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Education Software Technology

Could VR Field Trips Replace the Real Thing? (theindychannel.com) 96

turkeydance shares a report from RTV6, which cites a new editorial in the journal Science that explores the question, "Could VR field trips replace the real thing?" Virtual field trips have been around for a while, but they used to be pretty boring: some photos, some text -- basically a Wikipedia entry. But they've come a long way. Nearpod and Google Expeditions let students immerse themselves in places they couldn't normally visit, like Antarctica or even Mars. These virtual field trips are safer and easier to organize than real outings, and they might soon be cheaper, too. Douglas McCauley, assistant professor of ecology at the University of California, Santa Barbara, says traditional field trips have already declined under budget constraints, so schools might be tempted to simply make a switch. McCauley says he's excited about the possibilities of VR. Taking students back to prehistoric times or forward to witness the results of climate change could be a powerful teaching tool.
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Could VR Field Trips Replace the Real Thing?

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    By definition.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Opportunist ( 166417 )

      Fuck yes. By definition.

      Let's see... boring, tedious, about as educational as watching the wall paint dry... if they now somehow first add a bus ride that makes you throw up, they're pretty much already on par with a real field trip.

      And that should be easy in VR, most VR games already pull that off without even trying.

      • You may not throw up from the bus ride, but the VR experience will get the same output.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Racemaniac ( 1099281 )

        If it's for big and well known things, fuck yes indeed
        - most of those museums/sights/... are completely overrun by tourist, tourist shops, .... completely ruining the experience
        - and even if you get a nice look at it, you can't stand there for a few minutes enjoying it since there are hundreds of people waiting behind you...
        - and just the ecological sense of going somewhere for seeing something like that etc...
        - and indeed, all the practical shit that comes along with it

        give me a decent virtual tour of any

        • now if it's for a nice relaxing vacation on some remote place just enjoying the fresh air and sitting in a tent, i doubt VR will replace that XD.

          Well, sitting on a virtual beach, putting your feet into the water and letting the waves lap at them while actually you sit on your couch with your feet in a footbath... sure, it ain't the same but it's something you can have right here, right now, for cheap and whenever you feel like it.

        • You all do realize that for some of the poorer kids, this would basically be a gigantic middle finger to them, right? I had some classmates when I was at the school mostly pulling from one of the local Projects who could be gotten farther than they'd ever have been in their life just by tossing them on a cross-town bus.

          This definitely did make field trips with them sometimes have the additional entertainment of getting to see them realize that the city was a lot more diverse than they'd thought--but if mos

      • Actually not exactly, VR can't replace all field trips. If the sole purpose of a field trip is to see the place and nothing else, then VR may be used to replace the field trip. However, some types of field trips need more than just seeing because you need to use other senses in the field trip, e.g. geology, climatology, etc. In other words, some field trips can be replaced, but some others can't.

        • by mikael ( 484 )

          We did Geology field trips at our school. It's funny how our parents favorite picnic spots happened to be the best examples of specific geological features; beaches, granite cliffs, sandstone hills. To capture everything from the individual grains of quartz in granite would required HD video. To capture the stalactites and stalagmites in a cave would really require 360 degree video. Nothing would really replace of walking along the coastline of beach cliffs, seeing and hearing the waves on one side, feeling

        • At best, instead of watching a movie when teacher drank too much the night before, he/she will pass our VR headsets and the class will "go on a trip" while teacher tries to nap-off the banging headache.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Never falling for that bullshit again. What a waste of money and time my HTC Vive turned out to be. Never again.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      VR = Vomit Reality

    • Never falling for that bullshit again. What a waste of money and time my HTC Vive turned out to be. Never again.

      You are aware of the upcoming VR port of Fallout 4? Or, maybe you aren't into gaming. In which case, yeah, desktop VR is a bit like when Blu-Ray players came out. The hardware is there, but little in the way of content.

      FPS Gaming seems to have the most buzz for VR content. Though, I wouldn't be surprised if we see some MMOs adopting it.

      My buddy has the Occulous Rift and it works quite well. I'm thinking, though, that it's probably better to wait for Gen2 hardware. The theory being that they will have

      • I've played serious sam 3d. Honestly, it was fun in that it was new and different, but you could tell all the quick-twitch reflex requirements (aka skill) had to be removed so that you wouldn't die every second due to the far less sensitive controls.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    There's no reason to "replace" anything. VR can be an immensely powerful learning tool. Kids can do a guided tour, then be left to their own devices to explore things that weren't covered, without fear of losing anyone. I say just start organizing three times as many fields trips, but make all the extra ones virtual.

    However, real world experience in certain places is also important. Young students should visit a real fire station and see and talk with the real people working. Middle school and high school

    • then be left to their own devices


    • Or they could go to a museum, and the museum would have virtual exhibits.
    • I remember very well my field trip to Washington DC. The experience could never be replicated with a VR headset. I already knew the history from books; seeing the monument was cool but didn't convey any information I didn't already possess. Seeing the massive homeless problem and having to be warned to stay away from the con men who frequent tourists was the real eye-opening thing for me. A VR tour of DC would obviously exclude all these negative things and jjust go further to paint reality with broad pink
  • They can't, but... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by RhettLivingston ( 544140 ) on Friday October 20, 2017 @03:15AM (#55401809) Journal

    Field trips haven't just declined, they've been decimated. VR would be an improvement over nothing. VR that allows group participation (similar to conference type VR) with the teacher in the VR would be very useful.

