Pay attention, kids. Cardboard Expeditions has some new competition in the form of ClassVR, a virtual reality education scheme with an all-in-one VR headset that can do gesture controls.
UK startup Avantis is selling the headsets, which run on Android, to schools in packs of eight but it's Swedish company Crunchfish that's behind the gesture control software.
I got a quick demo of how ClassVR works at MWC. You stick the light, comfortable headset on to access the custom ClassConnect software which presents students with a bunch of educational experiences to choose from, much like Expeditions - exploring the Valley of the Kings, that sort of thing. The ClassVR scheme includes 500 activities, both videos and photos, across history, art, science etc.
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The difference here is that the ClassVR headset has a front-facing camera which tracks your hand. So when I looked at an experience icon in the virtual menu and did an OK sign with my right hand in front of the headset, it launched that application. Once inside, I then held up a fist to exit again. It worked almost instantly, though not when I failed to follow very simple instructions and held my fist sideways.
Keeping gestures simple
Crunchfish founder & CTO Paul Cronholm explained that the gesture recognition software is much more simple than something like Leap Motion, which also uses infrared for tracking individual fingers, for good reason.
"We are capable of tracking two hands but all of the gestures are just for one hand," he said, "simple things like a thumbs up, swiping or zooming in to see something. It needs to be simple so you remember it, Leap Motion is more about being precise. We track the whole hand."
From what I saw, the experiences aren't the most interactive so kids won't, for instance, see virtual hands in CG as in high end games. But this is still a nice take on gesture controls that does away with tapping the side of headsets and possibly even extra controllers. It's not just ClassVR either. Crunchfish has an open SDK so developers of Cardboard apps for iOS and Android can already add support for the gestures.
A pack of eight headsets costs £1999 which is reasonable, if not cheap compared to Cardboard, but this does include all the software and VR lesson plans too.