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How To Access Virtual Reality Without A Headset: 3 Alternative Options

User experience is the second largest obstacle to a wider adoption of virtual reality (VR), with 19% of people noting bulky hardware and technical glitches as their primary deterrent to VR. 

When learners aren’t comfortable with wearing headsets, it’s critical that organizations offer alternatives to VR so that all of your learners can participate and reach their learning goals.

We’ve generated three recommended alternatives to a VR headset:

  1. Use a Cardboard Headset
  2. Access a Mobile Version
  3. Complete a Desktop Version

VR training opens up a world of possibilities for learners, but what if they aren’t comfortable wearing a standard VR headset? That’s where we come in!

Our team at Roundtable Learning works with organizations around the globe to bring their VR training programs to life. Over time, we learned the best ways to accommodate learners that don’t feel comfortable wearing a VR headset. 

This article breaks down three VR headset alternatives that allow all of your learners to have similar user experiences while remaining comfortable and safe. 

What Is VR Training?

Virtual reality (VR) training extends learning beyond the classroom setting. VR training simulates any world you can imagine and gives learners the ability to encounter true-to-life scenarios without facing real-world risk. 

VR training can instruct learners across a wide variety of topics, from safety and technical training to onboarding and product knowledge. Whatever the training topic may be, VR provides learners with a unique opportunity to complete hands-on, interactive learning programs. 

By putting on a VR headset, learners are transported to a new location where they can look around themselves, walk up close to computer-generated objects, and interact with items and people.

Alternatives To A Virtual Reality Headset

VR headsets open up a world of possibilities for learners, but not everyone feels comfortable wearing a VR headset. Whether your users are concerned with cleanliness, prefer not to share devices with others, or if they’re susceptible to motion sickness, it’s important to have accommodations for all of your learners.

Here are three options that we use with our clients to accommodate their workforce and meet their scalability and logistical needs. 

Use a Cardboard Headset

A cardboard headset is a more affordable, lightweight, and scalable option than a typical VR headset. A cardboard VR headset is a great option for organizations that may not be ready to invest in full-scale VR hardware. These headsets come in at a low price-point ($7 – $12 a set), so they can be easily bought in bulk and scaled across an organization.

How do cardboard VR headsets work?

After launching the VR activity on their smartphone, learners place their smartphone into the cardboard headset and secure it with velcro straps. Once placed inside the headset, learners interact with VR content in two ways: gaze interaction (records a learner’s gaze in real-time) and capacitive touch (allows learners to interact with content through buttons).

We often see these cardboard headsets being used as a welcome gift for new employees or as SWAG (stuff we all get) for others at the workplace.

Limitations of a Cardboard Headset

Despite the low cost and ease of use, there are limitations to a cardboard headset. 

  • The material — Since these headsets are made of cardboard, they may not last as long as other more durable materials. 
  • Limited to 3 degrees of freedom (DoF) — Learners can’t physically move around within their VR environment. 
  • No head strap — Cardboard headsets typically don’t come with a head strap, so learners will have to physically hold the headset as they complete their activity.

Although there are drawbacks, cardboard VR headsets are a cost-effective, scalable substitute for organizations who may not be ready for full-hardware investments and for learners who want the immersive experience with personal, disposable equipment. 

Access a Mobile Version

If you have learners who aren’t comfortable putting a VR headset up to their face, you can still use your VR activity without looking through a headset. With a compatible mobile device, such as a phone or tablet, learners can launch a 360° VR activity and interact with content in the following two ways:

  • Explore their environment by pointing their device in different directions
  • Interact with content by touching their screen

How do mobile VR activities work?

Your learners can access the same activity created for cardboard VR headsets and participate without putting their phones in the headset. The learner can hold their phone or tablet and physically move side to side and look up and down, with 3DoF, to see the same activity and interactions as their peers. Instead of using a handheld controller, learners make selections by simply tapping their screen. 

Limitations of a Mobile Version of VR

There are a few limitations to a mobile VR activity. 

  • Small screen size — Learners are limited to the smaller size of their screen as compared to a full-fledged VR activity.
  • Compatibility issues — Not all development platforms support mobile versions of VR activities, so it’s critical that organizations ensure their development platform supports mobile formats.
  • Device supply — Employees need to use their own device or have their organization issue them one that’s compatible with the program. 

A mobile VR activity is a good fit for learners who don’t want to wear any kind of headset, and instead would prefer using a phone or tablet to complete an activity that’s still engaging, exciting, and interactive. 

Free eBook: 7 Step Guide To Creating Your First VR Training Program

Complete a Desktop Version

A desktop version of a VR activity is similar to the mobile version, except it’s accessed through a computer. By using their mouse and keyboard, learners can interact with VR content in the following two ways:

  • Explore their environment by clicking with their mouse and dragging the screen left, right, up, and down
  • Interact with content and make selections by clicking with their mouse

A VR activity completed on a desktop doesn’t have the same immersive feel as a headset would provide, but learners are still able to access the same training content as their peers and colleagues. A desktop version gives access to learners who don’t feel comfortable wearing a cardboard headset, using their mobile device, or can’t physically move through an environment.

How do desktop VR activities work?

A link to the VR activity can be hosted online, through a learning management system (LMS), or sent through email to the user. When the user accesses the activity, they can look around the environment by clicking and dragging their mouse from side to side and up or down. They can also participate in the activity by clicking the on-screen options to work through the learning objectives. 

Limitations of a Desktop Version of VR

Given that it’s not accessed by headset, the desktop version of a VR activity comes with its drawbacks. 

  • Not as immersive — Similarly to the use of a mobile version of VR, learners aren’t as immersed in the environment as they normally would be with a full-fledged headset. 
  • Limited functionality — Learners are limited to the functionality of their device and can only interact through their mouse and keyboard.
  • Compatibility issues —  Depending on the complexity of the VR experience, some devices may not have the capability to run the activity and respond to the learners’ selections in a timely manner. 

A desktop version of a VR activity is a great option for organizations who need an accessible option that’s scalable, convenient, and comfortable for learners. 

Don’t Fret Over A VR Headset! 

A VR training program is a great way to incorporate hands-on, active learning at your organization. With our three alternatives to a VR headset, you can ensure that each of your learners is accounted for and comfortable participating in VR activities.

Ready to start planning your VR training program? Check out more of our resources on all things VR or get started designing your program today! 

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