Sketchfab, an incredible platform for 3D models and scenes, recently published a report on trends in the VR industry. They gathered data from a survey they distributed amongst the Sketchfab community, a group of 3D enthusiasts. This post will take a look at some of trends, and I'll provide a few quick notes based on my own experience in this space.
For educators that check out Sketchfab (highly encouraged!), check out the cool models in the "cultural heritage" section. If you or your students do any 3D content creation, Sketchfab is a great place to publish those 3D assets. As you explore, if you see models or scenes that you'd like to bring into Edorble, our 3D world for online education, let us know and we'll see what we can do! In the upcoming build of Edorble, which supports different 3D environments, one of our first new maps (Stonehenge) is actually one provided to us by a Sketchfab artist. You can read about this map here. As a quick plug, we're still letting teachers join our Edorble Pioneer Program, a group of early users that can try out the beta of Edorble for free while we continue to improve it.
Let's get to the trends. All of the graphs below are taken from the Sketchfab report, and used with permission from Sketchfab.
Since the Sketchfab community is made up of 3D art enthusiasts, it's no surprise that VR is seeing greater penetration here than it is in the general population or the education community. Of those that have only tried either desktop or mobile VR, mobile has a slight edge. In the education space, this difference is vast. Amongst our users, we see quite a few that have experimented with mobile VR tools like Google Cardboard, but not many that are experimenting with Oculus Rift or the HTC Vive. I myself have a Samsung Gear VR, and my co-founder Cederik has an HTC Vive. I'm jealous.
I see why Sketchfab chose these possible responses to this broad question, but teachers who are frustrated by the false binaries found in plenty of multiple choice questions might get a chuckle out of this one. Surely VR can "be the future" without impacting every possible facet of our lives? In any case, as far as this community is concerned: the hype is real. Not just in that the hype exists, but that the hype is substantiated. Given how quickly teachers so far seem willing to explore this new territory, it seems like teachers are just as amped up about the promise and potential of VR technology. That said, in the education space we are also used to a constant cycle of "revolutionary" technology, and some of us have hype-fatigue. There are also many that, understandably, are waiting for more research on the impact of VR on student learning outcomes, satisfaction, and health.
Noteworthy here that 30% of the Sketchfab community doesn't think the tech is ready, despite the graph above this one. We aren't surprised that price is the main concern, and we're seeing this mirrored in the education community as well. Prices are dropping quickly though, and this won't be a barrier much longer. The "lack of content" issue is something we are working on here at Edorble. :) Amongst issues in the "other" category, Sketchfab notes that hardware incompatibility is one of the common responses. It's certainly true that I'd be more likely to have an Oculus Rift if it worked on Mac, and I'm not alone on that.
Happy to see awareness from the Sketchfab community that education is poised to be impacted by VR. The presence of educational 3D models and scenes on Sketchfab attests to this as well. Content creators are getting ready for the rise of VR in the education space. Again, let us know if you'd like to bring a scene from Sketchfab into your Edorble world! I agree that gaming is set to take the lion's share of VR usage and investment, but I don't think this will be the case in the subsequent five years, which I think will be dominated by education, medicine, and non-gaming entertainment.
Yep, wires stink. When immersed in VR, particularly in an experience that has you moving your arms or legs, being wired hampers movement and poses some risks for your equipment and your body (people can trip, knock over computers). On this front, though, the tech is changing rapidly. HTC already has an add-on to the Vive that makes it wireless, and Qualcomm has shown off a compelling prototype of a wireless VR headset that seems incredibly capable. The quality of mobile VR is rapidly trending upward. For the education community, we are seeing more interest in the VR social layer (something we do here at Edorble) and better navigation. Navigability is a huge "must" for a compelling educational VR experience. It's something we've had to put a lot of thought into, and we're curious to see what you think of how you move around in the next build of Edorble (hint - teleportation).
Fascinating here that the favorite use is "exploring environments". Since the Sketchfab community has lots of 3D artists, it makes sense that they'd be more interested in moving throughout and appreciating the visual richness of 3D environments, even if this activity isn't in the context of a "game" or "social experience". From the education community, we're seeing dominant interest in content creation and interactive social experiences.
Epic. While early hype around high-end VR was almost exclusively focused on the Oculus Rift, HTC has clearly staked out their turf in this space with their compelling HTC Vive. Edorble co-founder Cederik can attest to the "Awesomeness" of this piece of hardware. It wouldn't be surprising to us if HTC did an even deeper pivot to the VR space, given that their smartphone business is struggling so much. I haven't yet tried Google Daydream, but the success and market penetration of this new Mobile VR headset is bound up with the success of the next generation of Android phones. In another piece of data from this survey, the HTC Vive was the headset that people were most likely to buy in 2017.
This was just a look at some of the data points found in the full report. I encourage you to check it out. Thanks to Sketchfab for permission to republish these graphs.
If you'd like to apply to the Edorble Pioneer Program, you can apply here. If you see a Sketchfab model or scene that you'd like to bring into your Edorble world, you should email cederik at edorble.com