Types of Immersive Resources
After researching the current state of virtual reality technology, four categories of immersive resources were identified for evaluation during the creation of learning resources. As discussed above, 360o photography describes technology that can capture static images at a specific location where the viewer can change the angle of observation as if they are physically at that position. It is potentially the most accessible to the average teacher. Free mobile phone apps like Google Cardboard Camera can create basic 360o scenes using the in-built camera. This could be used by teachers or students to create immersive learning resources or to capture evidence of learning.
Furthermore, learning resources can be based on 360o video. The benefit of video is the potential for greater immersion and educational narrative. Dedicated 360o video cameras are in-expensive and accessible to the average teacher. However, initial tests found the complexity lies in finding the best way to publish resources to students. Also, like with normal video production, professional results require specialist personnel and extensive post-production.
From initial trials, it was discovered that an important benefit of the above types of immersive resources is they can be re-used on various devices with different levels of immersion. A 360o photo or video can be used without modification on a mobile phone, a tablet, laptop, desktop, projector as well as virtual reality headsets. The project found this flexibility important in a classroom setting.
Augmented environments combine immersive technologies with an activity at physical location. A basic example is QR codes in the real-world which can be scanned to launch complimentary immersive content on a device. Tools also exist to combine a series of 360o photos with interactive elements to create mixed reality generated environments like virtual tours.
Computer generated environments was identified as the least accessible due to the cost of equipment and the production of bespoke learning resources. However, they can also be the most immersive as they include interactivity unlike static photos and videos. The partners identified a number of free VR apps that were compatible with both Head Mount and Mobile VR setups.