Google Expeditions and DayDream Apps – GONE!

Many of the beloved Google Virtual experience platforms are soon to be a thing of the past.  Google recently announced its decision to end support for its Expeditions and DayDream virtual reality (VR) apps, which offer educational VR tours. Google published the news in a blog post, and it framed the decision around making Expeditions tours more accessible to students during the coronavirus pandemic. These applications will be removed from iOS and Android app stores on June 30, 2021.   Expeditions is faring better than DayDream, since Google claims that many of the Expeditions tours are being incorporated into the larger Arts & Culture app, letting users view them via web or mobile device.

In addition, Google is also discontinuing support for their Tour Creator feature, which allows individuals to create their own tours in Expeditions. Tour Creator will no longer be available after June 30, 2021.  However, Google will permit users to export the assets from their existing tours in the coming months.  Details to all things Expeditions related and migration of content can be found here.

Google Expeditions is Gone

AR and VR Enhance Learning

If you haven’t dipped your toes into the world of virtual reality (VR) or augmented reality (AR) yet, you and your students are missing out! If you haven’t experienced AR and VR and are looking for a starting point, check out these articles to get you started How to Access AR and VR in Education Today and AR and VR in the Classroom.  VR and AR experiences can support and enhance learning in all subject areas by engaging the senses and immersing students in “real” experiences far beyond the four walls of the classroom.

Many educators have jumped into the deep end and are quite upset about Google’s decision to do away with these platforms.  They worry they will lose their own personally created tours and other content they have saved over the years.  If you are one of these educators who is worried, have no fear!  New platforms are here!

There are two solid alternatives on the horizon, ExpeditionsPro and VR Expeditions 2.0™.  I have had the pleasure of speaking with both gentlemen in charge of these platforms and have gathered some highly relevant information that will help you make a sound decision on which platform will be best suited for you to migrate to.

ExpeditionsPro

ExpeditionsPro

ExpeditionsPro was founded in the UK by Simon Fretwell.  Simon has been working in the educational VR space for the past 5 years.  When asked how he came to the idea and decision to create ExpeditionsPro, Simon had the following to say.

“I have listened to Educators and Students worldwide about how they use and implement VR & AR in the classroom. One of the biggest leap forward was the ability to create content. Students were able to complete projects in a whole new way and teachers were able to explain subjects with the help of fantastic immersive content.

Google provided such a great service with its easy to use Google Expeditions app and the Tour creator service allowed this content creation to be within everyone’s reach. When Google announced the Sunsetting of its services in November 2020, I was as upset as the rest of the education community about the terrible news. That got me thinking… If we could recreate the services that Google were sunsetting, but build them in Unity, allowing cross platform use. Then add a load of new features that Educators have been longing for, and keep the platform available to everyone, worldwide. This would mean that the community would be able to save all their content, and create and share new content. Their investments into hardware would not be rendered obsolete and the community could continue to thrive on a new updated platform. This made my decision. We set about building ExpeditionsPro.”

ExpeditionsPro was built to allow cross platform use. It includes numerous new features that educators have been longing for and this new platform will remain available to everyone, worldwide. This means that the community will be able to save all their content, and create and share new content. ExpeditionsPro will be launching before Google’s sunsetting date, meaning that the whole community can bring their content over to the platform, where it can continue to be used, shared and edited.

Below are a few of the areas of improvement that ExpeditionsPro will offer.

  • Content Creation & Sharing Platform – It is a new content creation and sharing platform for educators worldwide,  not just another 360 degree library subscription.  Users can create, upload, edit and share content amongst ExpeditionPro’s global community to provide a wide selection of content that is continuously evolving. What’s more, users can simply import their existing Google Tour Creator content from Poly with their simple import tool. In addition, they will provide a huge library of pre-made VR Expeditions & associated lesson plans so you can jump right in and get started.
  • FREE – The App & Web based interface will be free to download and use, with the features you currently receive from Google Expeditions. Appropriate printable/downloaded resources for students and teachers, created by global educators to make the teaching experience easier.  Exciting premium features will also be available such as special content library packs from sites such as MEL Science.   Simon Fretwell said, “we have had such great feedback from within the community.  The best thing with this, is we are going to keep all the features Google provided, FREE OF CHARGE.”
  • Remote Learning / Teaching – This platform is perfect for virtual learners, homework; Question and Answers; Score Recording + much more.
  • Built in Unity – Building their software through Unity, means ExpeditionsPro can launch on multiple devices from a mobile phone, to a dedicated VR headset. ExpeditionsPro has educators covered to ensure any existing kits can still be used to their full advantage and are future proof.  This means you will not need new equipment.

