Oculus VR has announced a plan to introduce 100 Oculus Rift headsets and compatible PCs in 90 libraries throughout California. Planned as a pilot scheme to gauge public interest, Oculus and the California State Library plans to roll it out to more locations if successful.
Although Oculus has made several claims that it wants to increase exposure to virtual reality hardware, some questioned that when it began removing installations from big box stores. While its competition criticized such a move, Oculus appears to have merely changed its tack and is now driving virtual reality experiences in learning centers like libraries instead.
This move puts high-end virtual reality hardware in the hands of people who may not have access to it due to its prohibitive costs and technical knowledge. Oculus describes the move as helping to “level the playing field” of accessibility to the fledgling technology, thereby making it possible for everyone to have equal opportunity to make use of it.
Introducing Rifts to libraries will not only allow people to try out virtual reality for the first time but give them access to virtual reality educational experiences that can impart wisdom and knowledge in entirely new ways. To that end, Oculus is also conducting a number of research projects to augment learning through virtual reality.
VR and 360 degree video have already been used to expose users to new environments and new perspectives of people all over the world. In one instance it was used to offer United Nations regulators a chance to see up-close and personal views of Syrian refugee camps before they legislated potential changes to them.
Along with the benefits of actually using the virtual reality headset and Touch controllers at the libraries, coordinators hope it will draw people in to some of the other services available there.
“It’s not your grandmother’s library,” quipped Etienne Douglas, technology coordinator at Marin City Library, in the promo video.
If you live in California and would like to find your nearest Oculus Rift equipped library, you can find a detailed map of participating locations here. While the program roll out has begun, Oculus has confirmed that it will continue throughout June and July, so if your local participating library hasn’t received their hardware yet, keep checking — it won’t be long.
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