Tech Basics: Virtual Reality 101

virtual reality headset

The simplest definition of virtual reality is “a computer-generated, immersive simulation.” With the help of VR equipment (immersive rooms, headsets, controllers, smartphones, 360-degree videos, game consoles), users are able to look at, move through, and interact with a virtual world. These simulated environments are used primarily for recreational gaming, education, vocational training, and medicine. This blog will discuss some examples of VR in education and how to get started with VR on your phone.

Virtual reality in education

In the field of medicine, virtual reality applications help future doctors and nurses run through simulations of patient interactions as well as study anatomy. Doctors are able to view 3D models of organs to plan operations or use virtual environments to treat patients struggling with PTSD or pain.

Professors are using virtual reality to send students on field trips to museums to study art and historical artifacts. In engineering and architecture programs, students are asked to build and explore 3D models. There are virtual reality applications that send students inside cells to study biology or to the Big Dipper to study astronomy and street scenes in foreign countries to study second languages.

Try virtual reality yourself

Not ready to invest in an Oculus Go or a series of PlayStation VR games? An easy way to start interacting with virtual reality is to try using a VR mobile viewer (such as a Google Cardboard or Daydream or Samsung Gear VR) with your smartphone. From there you can search for virtual reality apps for your phone or search for content freely available on the internet. Here are a few ideas to get started:

Tips for viewing VR content on your phone.

virtual reality headset icon
To switch a video from normal display to VR, click on the headset icon. You may need to turn your phone sideways before it appears in VR view.
headphones icon
Using headphones for audio content will increase the immersive experience.
Be sure you are connected to a strong Wi-Fi network or download a video ahead of viewing.
360 degree icon
The 360 icon lets you know the video or photo is VR viewer friendly.
cell phone icons
You don’t always need a VR viewer to interact with 360-degree videos and photos. Try moving your phone around to look up, down, right, left.
Elise Mueller, Ph.D.

Author: Elise Mueller, Ph.D.

Elise Mueller is the consultant for the language departments at Duke. Her goal is to support their teaching through sound pedagogy and educational technologies. She leads fellowships and workshops on blended teaching, student reflection, portfolios and course design. She is currently grappling with the meaning of a liberal arts education in the 21st century.