Oculus announced that it will place 100 Rift HMDs and Oculus-Ready PCs in 90 libraries throughout California to pilot its Oculus Education program.
Oculus Education appears to have two goals: letting more people experience VR, and researching how VR can improve learning. Placing its Rift HMDs in roughly half of the California State Library's locations should give Oculus the opportunity to achieve both of those goals. Not everyone has access to a VR-capable PC, but if everything they need to experience VR is right in their local library, they could get a taste of VR without spending a dime. In turn, Oculus will learn more about how people interact with VR and help make "Oculus" synonymous with "virtual reality."
Here's what Oculus said in its announcement:
“It’s pretty cool to imagine how many people will try VR for the very first time—and have that ‘wow’ moment—in their local libraries,” says Oculus Education Program Manager Cindy Ball. “We hope early access will cause many people to feel excited and empowered to move beyond just experiencing VR and open their minds to the possibility of one day joining the industry.”
This isn't the first time Oculus has tried to make it easier for people to experience VR. The company also partnered up with Microsoft in March to make four Rift demos--Rock Band VR, Robo Recall, Fruit Ninja VR, and Lumiere's Dress Rehearsal--available in Microsoft Stores throughout the U.S. Where that program's goal was to convince people to buy into VR, however, this pilot of Oculus Education seems to be aimed more at simply letting people understand what the hubbub over VR is about. (Using a Rift at a library is also probably less awkward than hanging out in a store.)
Oculus said in its blog post that Oculus Education could expand to more locations in the future. The program is also "exploring a variety of research projects that ask how VR affects the ways in which we learn" and collaborating on other Oculus and Facebook projects like NextGen, TechStart, and inspirED. If you live in California and want to see if there's a Rift heading to a library near you, just check out this website. We wouldn't be surprised if Oculus and other VR companies announce similar programs in the future. The first taste is always free.