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Experimenting with WebVR


Google have been producing some truly ground-breaking VR experiences for some time now. From simple mobile apps like Street View, Arts and Spotlight Stories to the majesty of Tilt Brush, Blocks and Google Earth VR, they’ve long been a source of creative inspiration for educators looking to integrate VR in their classrooms.

The Google WebVR Experiments are no exception – offering glimpses of various new ideas and concepts all through the platform-agnostic medium of WebVR. There are several experiments already available to use freely via the web portal

Some do require a VR headset like the Vive to access but many will work on mobile VR or directly from a browser.

Another fun aspect of these experiments is that you can actually download the code for them and thus create remixes of them if you are skilled with programming! Here are some of the best ones which you could try out with your students:

Access Mars

Built in conjunction with NASA’s acclaimed Jet Propulsion Lab, this is the most polished and fully formed application available here. Using photography from the Curiosity Rover, users are able to walk the surface of the red planet:

It’s a fantastic experience, no matter what device you use to view it (even just a web browser works well). It’s also worth showing students this link which explains a little more about just how this 3D model of Mars was produced from the images taken by Curiosity.

GOOD FOR: Students learning about Space

GREAT FOR: Classrooms without access to full sets of VR headsets.

Speak to Go

This clever little application enriches the 360 library of Google Street View with voice-control functionality. As the name implies, you speak to go – say Paris and you’ll be presented with a 360 image of the French capital, say The Burj Khalifa and you’ll be stood below the world’s tallest building. A colleague of mine tested it the other day and actually said the name of the street his mother lives on (as well as the town and country) and was pretty impressed that he found himself staring at her house!

GOOD FOR: Virtual field trips

GREAT FOR: Younger students or SEN students who would have difficulty typing the names of locations.

The Musical Forest

This one is a collaborative experience which works cross-platform – definitely something that will become more common with the rise of social VR experiences. Enter a magical forest space surrounded by assorted shapes which can be tapped to make sound:

This one does work best on a Vive since you can manipulate and even add more musical nodes. It will work directly on a browser in 360 mode though.

GOOD FOR: A first taste of cross-device co-presence in VR.

GREAT FOR: Letting students create collaborative music with a magical vibe!

Norman

This is a really interesting one. Norman is a VR animation tool built with JavaScript by artist James Paterson. Using VR controllers, the user can draw and animate pencil-like sketches, frame by frame in a 3D space.

Here’s a short animated film made entirely with Norman:

GOOD FOR: Seeing examples of modern animation created with VR tools

GREAT FOR: Art students looking for a new medium

Tzina: symphony of longing

This immersive webVR documentary piece by Shirin Anlen centres on Tzina Dizengoff square in Tel Aviv which was demolished in 2017. It’s a eulogy to the place that tells the story of the people who gathered in the square.

It’s simple in design (at least if held up against VR content produced by large developers) but is nonetheless both powerful and touching. It’s also a great example of VR storytelling and the power of the medium – this place can live forever as a virtual location that its visitors can now return to after it is gone. Well worth a look.

GOOD FOR: Social studies projects examining themes of urban development

GREAT FOR: Exposing students to a new storytelling medium before creating something similar of their own using Unity or a similar platform.

#webVR #VR

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