Science Simulations

Jun 24, 2019 by Can Olcer

Our vision is to provide affordable, high-quality elementary and secondary education for everyone. For the past 8 months, we thought the best way to start is to offer live science classes in virtual reality. We’ve learned a lot and are now changing our first step a bit.

In this post, I want to share why we think our live classes didn’t work out, and why we decided to build a library of science simulations for the classroom instead.

It’s always hard to say why an approach didn’t work out. In this case, generally speaking, we believe that our product was too complex for the low maturity of the VR industry and also too complex for our small smartup.

Let me explain.

With our live science classes, students could book one of several classes that would take place over 8 different sessions (over the course of two weeks) at specific times. Students and our teacher would meet in VR and learn. It was pretty cool, you could talk to each other and everyone had an awesome robot avatar. You could build rockets and go to the International Space Station.

Students needed an Oculus Go headset. We employed the teacher, created the curriculum, pedagogy and content of the class. Of course, we also built the software, including own 3D art where the classes would take place in VR. All this with a team of 3.

We knew that students that took the classes loved it. Our biggest problem was to acquire new students. We had to find people that had an Oculus Go headset, had free time at 8 different time slots and had an interested in taking and paying for the class (we charged $100 per class). On top of all that, we couldn’t use the Oculus Go store to distribute our app, so Oculus Go users couldn’t discover it there. The reason for that is that Oculus is pretty strict with app submissions and the store is curated. They generally want apps that people can just download and enjoy, and don’t need to book a class with a live teacher first.

We’re still convinced that this model will work, but the VR market needs to mature a little bit.

So, we asked ourselves what we could do that would already create value in education today and that would hopefully also accelerate the adoption of VR in the education context. Most importantly, how can we do it simply and in a way that it solves a real problem teachers have.

Two of the biggest challenges high school science teachers face in the classroom are teaching abstract concepts and keeping students engaged. VR allows us to minimize the abstraction of physics, chemistry and biology concepts. It allows us to teach 3D concepts in 3D, and it allows us to combine experimentation and analysis. Furthermore, it’s pretty clear that learning in VR is more engaging for studens than watching a 2D video or reading a text book. Not to say that we want to replace those, but rather complement.

We’re creating a growing library of science simulations that are aligned with the NGSS and eventually cover most of physics, chemistry, and biology taught in school. Our first simulation, Gravity and Air Resistance, is already available in our app. The next one is already cooking.

With this strategy, we’re simplifying a lot: It’s only single-player, we don’t have teachers on the payroll, you can use the app any time you want, and we can (eventually) use the Oculus Go store to distribute the app.

We’re currently approved as “keys only” in the Oculus app store - enter your email address on this page to get a key to download the app and give it a try. (Oculus is very strict with app submissions, and we most likely need more simulations in the app before they approve us as publicly listed).