Virtual Reality: htc Vive vs Oculus Rift

One of the most frequently asked questions….

Which do you recommend: Vive or Oculus?

I will admit up front that I have a pretty in-depth knowledge of the htc Vive and a pretty limited knowledge of the Oculus Rift.  Which means this post may be totally biased.  However, it’s been asked and I feel the need to share.  Because I know it can be argued, I’d like to point out in advance that there are other options, but right now, these are the front-runners.  I will not address those I haven’t personally tried.

In the beginning, it was Oculus.  I never had the pleasure of wearing the first Oculus, but I hear the motion sickness was something else.  My first experience was the htc Vive.  I was finally able to try out the new Oculus a couple weeks ago.  Here is my verdict.

Headset: Vive

To me, the Vive is sturdier.  I’m using VR in education with 450 students and teachers and I’d like to know my headset isn’t going to break into pieces if a student hits it on accident.  I will say that the Oculus feels nice on because the headset is much lighter & it looks super sleek!  The Vive feels better on my face (using the included face cushion) and allowed less light in when adjusted.  The adjustments on the Vive are smoother and easier to handle than the Oculus.  The Oculus has a very small strip of velcro while the Vive has more substance to it.  I also like the headphones on the Oculus, which are adjustable.  However, the Vive has a port for headphones behind the head, and if the deluxe strap is ordered, it’s a moot point for Oculus.  So for overall headset, I’d have to choose the Vive.

Controllers: Oculus

I love the new Oculus touch controllers.  These were an incredible add to the Oculus headset a few months ago.  These touch controllers feel so natural in your hands, and are easy to maneuver in experiences.  I also love that in the majority of Oculus content, the controllers have the same commands using the controllers.  Another cool feature is that you can give various gestures (like a thumbs up, point, etc) using the touch controllers that you can’t give on the Vive (yet).  With that said, it’s not enough to make it an automatic Oculus win over Vive.  Especially since both have pretty cool haptics.

Room-Scale: Vive

One of the coolest things about the high-end virtual reality equipment is the ability to have a room-scale experience.  This means that you are able to move about the virtual room in the same way that you move around a physical space, with your feet.  Prior to this, it was teleport only through a button on a controller, or the motion of your eyes or head in the headset.  The ability to do room-scale VR is what set Vive apart from their inception.  The idea that you could actually walk around was amazing.  Now Oculus has leveled the field in this respect by offered room-scale using base stations similar to Vive. However, having used both of these room-scale options, I like the Vive best in this regard.  Both the Vive & the Oculus offer their base stations/sensors with the original kit, but while two base stations are sufficient for a good room-scale experience with the Vive, the Oculus really needs three sensors to give you an equal experience.

The Experiences: Tie

I hate when people do that on one of these “which is better” posts, but honestly… I have to here.  I would be very interested to know the opinions of my peers on this.  The limited experiences I have in the Oculus were pretty consistent with what I had experienced in the Vive as far as graphics, response, etc.  I don’t really use Viveport (the Vive platform) nor the Oculus Home (Oculus platform).  If I based the choice on my limited experience in both platforms, I’d have to give it to Vive. The Oculus Home doesn’t allow you to move about, and I desperately want to move to change the radio and look around the patio you’re on, but I can’t (yet).  Instead, I typically use SteamVR and search for VR enabled experiences only.  I look forward to seeing the Home and Viveport evolve though, as there is quite a bit of change coming it seems.

Overall: Vive

So overall, I’d have to tell anyone who asks that I’d recommend the htc Vive over the Oculus Rift – for now.  With the constant changes and the incredible advances in both the look of VR and the experiences offered, there are only awesome things to come in the future of VR in education!

 

 

What’s Inside Our Virtual Reality Lab?

Several people have asked what was placed in the Virtual Reality lab since a recent blog post, Media Makeover.  I thought it would be much easier to create a short blog post relaying this information.

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Virtual Reality headset: htc Vive – Included in the box are the headset, two controllers (with power adapters, lanyards and micro-USB cables), two base stations (with power adapters, wall mounting kit & sync cable), 3-in-1 cable, audio cable, ear buds, 2 face cushions, cleaning cloth, link box, power adapter, HDMI cable, USB cable, mounting pad, and various documentation.

Paint:  Sherwin-Williams Dynamic Blue

Lighting: Ikea Holmo Floor Lamps (Set of 3) & Philips Hue Lights Starter Kit

Base Stations: Two base stations come with the htc Vive.  We chose to mount them on tripod stands for portability (although we rarely move the set-up now).  We have a very small piece of masking tape with an “x’ on it to aid in quick set-up if the tripod is bumped or moved.  We also purchased mini ball heads.

Computer: Nearly any VR compatible computer will do.  Be sure your graphics card is ready to handle 1080p quality from the Vive & consider that you may choose to be running the Vive and two exterior screens (monitor & TV).  For exact US specs, check here.

Viveport vs Steam: We typically run Steam for all of our VR experiences.  The new home screen is pretty awesome, and the ability to switch environments and join with others around the world is an incredible improvement.

