Google announced its virtual reality (VR) Expeditions initiative for schools earlier this year, but now the company is making a big push to take it to classrooms around the world following a successful pilot program.
In case you didn’t catch it first time around, the Expeditions Pioneer Program is the next best thing to a real-life field trip, offering students a chance to visit faraway locations – think Great Wall of China/Great Barrier Reef, as well as places a little too far for a school bus to reach (like Mars) – using VR gear.
A classroom kit comprises ASUS smartphones, Google Cardboard viewers or Mattel View-Masters to transform the phones into VR headsets, a tablet enabling the teacher to direct VR tours, and a router that allows Expeditions to run without an Internet connection.
Teachers can already choose from more than 100 tours with content provided by the likes of educational publisher Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, British documentarian David Attenborough and his production company Alchemy VR, and the Wildlife Conservation Society. Imagery is also taken from Google’s vast database of 360-degree Street View material.
In addition, the Web giant is working with the Starfish Foundation “to help students explore future careers by showing them a virtual day in the life of professionals including a veterinarian and computer scientist,” Google’s David Quaid wrote in a blog post introducing the initiative.
Google plans to start visiting schools in the U.S., U.K., Australia, New Zealand, and Brazil to help teachers set up the Expeditions kit and offer tips on how to get the most out of the virtual field trips.
The company’s latest effort to gain a foothold in the classroom follows similar moves by other tech firms pushing their hardware and software the way of educators, though it doesn’t always work out as expected.
The Expeditions Pioneer Program is free for schools to use, with the kit loaned for a limited period. If you’re an educator in one of the listed countries and think Expeditions could be a useful teaching tool, you can ask Google to drop by with the classroom kit by applying here.