While developing new products for DCCCD, the goal for Project Manager Jesus Moreno and Producer Michael Coleman is to make it as easy for the consumer to use as possible. The two have been working for almost two months to do just that with Google Cardboard.
“We’re trying to make everything we do as simple as possible,” Moreno said. “We don’t want a lot of heavy thought going into it because when you get in there, nobody really wants to have to try to figure everything out, read the manual and then go.”
Using the RICOH THETA S 360 degree camera, Moreno and Coleman have developed virtual, interactive tours of both the LeCroy Center and Richland College.
Coleman said he first heard of Google Cardboard for the first time last October. At last year’s Educause Annual Conference, he learned of Google Expeditions.
“At Educause, we asked them if they could give us a full demo of Google Expeditions and so they told us all about it. It gives you, essentially, a virtual tour using, as Google calls it, ‘photospheres,’” Coleman said. “So basically moving from location to location.”
It is already being used at the K-12 level, which inspired Coleman and Moreno to begin experimenting with it.
Just before Christmas last year, Google let them know they were expanding Expeditions to include colleges and universities across the country. Google sent a RICOH THETA S camera, which has a built in Wi-Fi access point, to begin experimenting with it.
The camera essentially shoots a complete sphere laid out flat. Coleman and Moreno have made virtual tours of both the LeCroy Center and Richland College using PANO2VR, which creates virtual tours and interactive panoramas.
Try it here: Virtual tour of the LeCroy Center.
The interactivity of Expeditions allows you to add things to each photo like text, pop-up photos and videos and buttons that let you move through the tour to the next location.
“If I want to go to a specific location, then the checkmarks will show me where I’ve been,” Coleman said. “We even have a slider menu that shows, via thumbnail, each of the locations.”
The pop-up videos throughout the tours are all from Stream It, the video platform Moreno developed for DCCCD last year.
The possibilities for the tours could be endless for the faculty, Coleman said.
“One of the things I talk about is to imagine taking our Texas Government course and doing a legislative lesson,” he said. “And through photospheres, you could be inside the Senate Chamber. You could be inside the House Chamber. You could be in one of the hearing rooms. It’d be like recreating the experience of going down to Austin and going to the Capitol.”
Eventually, Coleman said, they would like to experiment with virtual reality video.
“I’m glad that we’re having the opportunity to experiment with this. I think there’s great possibilities,” he said. “I think it’s a dynamic, dynamic learning tool.”