Canopy film from Conservation International and Jaunt VR. I honestly can't recommend this enough and it is without a doubt one of the best educational 360s on YouTube period. The authenticity of having the film narrated by indigenous guide, Kamanja Panashekung is unparalleled. and the production values are truly first class.

Here's the film in full:

We use this with the Year 5 students at JESS Dubai this year as a part of their study of the Rainforest. I edited together a look at the impact the film had on the kids...

Now you may be wondering why we used the same resource through the mobile VR headsets and the Vive. The truth is that we planned to use something different with the Vive - a brand new app from Vive Studios called Amazon Odyssey. It launched literally days before this session was scheduled and the timing seemed perfect. Unfortunately the app's Unreal Engine didn't want to play nice with the Windows Creators Update and we could not get the sound and visuals to play at the same time. Hence all of the students accessed Under the Canopy instead.

The great news though was that a week and an app update later and Amazon Odyssey was ready for deployment. It was well worth the wait.

Starting with a parachute drop into the Amazon, the app is a clever mix of immersive sound and visuals, gamified mechanics and a simple but intuitive interface. Using a virtual tablet, you access assigned tasks and a camera tool. Your primary objective is to document the wildlife of the Rainforest using the camera but other objectives see you building a fire (and flinting two rocks to light it) and more.

We were able to test the app this week with a couple of the students. Take a look:

#VR #Vive

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