Experiencing and Creating Virtual Reality

Experiencing and creating virtual reality (VR) is becoming more affordable and accessible and this is exciting for educators and students. Mobile devices are providing us with quick and easy access to create VR content with existing functionality (e.g., 360 photospheres) or with plug in tools (e.g., 360 video). There are also tools that make creating VR experiences accessible to those without programming skills. I would like to share two tools that I recently discovered:  the first tool allows you to create VR tours and the second is an impressive repository of 3D objects that may be viewed in VR or AR (augmented reality).

Roundme

Roundme is a free tool that allows you to quickly and easily create a virtual tour using photospheres that you captured. Have you tried creating a photosphere on your mobile device? Android users can create photospheres natively using the camera app and iOS users can download an app, such as Google Street View, to accomplish this. Once you have captured your photospheres, you drag and drop them in Roundme and then add portals which allow the viewer to travel to different locations within the photosphere. You can also add text, links, maps, sounds, and more. Below are a couple of examples for you to explore. Of course, there are several other examples on their site to explore,  including a map which allows you to select virtual tours shared in RoundMe based on location. Happy virtual traveling!

 

I like the fact that there are multiple ways to experience the virtual tours in Roundme. You can grab the embed codes and put them on a website (just like I did above) and anyone with a web browser can view them. You can also access the virtual tours through the Roundme app and experience them using Google Cardboard for a more immersive experience. Students can easily create their own virtual tours or explore already created virtual tours and both could be utilized by a variety of disciplines. I would like to give a shout out to Todd French, Religion professor at Rollins, who integrates this in some of his courses and has his students create and share photospheres with each other. 

Sketchfab

Sketchfab is a library of 3D models which can be viewed on the web, mobile devices, and on VR and AR headsets. Similar to Roundme, Sketchfab provides flexibility in how you view the content which makes it more accessible. When you visit this site, you will notice a variety of content uploaded by the Sketchfab community ranging from 3D models that were digitally created to those created by using photogrammetry. Some of the animations even include sound.

I recently learned that many of these models are used in Unity or other programs to create games or VR experiences. Each 3D model has a  “Description” and “Model Information” section. These sections provide interesting details on how the model was created and most importantly, the permissions and restrictions on re-using the model. Some models have a Creative Commons license while other have comments such as “may use for educational purposes only.”

Sketchfab is easy to search since the 3D objects are grouped by categories. As I mentioned above, there are several 3D objects that could be used to create games or VR experiences in other programs like the car model below. Click the play button and then move the model around with your cursor. 

Some of the most interesting models I found that have great educational potential are the anatomy models, such as the model of the heart and lungs below. This model includes sound. 

There are also several 3D models from the British Museum included in the Sketchfab library such as the one below. 

I could keep embedding interesting models in this post that I discovered on Sketchfab such as Dustin from Stranger Things or a robot that makes sounds, but I should let you start exploring!