Welcome to Monday Musings! These are are shorter-form, note-like blog posts that I share that may or may not be related to VR/AR, but that I want to share some quick thoughts on, get some extra insight on, or share out quickly.
This week, I wanted to go into more detail about a previous Monday Musing post that I did back before Thanksgiving about evangelizing VR – in particular, today I wanted to share my experience demoing virtual reality to the kids in my family.
First things first: get parental permission. Some parents are okay with an 8 year old watching for 2 minutes, others aren’t. Don’t fight them on it. I commonly see 13+ as the recommended age for VR use, though ViewMaster VR recommends their device for ages 7-15. VR safety for children is uncharted territory right now, so let the parents decide and go from there.
Now that that’s said, I will share that I’ve had a great time bringing out my DK 2 and GearVR at the holidays to bond with the kiddos in my family and get them excited about technology. VR is an amazing tool for inspiring children to get into STE(A)M fields, and to be creative in how they think about computing.
I keep it simple with VR demos when I’m working with kids. If there are a lot of kids that I’m working with, I keep demos short and sweet – yes, I’ll confess, I use roller coasters sometimes. Not one single one has ever complained to me, and I don’t do it anymore, but the form factor was great for short demos that had a discrete and final ending point.
Right now, my favorites for kids are the Jurassic World VR experience and The Blu. I wouldn’t show Jurassic World to a kid who answered yes to my “are you afraid of dinosaurs?” question, of course, but I love the short-form videos that don’t require the kids to do anything in particular. This prevents demo-er fatigue, because I don’t have to repeat the game play instructions forever, and kids don’t really listen to instructions as soon as you put the headset on them, anyway. If I have younger kids who want to be included, I’ll show them Windy Day.
It’s hilarious to watch kids in VR. They don’t realize that positional tracking isn’t included on GearVR, and will blindly try to walk closer to things. They’re enthusiastic and vocal about what they’re seeing, and they often forget that it’s not mirrored and will ask you questions about what they see. It’s a great way to open up a dialog about all of the different skills that can be brought into the VR industry, and gets them excited about technology and its implications. They start talking about their own ideas of the application and how it could be used – it’s a great time to inspire.
Getting kids interested in (and maintaining an interested in) STEM fields is incredibly important for the growth of the industry and for improving diversity over the next generation of developers. If you’ve got some kiddos that you think might have an interest, consider bringing your GearVR or Cardboard around them at the holidays and show them a quick video. Or, failing that, tell them all about the time you ran into a life-sized Creeper playing MineCrift – and help open their eyes to the virtual reality that the future holds.