Finally, Google has opened the Google Expeditions app on Google Play to the public. Now everyone can share in the fun of going together anywhere in 360 degrees. In this public release they also streamlined the app so it is much easier to setup and has a cleaner user interface. It still contains useful teacher tools like: seeing where your students are looking, notes and information about points of interest, and the ability to create a point of interest. A new (and very useful) feature is the “pause” button that allows the teacher to dim and pause all of the students’ screens at once to get their attention. Unfortunately, Expeditions still only uses stills and panoramic shots instead of 360 videos.
Releasing it to the public now allows more teachers to try out Expeditions on their own setups as well. Though Best Buy has pre-made kits for 30 students ($9,999), 20 students ($6,999), or 10 students ($3,999), the cost is still pretty high. Especially if teachers are trying to raise funds through Donorschoose or the like, a minimum of $3,999 is not an easy amount to garner.
What most cash-strapped teachers should do is try to convince their school to buy a kit for the whole school. Or if a teacher wants the setup just for themselves, they can try the do-it-yourself method of buying each piece separately and saving some money. In fact, you don’t actually need a WiFi router to create your own peer-to-peer network. You can use an Android phone to create a WiFi hotspot and link all of the headsets and the tablet to that. Google gives some general directions that can help with this. I have done it with my Moto X as the hotspot and as the “follower” in the Expedition. Then I connected my Nexus 10 tablet to the Moto X hotspot and used it as the teacher side of Expedition. It worked just like it should! I haven’t tried connecting more than two devices that way but its worth a shot if you’re short on cash.
Hopefully, Google Expedition’s release will spur widespread use of the app and expose more schools to the benefits of using VR in the classroom. We’ll just have to wait and see how things go in the fall.