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How We Can Prevent a Digital Divide 2.0 as Virtual Reality Expands

April 16, 2018

Two people using VR headsets.

Photo Courtesy of EdTech

"In the early days of the digital revolution, the digital divide was a major concern. Many institutions, including my own, developed programs to ensure all students would have access to technology. Now we are entering a new era, in which virtual and augmented reality offer an exciting opportunity to reinvent our learning environments. On the horizon are virtual field trips and labs, simulations, world-building experiences and interactive storytelling. Yet, as we explore the promise of VR and AR for education, we must ensure we don’t create new barriers to access. 

Numerous VR Options in Higher Ed

You can readily see the potential for a new digital divide in existing high-end VR headsets, which can cost several hundred dollars and require computers capable of supporting the applications. One solution is mobile headsets paired with smartphones, such as Google’s Daydream View and the popular Samsung Gear VR. These devices have hand controllers and offer a basic VR experience. But challenges remain: Not all smartphones run the same experiences, and Google’s and Samsung’s headsets work only with Android devices. 

The least expensive solution is Google Cardboard, which is quick, easy and affordable. However, the visual quality is less sophisticated, and the lack of a hand controller limits interactivity. You’re not doing VR so much as watching 360-degree videos. Even so, it’s been an easy way for faculty to introduce immersive experiences. The new stand-alone VR headsets, which work without smartphones or external computers, may offer a solution. The Lenovo Mirage debuted at the 2018 Consumer Electronics Show, and Facebook plans to release two stand-alone devices this year."

Read more about how to prevent a digital divide at EdTech.