    But, it would be better to look at this as something new that opens up doors that field trips never could. VR can take you anywhere from inside a molecule or cell to visiting anyplace on Earth at any time in history to walking on the moon. It's a potential boon to the learners that have to see things, walk around them, etc.

    • by Quirkz ( 1206400 )

      Right. Why limit yourself to only seeing what you can in person? And that's not just a matter of location, but scale and interactivity, too. Why go to a planetarium, when you can go to the stars? Zoom out and see the whole solar system, zoom in and watch nuclear fusion in the core of the sun.

      Of course field trips ought to be a niche use. I'd love it at home, to be able to explore all kinds of things. Other cities and countries, national parks, outer space, the inner workings of machinery, you name it. Sure,

  • Short answer: (Score:5, Insightful)

    by fredrated ( 639554 ) on Friday October 20, 2017 @03:15AM (#55401813) Journal

    no. Add to them, ok. Replace them? Only for people that don't care.

  • by petes_PoV ( 912422 ) on Friday October 20, 2017 @03:28AM (#55401855)

    places they couldn't normally visit, like Antarctica or even Mars. These virtual field trips are safer and easier to organize than real outings, and they might soon be cheaper, too

    The guy claims that the reason (OK, one reason) for the decline in field trips is budgetary. Then the article tells us that VR trips might be cheaper?

    Well if they only "might" be cheaper (though I would expect them to be a dam' sight cheaper than a trip to Mars - or Antarctica) then that doesn't sound like they are addressing the issue claimed.

    However, the real reason field trips have declined is simply because of all the litigious parents and liabilities that schools incur, need to insure against and have to account for. Trips are simply not worth the hassle of organising and dealing with the fallout.

    Though I expect there are already parents gearing up to sue the arse of schools and teachers for the "stress" of making their little darlings wear a VR helmet - or the cost of their "destroyed" hair-do.

    • If “cheaper” is the real issue... Viewmaster has been around for 80 years.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        Yes but they never made a view master box factory edition.

  • by samoht ( 101985 ) on Friday October 20, 2017 @03:30AM (#55401861) Homepage

    "You'll go where I go, defile what I defile, eat who I eat"

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l1_bp8YKUPU/ [youtube.com]

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 20, 2017 @03:40AM (#55401881)

    the question is the same as "Could VR Field Trips be better than not doing it at all?" because there's no way they're going there in any way otherwise.

    But seriously, why would anyone want a VR "woods simulator" instead of taking them to the woods, for example?

  • by n329619 ( 4901461 ) on Friday October 20, 2017 @04:04AM (#55401921)

    Doesn't mean you're actually there. Please pull your pants back up and stop looking like you're about to do it in my living room.

  • VR will replace the screen for space and mecha games. In short, it will replace where it makes the experience *more* real, not less.
    So, no, VR is not a replacement for field trips and never will be.

    Captain Obvious was glad to help.

  • Sure it can (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Solandri ( 704621 ) on Friday October 20, 2017 @04:30AM (#55401973)
    Once VR can reproduce:
    • 200 degrees (roughly human vision field of view [wikipedia.org]) at 2 lines per arc-minute [intmath.com], or 24,000x24,000 pixels
    • a contrast ratio of over 1 million to 1
    • color gamut of about 170% sRGB
    • a full 3D sound field, not just stereo
    • smell
    • tactile sensations
    • (if it involves eating local cuisine) taste

    then it can replace real field trips. In its current state, it's just a slightly better version of a 3D movie.

    • I'm not sure you'd need all of that for VR to be useful, although I'd agree that we're still no where near enough to be "good enough" for anything like a replacement of the real thing.

      However, if it's a way to take a trip inside a human body, or walk about on Mars or whatever, then it's currently *better* than the real thing, in so much as you'll never do the real thing. One could also argue that (say) visiting Easter Island is "better" than going there because the environmental impact of going there is pre

  • by grumbel ( 592662 ) <grumbel+slashdot@gmail.com> on Friday October 20, 2017 @04:42AM (#55401999) Homepage

    In theory, sure, you could make detailed 3D scans of everything and do it all in VR. But for that to happen, somebody must first put in the effort to create those virtual 3D tours as well as get the permission to produce them to begin with. Neither of which are easy. Museums like to keep their things under lock, they want the visitors to come and spend money there, not make themselves obsolete by having some amazing digital reproduction. Producing those 3D scans, that are detailed enough to replace a real visit, would also need a lot of money and technology.

