Virtual reality’s (VR) potential to enhance education is undoubtedly one of the most exciting aspects of the technology’s revival. It’s clear that Oculus VR, the company behind the Oculus Rift head-mounted display (HMD) feel the same way; last week CEO Brendan Iribe donated some $31 million to the Univeristy of Maryland which he attended. Speaking about the donation, Iribe revealed that Oculus VR believes its product will be ‘transformative’ for education.
“We believe this is going to be one of the most transformative platforms for education of all time. I know, it’s easy to say, hard to prove,” Iribe told The Chronicle of Higher Education. “But time will tell. There’s this thing that happens when you see really great VR. And most of the world hasn’t seen it yet. Maybe only 1,000 people have seen really great VR that tricks your brain, the back of the brain, into thinking that it’s a real place. And when you get that, you suddenly get the feeling, and it’s not like I’m looking at a video game or some kind of entertainment experience. It’s like you’re in a virtual place.”
Iribe went on to talk about the latest prototype hardware that Oculus VR was working with, and how it can convince users that they really are in another location. He mentionned that Oculus VR had even shown its device to members of the Smithsonian Institution who had been immensley excited about its potential uses.
“Imagine, you could scan in everything in the Smithsonian—they have 130 million objects,” Iribe continued. “Let’s get 10 percent of them or 20 percent of them. You could put on a pair of … sunglasses, and with those sunglasses you could see those objects and you could look around and you could see it so well and so clearly, and it would track so perfectly that your brain would believe it was really right in front of you.”
It’s certainly an intriguing thought and Iribe’s other sugestions of shared spaces with other people using VR makes it all the more enticing. Just when the kind of technology Oculus VR is using for its prototype becomes viable for other outlets to use isn’t clear, although you can be sure that some will start using the upcoming consumer version of the device in the meantime.