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Google sends kids on virtual field trips with Cardboard

Google (GOOG) Cardboard might not look like much. In fact, it looks like something elementary school kids might build for a school project or a science fair, not something they could use to travel the world. But that’s what they’re doing in a new program called “Expeditions.” It’s a Google Cardboard kit that teachers use in the classroom to take students on virtual adventures to far-flung destinations all over the world for a fraction of what the same trip would cost to see in person, or even on a high-end competitor product like the Oculus Rift (FB).

Google Cardboard

 

That’s one of several new advancements in Cardboard that Google announced at this year’s I/O developers conference. Since the product launched at last year’s conference, it has taken off, with more than 1 million Cardboards now in circulation.

Now, Google has teamed up with GoPro (GPRO) to take Cardboard to the next level with “Jump,” a uniquely designed camera that uses 16 GoPros to shoot 360-degree, 3D footage from all over the world.

That footage along with specialized software and Cardboard creates a virtual reality experience, allowing kids to see parts of the world that wouldn’t normally fall into the usual school field trip, like Japan, Iceland, Hong Kong--you get the idea.

So far, more than 100 schools are participating the program.

Clay Bavor, VP, Product Management for Cardboard, says, “Field trips are awesome… but the school bus can’t go everywhere. It can’t go to the moon; it can’t go to another country and back in a day, to the bottom of the Pacific Ocean.”

Bavor says the next step will be custom-made virtual reality experiences from some of the world’s most famous destinations, including the palace at Versailles and the Museum of Natural History in New York.

Google doesn't sell Cardboard itself, but rather opened up the design process to the public. There are myriad different producers making their own versions of Cardboard viewers and selling them online, as well as hundreds of different apps for Cardboard viewing.

YouTube, which is owned by Google, will support Cardboard and Jump videos as well.

Cardboard originated as a 20% time project, which is a program at Google that allows engineers to spend 20% of their time working on something outside their normal responsibilities. Think about that the next time you find yourself with some downtime.

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