Those of you that have followed my work with VR over the last few years will know I’ve always been a “Vive guy.” Partly this was due to geographical limitations (Oculus never released the Rift or Go in the Middle East for some reason) and partly it was due to the relationship I built with the awesome Vive team based here in Dubai and their continued support of my work. My Vive Pro is still my “main” headset and the one I use for all the #CPDinVR events.
So I watched the fervour over the launch of the Oculus Quest with curiosity and saw more and more member of the VR Education community herald it as a new milestone and a revelation in terms of educational VR usage. Then I visited my friend Fahad from Nuat VR and he had multiple, Quests in their office. One try and I was in. I had to get one.
Ironically no sooner had I decided this than I actually saw some in a mall but at a price that was around 60% more than the rest of the world. I couldn’t justify it but began hunting online for a more reasonably marked-up Quest – which I eventually found on the local Amazon site.
Flash forward two months and I now have two (my sister brought the second over from the UK for me) making it the first headset I’ve owned two of. This was a conscious decision made after using the Vive, a WMR and my Quest for a VR Art workshop at a local art studio. The Quest was such a dream to set up and use Tilt Brush on and aside from the battery life, really won the day. The casting feature meant that my young assistant Yasmeen could closely monitor the students as they painted, guiding them through the Tilt Brush UI and providing tips and tricks. I got the second Quest to test the use of multiple headsets in the same space (and on the same account) with a view to doing an all Quest workshop the next time around.
Right now the biggest issue with the Quest is the lack of educational content. There are some stellar titles that are worth checking out though. My top recommendations (in December 2019) are:
Tilt Brush – obviously!
Anne Frank House VR – it was good on the Go, it’s great on the Quest
Mission ISS – another good port
Within – still one of the best sources for educational/informative 360° content
Firefox Reality – use this WebVR browser to access tools like CoSpaces and SketchFab
Notes on Blindness- this award-winning experience works great on the Quest
AltSpace – one of the best platforms to take a first step into the world of multi-user VR
Hopefully 2020 will see heaps more educational content come to the Quest. I’d love to see ports of great titles like Sharecare VR, The Body VR, The Night Café, Mindshow and more. I’d also love to see some fresh, educational apps and experiences developed specifically for the Quest.
Whilst we wait, let me share my top 5 tips for getting started with the Quest in your classroom.
The Quest Guardian System
This is such a dream of a feature. Both the fact that you ar able to set up your virtual boundary directly within the headset and the way that the pass-through camera switches on automatically when you move out of these boundaries are outstanding features which reduce the friction of VR use in classrooms. My tip is to not draw your guardian to the very edge of your space when using a Quest with students. Leave a little border. Not only does this make for a safer set up (if they get engrossed in a room-scale experience and lose track of their position) but it means that they can step out of the virtual world and have a conversation, write a note or record an observation.
Casting from the Quest
One thing that worried me about using the Quest was the loss of the mirrored view on the laptop screen you would get with a PCVR setup. This had proven invaluable when using VR headsets with students as not only would they sometimes need guidance with the UI of an app (or accidentally open Steam/Windows!) but it meant that you as the educator could moderate and moderate the learning process. Fortunately the Quest app for mobile features a built-in casting tool allowing you to mirror the headset view to the device. Make that device a decent-sized tablet like an iPad Pro and you’ve got yourself an excellent second screen experience! Just be aware – no sound mirrors and with some faster moving experiences, there can be a fare amount of frame drop. It will lose connection from time to time to (especially if your wifi is poor) but if you persist, it will generally reconnect pretty quickly.
Evidencing Learning on the Quest
The Quest also has built-in image/video capture tools which are ideal for evidencing learning that is taking place on the device. To access these when you’re in an app, press the Oculus button to pause the app and return to the main menu. Click on the Sharing tab and you’ll find the options to take photos and record video. If you choose the photo option, your app will reopen and the Quest takes a screenshot after a countdown of 5 seconds. You’ll see a blinking red dot during the countdown. If you opt to record video, the Quest starts recording the screen, and will continue recording until you return to the menu to stop the recording (or take the headset off.) Again a red dot is used as an indicator but it is solid when recording rather than blinking like with the photo tool. All media that you capture is stored locally on the headset and can be exported by connecting the Quest to a PC.
Access content on SideQuest
Installing the free Sidequest platform allows you to side-load apps onto the Quest that are not available on the main Oculus Store. In some cases this is demo content, in others it is beta content and in further cases it is simply the way developers are sharing their apps with the public as they wait out the (apparently pretty lengthy) process of getting an app into the Oculus Quest Store. There are a couple of educational apps on SideQuest right now that warrant checking out – including the one and only ENGAGE, the app I use for #CPDinVR. In fact if you need help installing SideQuest, there is an excellent step-by-step guide and video tutorial on the Engage website. You can find that here.
Pair it with a Power Bank
One of the downsides of the Quest is of course the fact that it relies on a relatively small battery for power and you’re looking at around 2.5 hours playtime before needing more juice. Yes you can use the USB-C cable to connect to your power outlet but this tethers you, removing the headset’s greatest asset – freedom! After the art workshop, I did some research on this and found this great article on Android Central about power banks that work with the Quest to allow it to keep on trucking. I ordered one at a minimal cost and it works great to double your time between charges. And of course it's small enough to tuck into a pocket - so you can continue to move around with the Quest freely!
You can read the full article about the power banks here.