Futon: We chose the Mainstays Memory Foam Futon in black.  I would recommend any seating with faux leather that is easy to keep clean.

Banners: Lucas Gillispie designed and printed these using creative commons images & an online banner maker called Bannerbuzz

TV: We chose a 40″ HD TV with wall mount for students who were waiting to be able to see what the student in the headset was experiencing.  We found this allows those who can’t put on the headset for various reasons to still take part in the experience.  Virtual Reality is a tool to teach, so we want all students to have the same opportunity as much as possible.

We look forward to the new vive tracker and are interested to see what come from the TPCAST Wireless VR add-on.  Finally, keep an eye on the new Vive standalone VR headset.  Check out current information here.

 

Media Makeover

There’s a saying “form follows function”.  I’m sure you’ve also heard “if you build it, they will come”.  Basically, my media center needed to reflect the changes that we hoped the pilot would bring to the culture of the school and the vision for media centers throughout the district.  The media space at my school was perfect for the school when it opened in 2000.  Based on new trends in education, and push for Future Ready schools, the use of the space was no longer adequate.  The physical space desperately needed to be updated and the collection needed to be heavily weeded.

Makerspace

We started with a good-sized classroom off the media center.  It previously functioned as the technician’s workspace, but I immediately envisioned a makerspace there.  It already had a sink, tile floors, a solid wall, and lots of storage.  I was also trying to break the habit of sending broken chromebooks to the media center, so I felt that having the technician in that space was counter-intuitive.  The technician at our school graciously moved to another space in the school, and a fresh coat of paint, in some pretty cool colors was the beginning of a makerspace.

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Before

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Before

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After: painted and ready for materials

Virtual Reality Room

The next room on the list was the periodical storage room.  This room was full of classroom book sets, old magazines, manipulatives, old textbooks, and so much more.  I found that teachers didn’t even know what all they had at the school as it was all stored in the media center.  So many teachers were excited to come pick out what matched their curriculum and take it back to their classrooms.  As a teacher, unless I saw it in my classroom, I would forget it was available to me.  I think many of these teachers operated the same way.  Now the manipulatives and many of the book sets are in classrooms.  Textbooks were sent back to the district warehouse.  Old magazines were placed in the makerspace for projects and teachers were directed to the online content.  What teachers did not want, or no longer matched with the curriculum, the students took home.  We transformed this room into the Virtual Reality room (more information on that in a later post).

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Storage

I won’t add images of the storage space as this space was used as a storage space for the school it seems.  There were so many pieces of outdated or broken technology that I asked our central office to sort through the materials and properly remove anything that could be removed.  My assistant superintendent was also kind enough to help me sort through the professional collection to focus on our district initiatives and provide our staff with the most current literature from well-respected educators.  There is an ancient white computer that has become a discussion piece as we still use it to power the poster maker!  My students love to glance in the storage room at the “dinosaur” and I have used the floppy disks that accompany the computer as talking points in several lessons.  Otherwise, most of the space was cleared out and now that all Chromebooks have been turned in for the summer, the once empty shelves are full of Chromebooks waiting for school to start again.

My Office

I really struggled with what to do with my office.  I’ve never been the type to sit in an office to work; I’d rather be visible in the media center.  I considered turning this space into another student space, a quiet study room or a space for reading.  The more I considered the space, I decided to keep it as my office for now.  All of the equipment to repair books, prepare books for circulation, and any files that needed to be kept are housed in my office.  I also keep the professional books I have purchased here so that they are separate from school-funded books.  Any materials that are not ready to be placed in the makerspace and my breakout boxes that I loan to teachers are also housed here.  Finally, I house my more expensive equipment here, behind the locked door to prevent theft or accidental breaking.  This space may eventually evolve into another space for students, but for now it remains my office.

Media Space

This space deserves an entire blog post in and of itself.  For now, the quick version is that after weeding due to age, condition, and circulation, and after adding another shelf to each case to eliminate unused space, I was able to remove 2 12-foot long bookcases, 1 9-foot long bookcase, and 24 feet of bookcases on the walls.  The corners of the media center were dark and everything felt so cluttered.  Now it is open and airy and there are so many exciting places for students to sit and read, work on projects, collaborate, and have class.  Look for a post in the near future about specific changes in the media space.  For now, enjoy some pictures of the space from my first day at work to phase one of the media space changes.

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What comes next?  This year I am installing a Minecraft lab of 10 computers.  These computers will likely run an eSports league as well.  I’m excited to build a large Lego wall and extend the makerspace with the help of my Makerspace Mentors.  I am also looking to begin the transition to having all my furniture on wheels.  Because my school is located near the center of our district, the media center is frequently used for large meetings.  Furniture on wheels would make things so much easier!  I’m also eager to put in a comfortable reading area in one of the alcoves near the interior windows.  There will be more “comfy chairs” (students’ words, not mine) available in the media center as well.  Finally, on the big screen TV, I will have announcements of happenings around the school, as well as a showcase of awesome work from students and teachers.  Stay tuned!