April 2021 is the date that ExpeditionsPro is aiming for as their official launch date. The Beta Program currently has many educators, VR creators etc. testing the software to ensure it is working exactly as expected prior to launching.  To export any tours, ahead of expeditions pro launch, information can be found here.

VR Expeditions 2.0™

VR Expeditions 2.0

VR Expeditions 2.0™, which was created by RobotLAB, an award-winning educational company founded in 2010 in San Francisco, is also a desirable platform option. RobotLAB started a strategic partnership with Google back in 2015 and became the largest and unique global provider of VR kits for Education using Google Expeditions.  They have been the leading worldwide partner for Google Expeditions over the last four years.

Following the announcement of Google sunsetting Expeditions, RobotLAB launched VR Expeditions 2.0™ back in November 2020.  After months of testing, they are ready to reveal it globally on March 1, 2021.  RobotLAB VR Expeditions 2.0™ is inspired by the great work Google did, and following feedback from hundreds of educators, they made several improvements.

VR Expeditions 2.0™ Platform Improvements:

  • Content: A unique partnership with Encyclopædia Britannica® to bring high-quality, curated, and tailored content, along with student hand-outs and additional teacher resources that make educators’ life easier (see example HERE).
  • Visuals: In VR Expeditions 2.0™, all the 360-degrees photos and videos are high definition, 4k resolution, and designed to bring the best of the world to your classroom, in HD quality.
  • Classroom Management – A new feature was developed allowing teachers to create playlists and save expeditions for offline teaching, without any need for internet access. In addition, teachers can create classes and track the progress per class to manage their workflow more efficiently.
  • Easy to Deploy: You don’t need access to the Internet and you don’t have to connect your devices to your school network. The VR Expeditions 2.0™ solution can run locally on each device.

VR Expeditions 2.0™ will come with a license fee.  RobotLAB offers two options for purchasing the platform license.

For schools that already have a VR kit, RobotLAB made it very simple for them to upgrade their devices to VR Expeditions 2.0™ through an app.  The price of the license fee is $295 per teacher device and $39 per student device. Most importantly, there is no subscription. This is a one-time fee that gives you access to all VR and AR content available – currently over 400 expeditions and counting – as well as any new content that will be released by RobotLAB in the future. You will not have to pay extra as content is incorporated into the platform.

For schools that don’t have any VR equipment yet, RobotLAB offers 3 types of preconfigured VR and AR/VR kits to accommodate every budget. Each kit comes ready-to-use and includes all the equipment and software needed: headsets for the students, tablet for the educator, WiFi Router and you get to choose how you want to store your equipment: in a transport case or in a mobile charging cart with UV option if you want to sanitize your equipment so it’s safer for your students. The price for a complete kit starts at $2,340 and varies depending upon the number of devices that you will require.  I found their prices to be very competitive.

RobotLAB includes a free 1-hour online, live professional development with one RobotLAB VR Expert with each purchase, in order to be sure you are comfortable with the onboarding process.  You will have a chat with a live human, not a pre-recorded session.  This will allow you to ask questions as you get set up.

Two Options to Rescue Your Google Expeditions

Both of these new platforms are being offered by reputable companies with a long history of working in the educational VR space.  The two platforms are each open source and work with most existing devices.  There are obviously some exceptions to device compatibility but each vendor is happy to answer any questions you may have about your existing equipment prior to your enrolment in the platform. If your equipment was compatible with Google’s existing platforms you should be safe for either of these new options.

If you are an educator looking to rescue your Google Expeditions before it closes down on June 30, 2021. Simply visit Google Takeout and export all the tours you have created. Don’t wait for Google VR to phase out.