The trajectory of Virtual Reality technology has traveled far, and quite literally, over the boundaries.


While lessening the barriers and paving way for worthwhile developments, VR has found usage in a multitude of fields namely education, healthcare, aviation, real estate, travel, training, therapy, etc. Since the time of its inception to today, when it is on the cusp of a breakout, every development in the field has been termed as a major hit. Call it the obsession of tech evangelists or their overwhelming theistic belief, VR has given many hopes to innovation. It would not be wrong to quote that today, Virtual Reality has proven its power by gripping the minds and showing us its practical worth.


Allowing complete immersion & engagement, VR is touted as a development that is pro-innovation. As per many, it pumps up productivity and enables autonomous development. Interestingly, Google Expeditions VR’s mission is quite aligned with this belief – to transmute every child into a discoverer, capable of independent learning. The application that uses cardboard and stunning panoramic stills, captures the users’ minds and completely involves them.


Introduced in 2015, Google Expeditions have been recognized as a productive Edtech tool. Its app incorporates background information to help the students and teachers taking the tour. The tutor can guide the students throughout the field trips using an easy to use interface on a tablet. They can also manage multiple screens at a time and review the student login and screen.


By offering virtual tours to different places, Google brings ‘the world into the classroom’. Partnering with different VR companies across the world, the tech giant is determined to increase the reach of this application and benefit maximum students. Its Middle East partner Munfarid goes an extra mile with its ‘go to school program’, a VR awareness program aimed at conducting 1 million expeditions in the Middle East. The Expeditions are being demonstrated with the Virtual Reality kit VRXOne.


Amongst the various lessons available on expeditions, a particular field trip to Antarctica is very interesting. Here, the students get to understand fauna of the place better through a concise 3-D virtual trip. They learn about penguin colonies, leopard seals, Ernest Shackleton’s explorations, and much more. While the students are drenched in a virtual experience, they also move their heads, attempting to capture the full view of the place. They react and move their body in anticipation of what happens next. Deep immersion like this helps many children find their true passion and pursue their interests in the field. It is only a technology like VR that can engage every student, also those whose attention is hard to get, or the ones who struggle with information retention. It is a journey of discovery coupled with the righteous implementation of textbook learning.


Impressively, there are many places that students and teachers can now visit through Google Expeditions. The Ann Frank House, the Great Wall of China, Palace of Versailles and Romeo and Juliet’s Verona are some major hits.


Also one of the most amusing places, as per students, is the field trip to Mars. The pictures have real depth. Rocks and cliffs projected out towards the user. The immersion is enhanced by shadows that seem real enough across the surface of Mars. With so many organizations working for space research and exploration, this field trip enthuses the students and instills curiosity to learn more in the minds of budding space fans.


Also, talking about innovation & discovery, we cannot skip mentioning a major news coming straight from the land of seven emirates.


UAE seeks Red.

The country is gearing up to put its foot on Mars.


A huge investment by the government and its lookout for brilliant minds to make this mission a success talks volumes about the enthusiasm and passion for this space mission. This came off as a major highlight of the UAE Innovation month that was observed in February. The maiden Martian mission is named ‘Hope’. News reports suggest that an amount of 20 billion dirhams ($5.4 billion) has been invested in the UAE Mars Mission and the government is also building a Dh500-million Mars Science city. Tests will be conducted to examine the possibilities of food, energy, water, and agricultural on the planet.


If successful, the impact of this mission will be massive. A strong development will give a major push to the quest for life on another planet. That will probably be a ‘discovery of the century’.


At the same time, it intrigues me to think about the impact it will have on the existing Google Expeditions’ Mars field trip. Would it have stills of people walking around on Mars? Would we see man-made sources of energy there? Maybe too early to imagine, yet quite amusing.

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