Exploring the Universe in Virtual Reality


Project aims:

To demonstrate astronomy outreach in a novel and new way using Virtual Reality. We aimed to reach an audience which may not be otherwise targeted by science outreach and may not have had a chance to use Virtual Reality before.

Summary of activity:

We create two mobile phone apps which work with the Google Cardboard headset. Google Cardboard is a cheap device that allows you to convert your mobile phone in to a virtual reality headset. We published the two apps on to the Google Play Store for free for people to download.
We purchased 50 headsets which we handed out at several events over the lifetime of the project, through small competitions run at events. At each event we demonstrated the apps and how to use the headsets, allowing people to both experience Virtual Reality there and then, and encouraging them to purchase their own headset to use.
We produced a YouTube video to demonstrate how to use the apps, kept a blog to detail the project as it went along and advertised the apps via social media and through several websites.
To demonstrate the apps at events, we used a smart phone which was lent to us by the technology retailer CeX and a phone which was bought as part of the project.

Evaluation approach:

We evaluated our project in three ways:

1) Through feedback gained by talking to people at the events. This gave a great opportunity to have a two way discussion about the apps, what people thought and how they could be improved.

2) Through feedback forms handed out at the organised events. We used an adapted version of the IoP feedback form template.

3) Through reviews on the app store and comments given on websites where the apps were posted.

What went well:

1. Showing off Virtual Reality to people for the first time

2. Grabbing and keeping people's attention

3. The success of designing, building and showing off the apps

What was learned:

1. The need for sufficient people to demonstrate the project, to avoid large queues building up.

2. The need for significant testing with apps and programs.

3. How difficult it is to grab people's attention and keep it when you only have a minute or less to talk to them.

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About the contributor

Matthew Allen

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