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Oculus to study possible role of VR in the classroom

A pilot program will send VR headsets to schools, libraries and museums to see how they can be used to aid education.

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Oculus Go is going to be used to study VR's role in education.

Sean Hollister/CNET

Oculus is taking VR back to school.

To get a handle on how virtual reality can be used in education, the VR headset maker is launching a pilot program to study how the immersive technology can be used to aid learning and collaboration, Oculus said Tuesday. The pilot program, called Oculus Education, will distribute Oculus Go and Rift headsets to schools, libraries and museums in Taiwan, Japan and Seattle.

The program will focus on training teachers and other instructors on the use of VR and gathering feedback and other lessons learned, specifically the unique needs to specific institutions. That information will then be passed on to Oculus' product teams for future consideration.

The program is the latest effort to spur interest and adoption of virtual reality, which promises to transport goggle-wearing users to a computer-generated 3D environment. The technology promises to upend the way we live and has attracted giant investments by heavyweights like Google and Oculus' parent Facebook.

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But widespread adoption of VR has been elusive. Without a gotta-see-it experience compelling them to try the unfamiliar format, consumers have resisted pouring hundreds of dollars into a souped-up computer and a high-end headset like Facebook's Oculus Rift.

As part of its focus on education, Oculus is also releasing three new VR experiences designed to inform on subjects such as history, science and culture, among other topics. The experiences, now available at the Oculus Store, include Breaking Boundaries in Science, a look at the scientific contributions of three women: conservationist and primatologist Jane Goodall, physicist and chemist Marie Curie, and computer scientist Grace Hopper, whose work led to the development of the COBOL programming language.

Other experiences include Titanic VR, which takes observers on a deep dive for a new look at the doomed ocean liner, and Hoover Dam: IndustrialVR, takes audiences over and into the engineering and architectural wonder.

"VR will play an increasingly important role in education as the industry continues to evolve, and these experiences provide a glimpse at what's possible with immersive storytelling," Oculus said in a statement.

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