In recent years, virtual reality (VR) has emerged as an exciting technology that holds immense potential for educational purposes.
By providing immersive experiences, VR headsets can engage students in a whole new way, enhancing their learning and understanding of various subjects. However, with numerous VR headsets available on the market, it can be challenging to determine which one is the most suitable for your school.
We run a software company Work Window that creates apps to help students explore their career options and a VR Job Interview Simulator that is used in high schools and other educational organizations. Over the years, we've learned a thing or two about some of the key considerations and device options that can factor into making your decision.
✅ Key Considerations when selecting a Virtual Reality headset for use in education
Standalone vs Tethered Headsets
One of the most critical decisions that will dictate which device is best fit for your use case is whether you will use a VR headset that is Standalone, or one that is Tethered to a PC.
A standalone VR headset is a self-contained device that doesn't need a computer, offering portability and ease of use. It has limited processing power and graphics capabilities compared to tethered headsets. Standalone headsets are great for less demanding VR applications, offer mobility, and are available at a lower price point.
A computer-tethered VR headset requires a powerful gaming computer for processing and graphics, but provides high-fidelity experiences. This option comes at the expense of less mobility (setup is usually fixed at one location) and a higher price point.
PC Tethered headsets offer advanced capabilities for complex simulations and photo-realistic visualizations. This setup requires an expensive gaming computer meaning budgets will typically limit schools to having only a few headsets, rather than a class set.
Each VR device has its own app ecosystem, offering a variety of educational content. Although selecting the right VR device is crucial, if you do not have relevant VR apps available on your chosen device then your implementation of Virtual Reality will be impacted.
Multiple Device Management Features (MDM)
Multiple Device Management (MDM) features play a crucial role in usability and convenience when managing more than 1 VR headset. MDM enables users to efficiently manage multiple VR devices from a centralised platform, streamlining the deployment and configuration process. It allows administrators to control settings, update firmware, and distribute content seamlessly across a fleet of headsets, saving time and effort. Some devices come with MDM features built in, and others require the installation of third-party applications.
Higher price points make it more challenging to roll out virtual reality headsets using a class set of VR headsets. If opting for a more expensive headset, without a sufficient budget for a class set, then there may only be several VR devices that students must share. This can impact lesson plan design as all students can’t be using the devices concurrently and take turns using the VR devices whilst undertaking other activities in the lesson.
🥽 Existing VR Device Options
Meta Quest 2
The Meta Quest 2, developed by Facebook, is one of the most popular headsets for use in education. Released in 2020, the Meta Quest 2 offers great performance for a standalone device and is available at a reasonable price point.
Standalone - Being a standalone headset, it doesn't require a PC or external sensors, providing freedom of movement and ease of use.
Content Availability - This headset is the most popular VR headset currently in the market. As a result, more developers create VR content that supports this device. The Oculus Quest 2 offers a wide range of educational apps and experiences, making it easy to integrate into various subjects. Some of these apps are available on the official Oculus Store, some through App Lab, and others through non-official channels like Side Quest.
Multiple Device Management (MDM) - Currently, Meta does not offer any first-party MDM although they are currently developing these features as part of Quest For Business (QFB) offering which is available through a subscription. Compatible third-party MDM solutions do exist such as ManageXR and ArborXR.
Affordable - The Meta Quest 2 128GB version comes in at $299USD / $509.99AUD. At this price point, it is possible for some schools to budget for a class set of VR headsets.
Limited processing power - As a standalone headset, the Oculus Quest 2 is not as powerful as PC-based VR systems, which may limit the complexity of certain educational experiences.
Privacy concerns - Being a Facebook product, there are potential privacy concerns related to data collection and usage that need to be considered. School internet firewalls may also block some connections which Facebook attempts to make to their servers to run updates on the device etc.
While the Oculus Quest 2 has a substantial app collection, it is primarily focused on gaming. Although educational apps are available, the overall emphasis may lean more towards entertainment and recreational experiences. We’ve scoured what’s available and collated a list of some of our favourite Quest 2 VR education apps here.
Can be challenging to purchase these headsets in bulk. Maximum purchase quantity limits apply when buying Quest 2 devices through consumer-facing channels like the official Meta Store, Amazon, or Best Buy. It is possible to contact Meta’s Sales team, but finding the right contact can be time-consuming.
HTC Vive Pro / HTC Vive Pro 2
The HTC Vive Pro is a high-end VR headset known for its exceptional tracking accuracy and immersive experiences.
The HTC Vive Pro offers high-resolution displays and precise tracking, delivering stunning visuals and immersive experiences, which can greatly enhance learning.
Multiple Device Management (MDM) is available through VIVE -https://business.vive.com/dm/signup.
Content Availability - With access to the SteamVR platform, the Vive Pro provides a vast library of educational applications and simulations.
Expandability: The Vive Pro is compatible with various accessories and peripherals, allowing for more advanced interactions and simulations in the classroom.
The HTC Vive Pro is a premium VR headset, which comes with a higher price tag of $1999 AUD, making it less affordable for schools with limited budgets. The true cost of this device must also consider the expense of the high-end gaming computer which is required to power the headset (an additional $2000 - $2500 per device).
Tethered experience: The Vive Pro requires a high-powered PC and external sensors, resulting in a more complex setup.
Steeper learning curve: The setup and calibration process of the Vive Pro might be more time-consuming and complex for educators, requiring technical expertise.
Pico Neo 3 VR
The Pico Neo 3 is a standalone VR headset designed specifically for commercial and educational applications.
Standalone headset - The device is wireless, allowing students to move freely and engage in interactive experiences without being restricted by cables, and doesn't require external sensors or a powerful PC. Its portability makes it convenient for sharing among multiple classrooms.
The Neo 3 devices are built with enterprise use cases front of mind. As a result, the setup and support of bulk devices is much simpler than some alternatives like the Quest 2.
Limited content library: Compared to more established VR platforms, the Pico Neo 3's content library may be more limited, potentially restricting the range of educational experiences available to students.
Limited developer support: The Pico Neo 3 may have fewer developers and community support compared to other popular VR platforms, which could impact the availability of educational applications and updates.
Comfort and fit: The device's comfort and fit may vary for different individuals, and can cause discomfort during extended use in our testing. Ensuring proper strap adjustments and fitting is important for a comfortable experience.
In conclusion, choosing the best VR headset for schools or other educational institutions requires careful consideration of various factors. The decision between standalone and tethered headsets depends on the specific needs of your institution, with standalone headsets offering mobility and affordability, while tethered headsets provide higher fidelity experiences at a higher price point. Content availability and multiple device management features are also crucial considerations for seamless integration and efficient management. Ultimately, the best VR headset for schools depends on the institution's budget, technical requirements, and educational goals.