    People have been making those same claims about revolutionizing teaching with every new technology. They did it with the radio, the TV, they did it with the multimedia CD-ROMs, with the Internet and so on. It never had all that much impact. If you really want to figure out how stuff works, you still need to go to a library and get a book. It's not that new technology couldn't do it better, but simply the result of there not being a viable business model to produce that kind of content on a scale that could impact teaching at large. People protecting their already established business models doesn't help either.

  • Does a Real-doll replace sex with a real person? (Considering this is Slashdot, perhaps not the best comparison)

    (On a non-related subject. Does sex with a real person actually feel like having sex with a real-doll? Asking for a friend.)

  • Answer: never completely. Part of the reason people go places isn't just to use their senses to experience the environment, but also to experience tangentially-related things. For example, going to Mount Rushmore is more of a "to say you've done it and cross it off your bucket list" thing; if you saw it in VR, could you really say "I've been there"? You can't bring back souvenirs, and there'll be limits to the area's size and how you can interact with it (scooping up sand, taking a swim, etc.)

    Good luck simu

  • by Anonymous Coward

    It's called the "Early 21st Century History" course, so you can see for yourself how our ancestors ruined the planet and started WW3.

  • Could VR Field Trips Replace the Real Thing?


    Would it be any good and offer real education value?

    Probably not.

  • How would VR trips be cheaper than a normal field trip, when a single VR headset is 2-3x the price (to a district) of renting a school bus?

  • Besides that the guy is an ecologist and like most academics probably thinks their field is more important than everything else.

    It just seems sleazy considering that there is a political component to it. Like he wants to force kids to share his fears about a possible future.

  • I'm an advocate for technology, but when I think of field trips I think back to the days of elementary school taking a day trip to the zoo, frontier cabins, art museum, history museum, and the aquarium. These are day long trips of exploration and fun.

    There is NO way putting on a VR headset and headphones will come remotely close to that experience. The main reason is who wants to wear this stuff for 6+ hours straight? Another reason is it reduces the idea getting outside and exploring. Life is a real expe
  • I'm totally sure we'll keep sending students to places like Antarctica and Mars instead of using VR.
  • This brings us one step closer to the world of "Ready Player One". On the plus side, if we end up in that big of an energy crisis, we'll already have this technology available before it gets to the point where no one but the top 1% can afford to travel anywhere. Maybe we could look at figuring out the best way to stack trailers on top of each other next.

  • Not yet. The VR technology will have to improve significantly before that is sellable.
  • VR experiences can give you a (lo-fi) experience of places you could never actually go, such as dangerous industrial or natural environments (inside a nuclear power plant or a volcano), or international travel destinations we can't afford to send our millions of inner city students (Paris, Kuala Lumpur). So sure - go crazy with cheap VR and help kids get a larger view of the world. That's fine, and it can also coexist with "real" field trips where you see/hear/smell and there's opportunity to ask questions
  • Why bother with choppy and mass produced VR when you can go to Rekall and get a memory of your vacation? Cheaper, safer, and better than the real thing!

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?... [youtube.com]

  • Yeah sure just keep everyone locked up in some room somewhere all the time. No so-called 'VR' experience is going to ever be as rich as the real thing. If you're going to have a mindset of 'why not have virtual field trips instead of REAL field trips?' then why ever go anywhere for any reason? Why not take your 'vacation' at your desk at work, and pretend to be on a beach in Fiji with a headset on and a glass of warm salt water to stick your hand in? More and more like Wall-E, where people never even get ou
  • Yeah, let's separate kids even MORE from the real world. Because they don't get enough screen time as it is...
  • I guess I thee the biggest future for VR in home entertaining systems.
    Imagine you have a sports arena projected around you, are via internet connected with your friends or family, who appear inside of your VR simulation and you in theirs.
    You could define where you sit in the stadium and have part of the real audience for atmosphere reasons be projected into your simulation, probabaly with changed faces ...

  • These virtual field trips are safer and easier to organize than real outings...

    Sure! By all means let's insulate kids even more from the natural world, the realities of travel, the navigation of strange places, the social and psychological challenges of membership in large unruly groups, and the opportunity for casual exercise. Let's extend our micromanagement of their lives even farther, make their learning more targeted, and further decrease their independence and autonomy by ensuring that they acquire only approved knowledge in the approved fashion.

    Fuck all that! Let kids get dirty

  • Yeah, they'll promise amazing, interactive VR, resolution and details and infinite possibilities. When it comes time to actually implement the tech and deliver on the promises, it'll turn out to be 'Murica's speciality; minimum viable product from the lowest bidder. Sorely disappointing.
  • "Ah, yes, Anacweon. I have just come from theah. Most bahbawous planet."
    ... and the analysis afterwards by Salvor Hardin ...
    Hardin continued: "It isn't just you. It's the whole Galaxy. Pirenne heard Lord Dorwin's idea of scientific research. Lord Dorwin thought the way to be a good archaeologist was to read all the books on the subject – written by men who were dead for centuries. He thought that the way to solve archaeological puzzles was to weigh the opposing authorities. And Pirenne listened and

The road to ruin is always in good repair, and the travellers pay the expense of it. -- Josh Billings