VR for children remains a slightly tricky topic. Oculus, Sony and others have set age limits of 13 and over for their respective headsets, not necessarily because they know them to be damaging for anyone under the limit but rather to be on the safe side. We recently wrote about the need for further testing to really determine the possible effects of the platform, though others have gone ahead and embraced the platform for the younger age. Google’s Expeditions, for example, uses low-cost Cardboard headsets to take entire classes on virtual field trips.
All About Virtual Reality, a new book published by DK in association with educational VR company, Curiscope, essentially productizes Expeditions. It’s a 32-page hardback that comes with its very own Cardboard headset and aims to teach young children about VR and its use cases. It’s part user-manual, part history, geography and science lesson, with an app that takes you back to prehistoric times and beyond. If you have a young child that’s taken an interest in VR, this is a pretty safe starting point.
The book starts with instructions on how to assemble the Cardboard kit, which is easy enough to do but will need adult supervision (being the brilliant VR journalist that I am, I managed to make it the wrong way around the first time). The Cardboard is tough but, if you’re too rough with it, it will break so it’s important to make sure your child doesn’t break something before the fun’s even started.
The assembled product is a decent Cardboard viewer. The lack of straps makes it great for simply pulling up to your eyes and then taking it away again, meaning kids can’t put it on for hours (and, as a side note, you shouldn’t let your child use a VR headset without supervision anyway). It holds a smartphone quite steadily but will need you to hold it at the front to ensure it stays in place.
You use the headset with a free app called DK Virtual Reality on iOS and Android. Certain themed pages of the book include a blue tracker that the app will scan with a phone’s camera acting as a passthrough. You’ll then be teleported to a static VR image relating to the given theme. On a T. rex page, for example, I was quickly transported back to the Jurassic-era, where the hulking beast stood over me. After staring at the dinosaur for a few seconds a narrator provided information about the creature and I could then focus on individual parts of it for more information, even looking under the skin at one point. The scene was also littered with other elements like dinosaur eggs.
All About Virtual Reality has a nice balance of showing these impressive experiences in VR and then, on the next page, telling the reader more about how it was achieved. Following the dinosaur page, for example, there’s a page on ‘How do we see in 3D?’. The book explains in pretty simple terms how the effect is pulled off, avoiding vocabulary that could be complicated for children like ‘stereoscopic’.
For example, an excerpt reads:
“A virtual reality app shows what the left eye and right eye would see if you were “inside” the virtual world. It displays each view on one side of the smartphone’s screen, and when you use the viewer, each eye only sees one side.”
It’s quite refreshing to see VR explained in such simple terms, and the book does a good job at giving a young child enough of an understanding for them to perhaps pursue an interest in the technology going forward. To me, the book seems aimed for kids around the age of 10. It is, of course, entirely up to you if you want to help feed your child’s curiosity at such a young age.
There aren’t a huge amount of VR experiences — 5 in total — but each is well polished, filled with information and overall a great example of VR as an educational tool. There’s no need to worry about if these experiences are suitable for kids, though obviously keep in mind that the iOS and Android app stores are filled with VR apps not appropriate for them.
Oh, and there are stickers. Because stickers are cool, right?
Overall, All About Virtual Reality is a decent and responsible starting place for a child interested in VR with a serviceable Cardboard headset, a high-quality, age-appropriate app and a book that serves as a good introduction to the technology. As far as stocking fillers go, this does the jopb quite well.
All About Virtual Reality is available now for £9.99 in the UK