There’s a lot of excitement about virtual reality (VR)—and there should be. It’s exciting, in its infancy, and reports say VR will be a $38 billion dollar industry by 2026.

But there also seems to be a lot of confusion about virtual reality.

What does virtual reality mean? Do universities and colleges even need virtual reality? And if so, how can they affordably integrate virtual reality? How can they make sure that an investment in virtual reality pays off?

Virtual reality is a powerful tool, and can provide an experience that’s both memorable and influential. They know that it can be a deciding factor in a student’s decision to schedule a visit, and ultimately submit an application.

In this article, I set out to answer the following question: what are three options and costs to integrate virtual reality into higher education websites. But first, what is virtual reality?

What is Virtual Reality?

Virtual reality is the creation of a simulation using 3D images or modeling that can be interacted with using special hardware. We hear a lot about the hardware these days, but the content? Not quite as much! In this blog, Virtual Reality for Higher Education: Beyond the Virtual Tour, CampusBird discusses how higher education professionals across different departments can use VR.

If you’d like a primer on VR (and how it compares to augmented reality e.g. Pokemon Go), check out this short video with Noah Robischon and Mark Wilson from Fast Company HERE.

Three Options for Integrating VR into Higher Education Websites

montana-tech-360-panorama

Montana Tech 360 Panorama.

1. VR-Enabled 360° Panorama Images (aka “Photospheres”)

Cost: $ to $$ (depends on number of images desired)

What You Need: A 360° camera or 360° camera app, conversion software, and a place to put the images (such as an interactive campus map). There are many companies that specialize in providing 360° photospheres.

What Your Audience Needs: A VR-ready setup to view your images–anything from Google Cardboard ($10) on up to Oculus Rift ($600) will do.

How it Works/What You Should Know: VR-enabled 360° images lets the visitor  explore a fixed area in 3D virtual reality, and allows the user to move the image around in order to view anything captured in the image–up, down, left, right. If you’re a higher education professional looking to get some VR content on your website, 360° photospheres are a great way to start. Pick your most interesting locations–exteriors (e.g. the quad, famous vistas, stadiums, historic buildings) and spacious interiors (e.g. a library, student center, arena, etc.), and capture the 360° image. Also think about what students will want to see–dorm rooms, student center cafeteria, unique and fun aspects of your campus.

For an example from HoloBuilder, an application that allows you to create a VR/AR experience with a 360° photosphere click HERE. There are several applications (including Facebook) where you can convert 360 images to VR.

(Next page: Two more virtual reality scenarios and cost breakdowns) 


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