Behind the Scenes of Oculus Educational Content, Plus Our Favorite Immersive Experiences that Foster Learning
Oculus Blog
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Posted by Oculus VR
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November 16, 2017
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November 13 – 17 is National Education Week in the US. To celebrate, we’re highlighting the intersections of VR and education with a series of blog posts. In Part 1, we dove into the latest news from Oculus NextGen, while Part 2 discussed some exciting updates from Oculus Education. In Part 3, we take you behind the scenes of the Oculus Content team and the work they’re doing to bring high-quality educational experiences to the Oculus Platform.

At OC3, we announced a $10M educational content fund, specifically earmarked to support the design, development, and production of games, apps, and experiences that promote and facilitate learning. Today, we’re excited to share an update on some of the best educational content to come out of the program to date.

We sat down with Oculus Head of Educational Content Tina Tran for the inside scoop.

What was your background prior to joining Oculus?

Tina Tran: I came to the US from Vietnam as a refugee at the age of four and grew up in Southern California, attending public schools through college before making my way to New York City to start my career in management consulting. Since then, l I’ve worked in Europe, Australia, and San Francisco doing business development for technology and video game companies.

One of my most memorable learning experiences is from grade school when I was pulled from class once a week to play learning games in an Apple computer lab—that was my favorite part of the week. I’m grateful to be spearheading educational VR content at Oculus, and I’m particularly glad I still get to work with game developers, partnering with them to create educational content that is engaging, fun, and memorable.

What would you point to as the highlight of your time working on educational content thus far?

TT: There are quite a few highlights. I’m proud of partnering with the developer of Ocean Rift—one of our most popular apps on mobile VR—to create an educational layer that lets players learn about sea animals, in addition to swimming with them.

I’m also incredibly excited to launch the Anne Frank House experience in 1Q2018 in partnership with Force Field VR. The VR experience includes rooms you can’t access from the tour, and the museum will make the VR experience available to visitors on-site for people with accessibility challenges. It will be a powerful experience that represents all three of the pillars we’ve identified as educational content: empathy-building, life-long learning, and exploration.

Breaking Boundaries in Science takes you on the journey of Marie Curie, Grace Hopper, and Jane Goodall. Their awe-inspiring stories are told in an immersive way that not only connects people to the science and history behind their accomplishments, but also touches on their personal journeys as they broke boundaries in fields that were historically reserved for men.

Looking ahead, what are you most excited about as Oculus continues to invest in educational content?

TT: The opportunity to enhance the way we learn, in homes and in schools, as we introduce a new medium that has the power to take us to places we previously could only dream of and feel like we’re there is incredibly exciting. I believe using VR as a tool for connection, for rich storytelling, and for deeper understanding of abstract concepts will make learning more meaningful and more effective.

How do you think VR will change the way we teach others and learn in the future?

TT: There’s a famous Confucius saying: “I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand.” I believe VR is a powerful medium for us to learn in a different way—one that makes us feel like we are “doing.” The use of interactive storytelling and exploration in VR will be a meaningful way to supplement the methods we use to learn today.

Last but not least, we asked Tina to identify the top 10 apps funded by our educational content fund so far. She took it a step further, breaking out 13 of her favorites—some of which haven’t launched just yet, but are incredibly cool—across five categories:

Science

  • Breaking Boundaries in Science, an experience from Filament Games that lets you step into the shoes of Grace Hopper, Marie Curie, and Jane Goodall—complete with recreations of their research spaces, coming to Rift and Gear VR in December
  • The Hive, a brand-new game from Discovery VR where you learn about bees and their natural threats, out today on Gear VR
  • Discovery VR, a free app on both Rift and Gear VR with a new 360° video on bees, as well as the interactive Racing Extinction 360° video series exclusively on mobile

Space

  • SpaceTime VR, an episodic exploration of the history of the universe developed by PBS coming to Gear VR in December 2017
  • Apollo 11, a mix of archival audio and video footage together with accurate recreations of the spacecraft that brings history to life on Rift and Gear VR
  • Mission ISS, an Emmy-nominated VR simulation where you experience life on board the International Space Station, out now on Rift and coming to GearVR this month

Travel

  • Smithsonian Journeys: Venice,a guided 360° tour of Venice, Italy produced by The Great Courses, coming to Gear VR in December
  • Masterworks: Monuments in Peril, a LiDAR-powered exploration of rich cultural heritage sites at risk of destruction due to climate change from Cyark, coming to Rift and Gear VR in December 2017
  • Wonders of the World, an experience that takes you to the Colossus of Rhodes, the Taj Mahal, and Machu Picchu—now available for free on Gear VR

Empathy

  • Phone of the Wind, a moving experience that combines Quillustrations, 360° video, and computer graphics to explore the different ways we process grief and connect with lost loved ones, coming in November to Rift and Gear VR

Life-Long Learning

  • The Hacienda, a Spanish learning and exploration game from Busuu and Numinous Games, available for free on Gear VR
  • Titanic VR, a blend of gamification, exploration, and survivor testimony from the creators of Apollo 11, coming to Rift at the end of November
  • Virry Safari: Wild Encounters, an interactive 4K experience that lets you engage with wild and endangered species in their natural habitats, out now on Rift and Gear VR

Just the Beginning
VR has the potential to drive impact in schools in a number of ways, from improving access to students and districts and bringing abstract concepts to life to helping social and emotional learning, increasing focus, and facilitating self-paced study. We’re excited by these early experiences and inspired by what the future will bring.

We’ll continue partnering with developers and top-tier content providers to bring even more engaging educational VR content to the Oculus Platform—and we look forward to sharing future updates with the VR community.

— The Oculus Team