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Kickstart VR for Outreach 2018

Purpose of the project

Following on from the successful Kickstart VR at Warwick project, we realised that there is great potential for the use of VR in the university's outreach, public engagement and widening participation activities. Warwick staff working in these areas could take VR kit, with preloaded apps, into schools and to events, for use by children and the public. What could we do to make this cheap and effective? What might be the tech-management implications? This project, led by the Academic Technology team at Warwick, aims to answer these questions. If you would like to know more about our work in VR, or join our VR at Warwick mailing list, please contact r dot b dot o-toole at warwick dot ac dot uk

The plan

To test this out, we got a £2000 grant from the Warwick Innovation Fund. We were able to buy 10 VR kits, each costing £200. Each kit consists of a Blitz Wolf VR headset (Google Cardboard based), a bluetooth controller, a Moto G4+ Android phone, Sony headphones. We have loaded the phones with a selection of VR apps, as requested by schools and outreach professionals (with more to add on request). This included apps for atronomy, chemistry and classics.

In January, the kit was loaned out to Kenilworth School, to be tested and reviewed by Mr Harwood-Suther and children from across the school (including the Space and Rocket club). We will be compiling feedback from the school children and teachers into a report. We are also creating a list of useful apps, with some reviews.

The kits are now available for loan. Please see the calendar for more details.

Future possibilities

We expect that by the end of 2018, these phone based kits will become obsolete, as major companies like Oculus and HTC release low-cost all-in-one headsets. However, this project will give us a headstart in understanding how they might be used in schools, events and across the university. We might see individual projects purchasing equipment. Or it may prove to be worthwhile for the university to provide a centrally funded and managed facility. We could also see VR headsets becoming a normal part of AV provision, with kits available through the loan system. These possibilities will be evaluated towards the end of 2018.

Headsets in use by PGCE trainee teachers

Progress so far: we have purchased and configured the equipment; it has been used and tested by Kenilworth School in a wide range of lessons; the equipment is now back at Warwick and available for loan to outreach projects; it has been demonstrated to the outreach support team; it will be used in a public engagement event linked to the BBC Civilisations programme.

The 10 headsetsThe 10 headsets.