Playstation VR: The future of education

I’ve had it for a while now but given all the news of the day haven’t really had a chance that was justifiable to discuss it, but I have to say, the new Playstation VR system is an absolutely stunning evolution for home video game play.  I have a rather insatiable appetite for adventure and violence with an emphasis on competitive necessity so video game play is actually a time management tool for me which I enjoy immensely.  For instance, I am proud to be a grown man with many intense responsibilities who can still reach level 90 on Star Wars: Battlefront and being one of the top players in the ship to ship combat even against the best in the entire world—who have nothing else to do in life but play video games.  I don’t have that luxury and I still manage in some games to have 30 or more kills per game—which is quite high.  Video games are a nice outlet for my aggressive nature so when Sony came out with the new Playstation VR in October I was one of the first to get it—because honestly, I couldn’t wait.  However, I was highly skeptical about how well it would actually work so let me report that it is absolutely mind-blowing.

For context, my video game playing days began almost 40 years ago with the Atari 2400 set up on a spare black and white television that had a very small 10” or so screen.  When my family wanted to do something really nice for me on a special weekend when I had friends over, or for a birthday, my dad would hook up that old Atari on a slightly larger 24” color television and we could see colors in our video games—so that was my point of reference.  Of those old Atari games one of my favorites was the game called Adventure—which was a story of dragon slaying and treasure hunting that needed a lot of imagination to buy into—since the game play was some really primitive graphics.  My other favorite game was The Empire Strikes Back which was essentially a Star Wars version of the popular game Defender.  So I was around at the beginning of home video game play and it’s been something I’ve done now for four decades.  I’ve never been one of those people who only play video games in what little spare time that I have—it’s always been a supplement to my life—but I have always enjoyed them.  I remember fondly growing up and playing games at the arcade for 25 cents each play then coming home and playing games on our home system.  So when Sony beat everyone else to the market with an affordable VR system for the counsole market, I had to get it mainly for the sentiment.  I didn’t expect it to work very well, and I thought it would have some bright spots—but my expectations were pretty low.

So I get this thing home and spent a lot of time setting it up—and getting to know it since much of the motion control stuff were things I wasn’t familiar with.  To be honest I bought the Playstation VR so that I could play the Star Wars: Battlefront VR mission that was coming out on December 6th, and at the time, that was still a few months away, so I wasn’t in any real hurry.  I picked up a few games to try out with it, like VR Worlds and a horror game called Rush Blood, but otherwise had my target on that extension of Battlefront during the upcoming Holiday Season.  Once it was all hooked up one of the first games I played was Ocean Decent on the VR Worlds disk and I was immediately enraptured.  The graphics were so jaw dropping real that I felt immediately that the concept of video game play had just changed forever.  By the time I played a game called The London Heist, I was sure of it.  The graphics were stunning, the game play intensely real and the entire platform truly did take your mind to a different place.  I took the headset off and put it down for a little while thinking of all the nice things I had said earlier in the year about the latest Uncharted game for Playstation and I found myself looking very much forward to the first wave of adventure games that surely would hit the market because the VR game play truly did put a player into another world while sitting in the middle of your living room.  You can easily be transported to another place and time with the Playstation VR because honestly, your mind doesn’t know the difference.  We are so used to accepting realities with our eyes and ears and the Playstation VR does a great job of giving those two senses enough information to convince your brain that what you are seeing is truly real.  It is quite astonishing.

I found the Playstation VR to be a real hit during our Thanksgiving celebrations as it was a real ice breaker.  People visiting our house for dinner were able to go on a deep ocean dive or battle robotic monstrosities in the safety of my couch and as each person took off the headset there was a look of wonder on their faces.  That alone would have made the cost of the whole enterprise worth it to me.  But coming up still was my Battlefront DLC so the adventure was just getting started.  It seemed unbelievable that such a thing would even be available for the home market.  It would seem that the VR technology should be so expensive that you could only get the experience at a place like Dave and Busters or the Main Event.

Recently I was at the Main Event in West Chester enjoying the video games they have there during a lunch break on a rather intense day of work and I couldn’t help but think that the Playstation VR made all the games exhibited there seem clunky.   What I had at my house far exceeded what the best of the video game market had to offer and that is saying something. I have been in contact with the people at VR Immersive Education who are about to present their Apollo 11 Experience to the Playstation market.  They already offer their VR documentary of an Apollo 11 moon landing on the Oculus Rift and HTC Hive systems.  They told me they plan to release their wonderful software to the Playstation community around Christmas time.  To me, projects like their Apollo 11 Experience are where VR really thrives and is certainly the future of that technology.  The games are fun, but what VR does best is put you into places that might otherwise be prohibitive, such as on a conference call with a contact in another country where you can see what they do and look around the room at things you couldn’t see unless you are actually there.   Or visit a city or museum in a far away place and look at things in the same fashion as you would if you were just strolling around.  That makes all VR technology extremely education oriented because it can put you in places you otherwise couldn’t get to.  Regarding this Apollo 11 VR Experience, it puts you on the moon realistically which is as close as you’re going to get aside from actually being there.

Not only is this new VR technology fun for gaming, it is the most powerful tool we have now for education.  On the Playstation VR headset there is voice activation, so this would be the best way to learn a new language, get a pilot’s license, learn to drive a car or interact with an environment that is not around your home.  The potential is just jaw dropping.  Needless to say, I am deeply impressed.  What I thought would just be a gimmick turned out to be a technical game changer.  I am still looking forward to the Star Wars: VR Mission coming up, but now more than anything I am looking forward to the education programs like Apollo 11 and voyages to Mars that are coming up for VR headsets.  For kids, there is no better ways to learn about space, or even the inner workings of the human body, geography, or human interactions through speech than with the VR technology that is being unleashed before us now.  My respect extends beyond evolutionary nostalgia derived from my first youthful aphorisms—it comes from the recognition that VR is the best education tool that we currently have for all ages of learning and it couldn’t have come at a better time.  To those who worked hard to bring that technology forth, fantastic job.  You have opened the world to everyone and made it so the only limit to filling our minds with good things is our own personal restrictions based on effort.  Because VR does most of the heavy lifting in a spectacular way.  Every home should have some version of a VR headset for education purposes primarily.  It is a fantastic invention that will fill minds with experiences it otherwise couldn’t get.

Rich Hoffman


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