Facebook-owned virtual reality specialist Oculus VR has announced it is bringing its Rift headsets to public libraries in the US as part of an education pilot, even as retailers shut down demo stations following an apparent lack of consumer interest.
A major barrier to mass adoption of virtual reality technology is, undeniably, price. As well as the headset itself, plus associated position-tracking and controller accessories, there's a need to have high-end gaming hardware on which to run them - something Sony has attempted to address with the console-powered PlayStation VR and Google with its smartphone-driven Cardboard and Daydream platforms. Despite this, companies like Oculus VR firmly believe the technology has considerable transformative potential, and to prove that it's paying to put Oculus Ready PCs and Oculus Rift headsets into 90 libraries in California as part of an educational pilot programme.
'It’s pretty cool to imagine how many people will try VR for the very first time—and have that "wow" moment—in their local libraries,
' explained Oculus' education program manager Cindy Ball in the company's announcement
. 'We hope early access will cause many people to feel excited and empowered to move beyond just experiencing VR and open their minds to the possibility of one day joining the industry. Public libraries provide safe, supportive environments that are available and welcoming to everyone. They help level the playing field by providing educational opportunities and access to technology that may not be readily available in the community households. Libraries share the love - at scale.
'We already know that VR has superpowers to accelerate learning. Both VR and AR will have a profound effect on education, from making difficult academic subjects more accessible and increasing the efficiency of surgical training to providing a rich backdrop for storytelling and the development of empathy and understanding.
The pilot program covers just under half the 184 library jurisdictions within California but accounts for fewer than half the 200 demonstration areas closed by Best Buy earlier this year