Author: Maho Hayashi
Edited by: Elliot Hu-Au
Using VR to Go Behind the Scenes
In recent years, the development of VR has matured and become more mainstream. As more people become aware of and have access to VR, they will begin to realize that VR has great potential in various industries, especially in education. There are several great benefits that VR has on education. First and also the most obvious, VR is able to simulate environments that traditional education could not provide. Second, VR creates meaningful learning experiences that sparks students’ curiosities and helps retain learning contents. Third, VR helps students understand complex and abstract concepts and subjects more easily (Hu-Au and Lee, 2017). As educational VR games and apps are emerging rapidly, educators are finding new ways to implement VR in their classrooms to enhance lessons and increase students’ engagement.
Recently, Hold the World by SkyVR was designed to specifically draw people’s interests to natural history and science learning. The app stars legendary historian Sir David Attenborough in virtual form as the guide, taking you on a whirlwind trip through London’s renowned Natural History Museum. Hold the World is an authentic one-on-one interactive learning environment as Attenborough appears before your eyes and provides facts and personal insights on each object you put your hands on. Even though you are not physically in the museum, Hold the World still allows that “hands-on” learning experience as you can freely explore, pick up, and manipulate the objects however you want. These objects range from rare dinosaur fossils to butterflies to blue whales.
This app could be easily implemented in a natural history lesson where each student is assigned a different specimen to study closely and share with the whole class after they complete their virtual field trip at the museum. Even more amazing about Hold the World is that it is not just a one-time experience, you can keep going back to it to explore different objects depending on what you’re currently learning.
The Advantages of VR
As previously mentioned, VR learning environments create opportunities that would not have been possible in real life and in traditional learning settings. Normal citizens don’t have access to private collections and are definitely not allowed to touch anything displayed in most museums. This is where Hold the World stands out from other VR environments that promote virtual field trips. Not only does it transport you to the Natural History Museum in London but it also breaks down the barrier between a person and objects displayed in museums. Removing the usual glass walls that separate viewers from the objects in museums, Hold the World allows viewers to handle the objects as they wish. This notion can be very exciting and beneficial for tactile and visual learners. The artifacts come to life and help students visualize objects that are not accessible in real-life situations. For example, students can click on the blue whale and take a close look inside to examine its body and skeleton. They can zoom in to look at the skeletal structures and zoom out to see the animals in full scale. At one point, the animals could even come to life as they fly over you or wag their tails at you. With the learning contents coming to life, students are engaged with the artifacts in meaningful and different ways.
How to experience Hold the World
To fully experience Hold the World, you will need to download the app on the Oculus website and own an Oculus Rift and Touch. Currently, the app costs a reasonable 3.99 USD. Hold the World is a unique VR learning environment that is beautifully designed and allows people to have a personally guided tour by none other than Sir David Attenborough. This is an excellent app for learning about natural history, especially dinosaurs, ancient artifacts, and rare animals like blue whales.