Google Expeditions is a VR and AR teaching tool that allows the user to lead or join immersive field trips all over the world. Teachers and students can visit historical and cultural sites, explore different natural phenomena, and more without leaving the classroom. All experiences on Google Expeditions are free and the app is optimized for Google Cardboard or Daydream VR headsets.
Three years ago, we reviewed Google’s Expeditions Pioneer Program, which subsequently evolved into the more widely available Expeditions app discussed in this review. Using this program today, it’s clear that the evolution Expeditions has undergone is significant. The breadth of field trip opportunities is vast; for example, I went on VR tours of college campuses, visited New York City LGBTQ+ historic sites, looked at and learned about the aurora borealis, and got up close and personal with a dozen different kinds of coral.
The wide variety of immersive experiences is not only appealing to a wide audience but is supported by many different technologies. If you don’t have a VR headset, you can use a smartphone to engage in the AR experiences or to look at the 3D images from the VR experiences. While most Expeditions were pretty basic, they were of good quality and easy to use. Some experiences have narration, and all have a substantial amount of informational text.
While some Expeditions have narration, others have very stilted AI-narration or no narration at all. While text is available for all experiences in VR, especially on low-tech headsets like Cardboard, reading can be a difficult and nauseating task. Adding more human narration would be an easy way to increase the quality of many of the experiences featured.
Right now, Google Expeditions is not a very dynamic experience because there are no real points of interaction. Specifically within VR, the world in which you are immersed, while made up of 3D images, is basically static. I imagine that if you are a teacher guiding a whole class of students through an experience as part of a larger unit of study, there is more potential to encourage interaction. As a stand-alone activity, however, it has its limits.
As an expansive free resource, Google Expeditions provides easy access to places and experiences that many students would not otherwise have. Based on its evolution from the Expeditions Pioneer Program, I am excited to see what the next iteration of this platform has in store.Image: by Melanie Hering