News at UNSW

Virtually there.

2016 is shaping up to be a significant year for Virtual Reality (VR). A plethora of devices, applications and content will be added to newly released VR platforms such as Oculus Rift, Samsung Gear VR, Sony Playstation VR, HTC Vive and Google cardboard.

Reports from mainstays like Fortune magazine, BBC , Guardian are asking if 2016 is the beginning of widespread use of Virtual Reality technologies. I believe that VR is about to cross into broader use where experiential learning and educational content are two domains that will benefit.

Virtual reality is a technology that replicates an environment, real or imagined, and simulates a user's physical presence and environment in a way that allows the user to interact with it. Virtual realities create sensory experiences, which can include sight, touch, hearing, and smell.

Higher Education will be a beneficiary of this technology both in creating and using it as a learning tool. Although early days, clear benefit arises from understanding and embracing Virtual Reality at the right time, starting now.

This paper gives a glimpse of demonstrations and current events indicating the growing use and interest in VR technology use.

Sydney's Powerhouse museum recently introduced the immersive experience of David Attenborough's exploration of the Great Barrier Reef via VR headsets - David Attenborough's Virtual Reality Experiences official trailer

UNSW Business School has used the interest in VR to provide a tour for prospective students through their flip classroom Apple store application: UNSW Business Classroom Application

Figure 1: Screen shot from UNSW Business School virtual tour application

The uses for VR within the learning environment are extensive; recent examples include:

It is one thing to view these video streams but how do we create them easily. Specialised cameras are entering the market that will allow easy and ready capture of an environment e.g. Facebook unveils "surround 360" VR camera.

I am aware that pockets of usage have been underway for many years at UNSW (e.g. Mechanical Engineering). However, the increasing availability of headsets, material to view, and ease of access to capture and create content will provide an avenue that benefits and expands use beyond the niche areas of the past.

You can track more information within the UNSW community on the Yammer – Digital Champions group (Yammer group link - available to all UNSW staff) and if you want to follow up on specific opportunities please contact me at UNSW IT.

David Bryan
Making sense of our digital future.

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Page Last updated: Tuesday, May 10th, 2016