Thought ‘Grenades’: First VR Experience

Mind Blowing! 🤯 My first Experience in Virtual Reality with Oculus Rift was so shocking and wonderful my brain couldn’t fully comprehend the experience. Removing the oculus headset, my mind was engaged with processing the VR experience. Additionally, my thoughts considered possibilities and implications this could have in shaping learners’ experiences in 4-H/Extension and other educational environments.

The team began with a kick-off meeting to discuss the project work and outcomes and have a discussion about VR. The Alienware computer and Oculus Rift were setup in the expansive room of UNL’s Nebraska Innovation Studio. My colleagues: Brad, Jenny, and Neal, and Max, and the new addition to our team, Andy Burnett, eagerly anticipated getting a hands-on experience with Oculus Rift VR.

Getting in VR

I placed the Oculus Rift headset on and adjusted the head straps for comfort. I wear glasses, so I adjusted a little more to make the fit comfortable. Andy started, the FIRST CONTACT app.
I was immediately surprised, and an audible “WOW” flew from my lips. It was readily apparent I could see the virtual world all around me as I physically moved my head side-to-side and up-and-down. I was coached a little by Andy to help me understand the steps to engage in the VR environment. In FIRST CONTACT, I was met by a robot,
initially timid, that warmed to me and provided different Disks to put into a 3d-printer like machine. The first disk produced butterflies. The on-screen prompts indicated, if I held my hand still near a butterfly it would land on my finger. I stuck out my virtual hand and extended my finger (virtually and in reality). The butterfly floated near and landed on my finger. I was interacting with this new virtual environment!

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The next couple disks the robot provided me showed me how I could interact in VR using the Oculus Touch Controllers . The Oculus Touch controllers have multiple inputs: triggers, joystick, and buttons. Using the physical buttons on the controllers I could manipulate my virtual hands. The second disk provided made sound makers.
Using the buttons on the controller, my virtual hand would bend my fingers around an object, such that I could pick it up. I picked up the sound makers, one in each hand.
I was encouraged by Andy to try the noise makers around each of my ears. The audio was surround-sound and responsive to the virtual environment. The combination of audio and visual that replicates reality helped me feel completely immersed in virtual reality.

Next, I learned to use my hands in tandem with a couple more disks provided to me by the robot. I was able to pass objects between hands. I even used both my hands to pull on a virtual string of a pull-string rocket. I held the rocket in one hand and pinched the pull string with the other. By moving my hands farther apart the string extended and lit the rockets engine!

I removed the headset. I was back in reality. Just from this initial experience in VR my head was swimming with ideas. I thought about: • implications for school related content exploration • ideas for access and opportunity e.g. visiting places on earth and in the universe • thoughts about the safety of using VR • implications of the use of VR and the social emotional learning of youth

As we continue through the project, investigating and researching these ideas and others I have yet to consider. I am excited to enhance and create new learning experiences for the youth that I serve with VR.

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