Seeing a New World with Oculus Rift

At Ag Outlook

What is Oculus Rift?

The Oculus Rift is a virtual reality headset that gives users the sensation of being inside games, virtual worlds, simulations, and videos. The device achieves “virtual reality” at a level previously unavailable to individuals. It was invented by 19-year-old Palmer Luckey and is now owned by Facebook. The consumer version of the Oculus Rift is still in development and is expected to come to market in late 2015. Other companies such as Google, Sony, Samsung, Microsoft, and Razer have been developing their own versions of virtual reality head-mounted displays.

Who is using Virtual Reality?

The headset was originally conceived as a gaming accessory, but since the Facebook acquisition many other use cases have been imagined. The device works very well with 360° video, so Hollywood is producing virtual reality movies. Consumers will have opportunities to try homes, vehicles, and travel before buying. Streamed content will make it possible for users to experience live events, such as sports and concerts, with the best seats in the house. The prototype headset is already in use by trainers and health care professionals. And educators at all levels are anticipating use of VR in their classrooms.

How is Oculus Rift connected with Cooperative Extension?

As part of its focus on innovation, eXtension acquired use of an Oculus Rift developer kit to become familiar with the possibilities of true virtual reality as a teaching tool. Virtual reality is best imagined as a new kind of experiential learning. Consider the idea of city kids learning where their food comes from by exploring a virtual farm. Growers might walk through a crop field, orchard, or barn along with an Extension specialist, getting a virtual hands-on demonstration. Imagine the potential for food safety learning in all situations. How about tractor safety training? The ideas can go as far as your imagination.

Where can I learn more about Virtual Reality and Oculus Rift?

During eXtension’s recent demonstration of Oculus Rift at the USDA’s Ag Outlook Forum, the unanimous reaction of participants was “Wow, WOW!” To be informed about developments in virtual reality for education, become a member of eXtension’s Virtual 3D interest group. Join here https://people.extension.org/communities/1327. To arrange for an on-site demonstration of the Oculus Rift at your event, contact LuAnn Phillips, eXtension’s Virtual Reality specialist, luann.phillips@extension.org.

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