How to Choose a Virtual Reality Device for Your ClassroomChoosing a VR Headset and Smart Device for Your Classroom – Part 3

*This post is sponsored by Samsung. All thoughts and opinions are my own.*

Now that we have covered virtual reality and Google Expeditions in Part 1 of this series, and how to apply these ideas to the classroom in Part 2, let’s explore the actual devices that you need. If you are wondering if your classroom is ready for virtual reality, be sure to take a look at this infographic by Samsung. There is a brand new frontier in education: immersive virtual reality!

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Did you miss Part 1 & 2

The Devices

There are three different devices to think about at this point in time: 1) a virtual reality headset, 2) a smartphone for the student device, and 3) a tablet or phone for the teacher device. So the biggest question I am receiving is what to buy. I want to emphasize this is a moving target in terms of technology. Virtual Reality headsets are still very new and come in a wide variety of price points. Smartphones are not something we are used to buying for the classroom, which seems to be the biggest hangup to making this happen. What in the world do we buy?

First, let me say, this article was VERY difficult to write. The technology is new, and there are lots of choices, but making this work at the classroom level is not as easy. I do not want to steer anyone in the wrong direction, so please keep in mind that this technology is new and rapidly changing. Do your research! There is not a one size fits all answer for every classroom and every budget.

Best Buy and others are starting to put together classroom kits, complete with wifi, but we are still talking about buying mobile phones, even though we do not need cellular plans. I have hope that soon we will have a clear option for the classroom. In the meantime, here are some device ideas to get started.

Choose Your VR Headset First

Since your headset will dictate the device compatibility, I suggest you choose your headset first, paying close attention to the compatibility specifications. Please note, that although we have focused on Google Expeditions in this series, there are many other compatible VR experiences that work with Google Cardboard and many other versions of VR headsets. So you are not limited to just what Expeditions has to offer. I will share some other VR resources outside of Google Expeditions in Part 4 of this series. But the more advanced (and usually more expensive) headset that you choose will often require a more advanced smartphone or device. (See also this great article from Mashable: How to Choose the Right VR Headset.)

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Google Cardboard

Of course, the idea behind Google Cardboard is to make it low cost and accessible to the masses. But you would be surprised how many are manufacturing their version of Google Cardboard and the wide range of prices you will find.

  • Be sure to look for version two of Google Cardboard (button is on the top). It is a much better design, but version one can still be purchased from several vendors.
  • The versions with the strap are recommended!
  • I also recommend you buy one or two to test before committing to a class set.

Below are some Google Cardboard options:

NEW!!! Google Daydream View

I had to mention this one, even though it is brand new and will work best with the new Google Pixel phone. Google Daydream View is much more robust than Google Cardboard and more expensive of course with a price tag of $79. But when you see the features, I think you will find that price tag quite reasonable (and cheaper than some other choices). However, this is new and will have more robust requirements for the phone in order to run the Daydream App, right now only available on Android. Since this is limited and requires a brand new phone, this is most likely NOT the best choice for your classroom in 2016, but could become more viable in 2017. Watch the video below to see the potential of this awesome headset and app.

Samsung Gear VR

There are many other compatible options for VR headsets besides the Google Cardboard version. Below are some options for you and your students. Some of the more popular options are the Samsung Gear VR shown in the video below. The Gear VR has been around for a while now, and there are different versions available. Be sure to research the one that is right for your classroom. The latest version of the Samsung Gear VR is compatible with the latest Samsung smartphones: Galaxy S7, Galaxy S7 Edge, Galaxy Note5, Galaxy S6 edge+, Galaxy S6, or Galaxy S6 edge.

See the Samsung Gear VR in action in the video below from ISTE 2016.

Compatible Devices for Google Expeditions

As I mentioned earlier, consider this a moving target because the technology is advancing rapidly. Even though an older, cheaper phone may be compatible today, any of the developers of VR applications could update the application to require other types of hardware specifications. But as it stands as of the publishing of this article, here are the specs you need for Google Expeditions from Google’s support page.

– Required specifications:

– A gyroscope and accelerometer: This is essential for determining orientation and doing head-tracking in virtual reality viewer.
– Android 4.4 or later OR iOS 8.0 or later
– 1GB ram

– Even if your phones meet the required specifications, some devices may still not be able to use Expeditions. For more certainty and a better experience, we recommend some additional specifications and features.
Recommended specifications:

– GPU comparable with an Adreno 330
– High resolution screen: 720p or 1080p is recommended.
– Minimum of 2GB ram, 3 or 4 would be better
– 2.4ghz and 5ghz wifi support
– VR viewer compatible screen size (check the specifications for your viewer for recommended screen size)

Recommended Phone Devices for Google Expeditions

Here is a spreadsheet of compatible devices for Google Expeditions with notes from teachers that are using these in their classroom. You will notice there are several devices with caveats that will not be completely compatible, but some features will work.
Many schools are beginning VR implementation in small pilots, and that’s really what makes sense at this time. Stay tuned for Part 4, where I will share more resources for virtual reality and Google Expeditions in the classroom.

The Ultimate Google Cardboard and Expeditions Resource Guide

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