I have spent the past year using the htc Vive to help teachers give students experiences that they cannot possibly have otherwise. Through this year, I have compiled a list of five of our must-have VR experiences in SteamVR. (Note: I have not added pricing information as it can change, but check for sales!) These are in no particular order as they all served their purpose extremely well!
Google Earth VR
It started out shaky; I’ve got to admit that I hated it at first. I was not a fan at all. It made me nauseated and it wasn’t very user-friendly. With the addition of the search feature and the newly rendered locations, I am in love with Google Earth VR, and so are my students. We’ve used this in several classes. We explored the Roman Coliseum, enjoyed a tour of London, and stood at the summit of Mount Everest. We found and labeled various biomes, went to Pearl Harbor to discuss why this was so important to our military during World War 2, and of course as everyone does, found our school!
This was my very first VR experience and will likely always make my top 5 list. It would have to be a mighty contender to knock this one out of the top five. I used this with every science class to discuss different content in each grade level. With one grade level, we discussed bioluminescence using the experience called Luminous Abyss. In another, we used the experience Reef Migration to discuss water pollution and migration of animals. Finally, using Whale Encounter we discussed the magnitude of the oceans and ocean water. This is also my go-to for the first encounter for others in VR. It is a quick experience that shows exactly how immersive today’s high-end virtual reality has become.
This experience is brought by Valve, and has so many easter eggs included that it automatically makes my first list of top five. I spent an entire afternoon just discovering easter eggs! I have also used several of the experiences within The Lab to explore content from the classroom. There is a human body scanner, which is fairly impressive to see the heart, brain, and lungs. The solar system within The Lab is perfect to share inner and outer planets, planetary motion (both revolution and rotation), the asteroid belt, and to discuss size of planets. Bonus – you can pick up the planets and throw them around like bouncy balls. There is an adorable robotic puppy in The Lab that my students have loved playing with; he will even fetch! Finally, and easily my favorite experience in The Lab is the Slingshot! Imagine… you’re in a cardboard factory with boxes on top of boxes. Placed between some boxes are loads of TNT explosives (yes, I know – so cool!). You are given “cores” to calibrate, which just means that you are launching these spherical objects into the factory and the more damage you do, the higher your score. Your score is given in dollars of damage! It’s great! Two tremendous parts of this experience – tracer cores and core personalities! Yep – there are boxes (they look like blue box fans to me) placed in the factory. Hit one of those, and you can aim your tracer core shot – great for hitting the TNT in the distance! In ELA, this game is perfect for point-of-view and characterization! Each core has it’s own personality and talks to you. They are hilarious, so turn up your volume!
Another goodie from Google is Tilt Brush. This experience is perfect for students to draw settings of stories, create 3d sculptures, generate nonlinear and linear graphs, and thanks to Jimmy Fallon – Tiltbrush Pictionary is a thing and can easily be done using vocabulary words in class! This takes a few minutes of practice to learn the controls, but it is well-worth the time and money.
Water Bears VR
Do you remember the app called “Where’s My Water?” You had to dig through dirt to clear the route for water to reach a bathtub for an alligator… please say you remember that. It was one of my favorites until I got stuck on a level. Anyhow, this puzzle game is very similar. You are given pipes and a water source, and these absolutely adorable animated gummy bear looking creatures in a bubble. The goal is to use the pipes to move the water from the water source to the water bears to free the bears and move on to the next level. It is super cute! The levels get progressively harder and there is critical thinking and problem solving that must be used. My personal favorite thing about the experience is catching the water bears when they are released and listening to their laughter at being released.
Let’s face it. I can’t just do 5 must-haves. I’m sorry! Go get Vivecraft and let your students build and mine on Minecraft IN virtual reality! They get to experience it through the eyes of Steve/Alex! How cool is that? Want to make it even cooler??? The coolest thing my students did this year with Virtual Reality was to create their own splash pads to scale, designing in class, building in Minecraft, then experiencing in Virtual Reality using Vivecraft! It was pretty epic and the students (and teachers) loved the experience!
Comment with your must-haves from SteamVR!