Lenovo is introducing its Mirage Solo VR headset into Canadian classrooms for a more immersive learning experience. ITWC had the chance to attend its a virtual safari showcasing the experience Nov. 8 at the Ontario Science Centre.

What VR means for Canadian education

The discussion panel was hosted by Canadian technology expert Marc Saltzman. He was joined by Lenovo Canada’s public sector director Lucille De Haitre and the vice principal of educational services at 21st Century learning Roxxane Hutt.

“The next step in the democratization of knowledge is VR,” says Salzman. “Virtual field trips not only provide students with immersive experiences, they boost engagement and creativity, and this leads to better questions and discussions throughout the lesson, far beyond what educators can expect to come from traditional textbook learning environments.”

“VR augments what textbooks can do more than the things we grew up with as a learning tool. And this is essentially a tool, an aid to keep content very immersive.” Saltzman elaborated.

Often times, new technology isn’t used to its full potential,  not because it’s not practical, but because it’s confusing to the user. Lenovo is promising easy deployment and use for its VR kit.

“This tool really permits the kid to be engaged, to really live the experience. But the power of this kit for me is really the ease of use for the teacher because how many times we as people have received a new piece of technology and it looks great, but it will collect dust in very little time because we don’t really know to use it, how to implement it, and how to benefit from it.” Said De Haitre. Lenovo’s VR solution is plug-and-play, requiring no additional component to function.

The Mirage Solo VR headset

Lenovo Mirage Solo bears an uncanny resemblance to the Sony Playstation VR headset because it’s literally built upon it. Lenovo signed a two-year agreement with Sony to use its patented design. While Lenovo didn’t disclose the extent nor the reason for the partnership, the choice was wise. The Sony PlayStation VR headset is one of the most comfortable VR headsets of all time, and porting the design over to a learning environment can make learning more enjoyable.

 

Lenovo guided attendees through a tour of the lively African safari using the Mirage Solo. The immersion difference between the VR headset and watching television is absolutely massive. VR headset covers the viewer’s entire vision and is able to deliver a sense of scale unattainable through traditional television. We actually “felt” how small we were compared to the giraffe, and how large a lion’s paws were relative to our face. That realism made the entire experience so much more believable and compelling. With a 360 degree field-of-view, more information could be presented at once without cutting. We simply had to turn our heads to see what’s behind us, which we did a lot as there was much to see.

For our demo, audio was fed from onstage speakers as opposed to earphones. While this was done so that we could hear the Lenovo reps helping us navigate the user interface, the experience could’ve been refined with in-ear stereo sound. In a classroom setting, students will have the option of connecting their earphones to the onboard headphone jack.

The only major downside to the Mirage Solo is that it’s quite heavy – rightfully so considering how many components are crammed inside. This may not be an issue for adults, but I wonder if this could cause problems for younger viewers after prolonged use.

The headset uses Google’s Daydream VR. Google Daydream traditionally requires a phone to be attached to a head-mounted VR headset. The Mirage Solo, however, has the screen built in. In my opinion, the Lenovo Mirage Solo has one of the highest resolution displays of any Daydream headset. During my demo, I experienced no pixelation and my eyes focused naturally. The viewfinder is also large enough to fit most glasses.

One of Mirage Solo’s key goals is to produce a cable-free experience. As such, the battery is included in the headset as well. Lenovo said the battery can last for two hours, which is much longer than a single class session. Each headset also comes with its own charging case. The remote control remains unchanged; it uses the same remote as other Daydream headsets.

Managing each viewer’s experience is easy for the educator. Lenovo supplies a Tab 4 10 Plus tablet as a centralized point. Through it, teachers can monitor exactly what each participant is seeing, bringing them closer to understanding everyone’s engagement levels.

Availability and expected roll-out time

The Lenovo VR Classroom kits come in 3-pack for $5,000, 10-pack for $12,000, and $24-pack for $22,000.  They can be purchased now from local Lenovo PR reps at Lenovo.com.

In addition to supplying the hardware, Lenovo will also be giving educators support and training tools as well as 10 custom Scholastic STEM lesson plans to help integrate VR into their classrooms. A dedicated English and French help desk will be available for troubleshooting.

Between Nov.8 to Dec. 15, educators working with students 13 and older are eligible for a contest to win a 10-pack Lenovo VR Classroom kit. To enter, the educator simply needs to write a 350-word summary about how VR can impact their student’s learning environment.

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