Sunday, March 27, 2016

Appsmash: Google cardboard +Tinkercad+Sketchfab

I am going to be totally honest here. When I first heard about Google Cardboard I figured that this was not for me. What could this contraption actually provide for my students that a video could not do? However, all that changed for me while attending the DeeperLearning Conference and landing, almost by mistake, in Carrie Lawrence's "Virtual Reality in Education using Google Cardboard" workshop.

We started with what I thought Google Cardboard was all about. Giving access to far away or impossible places that are now at our student's fingertips. Having never done the VR thing, that in itself was actually quite fun, and the apps she shared were cool. Here are some of the sites she shared and a couple more that I found after the session (all for Android, but I'm sure you can find the same or similar ones in the Apple store). Disclaimer, several of these work better on some devices than others, but don't let that deter you; find one or two that work for your device. Many more are being published.

VR Apps (Android), by mrsgarciaserrato

Now, if you have read my blog before, you know that I am more of a "student create stuff" kind of teacher. I liked the idea, but I was still not particularly enthused. However all of that changed an instant later when she began talking about 3D modeling. You see, there are a couple of tools that when used together enable students to create VR 3D models. This is how it goes:

It starts by you assigning a project that results in a digital 3D model. For example, my eco-house project.

Your students create their model in Tinkercad. This would be my go to since it is free, but I am assuming that other options would work (SketchUp or Minecraft). The limitation is really that the "output" needs to be compatible with our next step.
If using Tinkercad, once your students are done, they would click on Download for 3D printing, and select either .STL, .OBJ or .VRML.

That was the hard part. The next step is simply to upload the file to Sketchfab.

The students can tinker with it some, following these helpful tips from Sketchfab so the VR experience they create is "just right".

And just like that, the students, their parents and yourself can now use Google cardboard to virtually walk all around their model!

Google cardboard can be bought for around $10.00 from Google or Amazon (search for Google cardboard), and they work with any smartphone and even iPod touch devices. Students will also need to create accounts in both Tinkercad and Sketchfab (both free), but check with your IT first to verify that they are whitelisted.

Two additional "mini-hacks" before I go:

- Add a rubber band to the "crease" where the phone goes to prevent it from slipping out.
- Make sure you take the phone out of its case. This allows the use of the "trigger".

Get your "Google Cardboard" on!

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