Mobile Virtual Reality Experiences An App Smashing Experience with Desktop Extension

Cardboard Camera | Google Drive | Tour Creator | Google Expeditions
App Smashing with a Side of Desktop (Tour Creator)

Virtual Reality Environment Creation

Before we dive into the topic of students creating virtual reality environments using the apps above, we should pay particular attention to a definition of mobile learning in order to set the context. McQuiggan et. al (2015) defines mobile learning:

"It is anywhere, anytime learning enabled by instant, on-demand access to a personalized world filled with the tools and resources we prefer for creating our own knowledge satisfying our curiosities, collaborating with others, and cultivating experiences otherwise unattainable" (p. 8).

When students create their own virtual reality photos using the Cardboard Camera app, upload them to Tour Creator and eventually making their virtual tours accessible on Google Expeditions, they are effectively rendering 3-dimensional virtual environments of where they are in the world. 3DVE's are defined by Warburton (2009) and Eschenbrenner, Nah, and Siau (2008) as "computer generated displays giving users a sense of being present in, and interacting with, a three dimensional environment other than the one they are actually in" (as cited in Procter, p. 983). Students have the opportunity to collaborate with others by sharing their worlds via a share link, and being transported themselves, thereby participating in the cultivation of experiences otherwise unattainable for a variety of reasons - for example, the impracticality of physically traveling to a far-off place.

Cardboard Camera app (Android and iOS)

Download this free app onto your Android or iOS device and capture panoramic images wherever you are!
What you see when you first open Cardboard Camera

How to use Cardboard Camera

While holding your phone upright, press the orange button and pan the area slowly. An arrow will appear to guide you through the process!

You will also notice that the sound bars beside the orange button are moving - this means that the app is recording ambient sound. You can turn this off by tapping on the bars.

When you are finished with your scene, it will upload to Your Photos in the app, where you now have a few options...

Upload/Export, VR View, Delete

Export VR Image(s) to...

ANDROID: Google Photos or Google Drive

iOS: Camera Roll

Tap on the Upload icon on the iOS app to reveal the Export to Camera Roll option

Delete your image(s)

Tap the trash bin icon to Delete your image(s)

View your Virtual Reality Image in a VR Viewer

Google Cardboard (Insignia brand, Best Buy, $14.99)
When you open your photo in VR mode by tapping on the VR Goggles icon, Look down and you will see an audio icon and arrow icon. If you wish to turn off the audio, aim the white dot at the icon and "click" it by pressing the VR viewer's button. The arrow allows you to move between scenes, or other images you have captured.
VR View using Google Cardboard viewer
Google Drive (App) + Tour Creator (Desktop)

Google Drive (Android and iOS)

Download the Google Drive app to your Android device to upload your virtual photos from Cardboard Camera, and then import into Tour Creator. This is necessary to move between mobile and desktop.
Download the Google Drive app to your iOS device. export your virtual photos from Cardboard Camera to Camera Roll, upload selected photos to Google Drive, and then import into Tour Creator. This is necessary to move between mobile and desktop.

iOS Example

Export to Camera Roll > Tap on Photo > Tap on Upload > Choose Google Drive and Upload

Tour Creator (Desktop)

If you click on the Tour Creator link on your mobile device, you will see the above notification reminding you to...

Pivot from your mobile device to a desktop or laptop!

Search for Google Tour Creator
Click + New Tour to start creating!
Add Cover Photo, Title, Description and Category

Add your photos - these will be the backdrops of your scenes

The other way is to search for a place that already has Street View imagery and import those to create tours about places around the world
Note: Remember when you exported your photos to Google Drive? You'll need to download those photos to your computer to be able to use them in Tour Creator. These will be the backdrop of your scenes.
You can add more scenes by clicking on "Add scene" at the bottom of your screen. This will bring you to the Street View and Upload photo screen where you repeat the process to build your tour!
Add Points of Interest to your scenes! It will appear as a circular button with an "i". This is where viewers can click to reveal the image overlay or information you included.
Click the image icon to add an image from your computer. You can drag and resize it. You can also add sight narration, and when your POI button is clicked, your viewers will hear the audio you upload.
Speaking of Audio
Note: If you recorded audio and want to hear it when you view your tour on your mobile device, you will need to tap on the gear cog in the upper right-hand corner of your device and 'enable audio'

In an interview with Noah Nelson in his chapter entitled Storytelling Principles for Immersive Space, Bucher (2018) relayed that "sound is the main driver of our attention and should be taken advantage of in VR stories " (p. 91)

Publish & Share your Virtual Tour as a link so that it can be viewed on a mobile device and vr viewer!

Publish your tour to Poly > Choose Unlisted or Private > Copy the Poly Tour link to clipboard > Paste into an email for the lucky recipient

Back to Mobile for viewing...

On your mobile device, navigate to your email and tap on the link to open > Open in Chrome or Safari > Tap VR Goggles icon and Enter VR Mode > Welcome to your VR tour!
Note: If you are on an iOS device, open in Safari and not Chrome - this is a known issue

Google Expeditions App (Android and iOS)

Download this free app onto your Android or iOS device and guide, follow or embark on a solo adventure!
Introduction to Expeditions
Teachers can guide students in a virtual reality tour, or students can embark on solo journeys with self-guided expeditions.
A newer feature of expeditions provides ar (augmented reality) experiences for students, where they can access 3D learning objects wherever they are via their mobile device!
Fun Fact: Once you have published your vR tour to Poly in Tour Creator, you can choose to make your tour available in the Google Expeditions App (Android only as of February 2019)
Tap Share > Tap Expeditions to publish to Expeditions app

A three-dimensional virtual environment offers a simulation of a three dimensional world (Inoue, 2007) and is distinguished from other forms of interactive media by three characteristics: increased immersion; increased sense of fidelity in relation to immediacy of control; and higher levels of active participation (Dalgarno and Lee 2012). As a learning strategy, therefore, the virtual tour can facilitate deeper understanding by placing the learner’s experience at the center of the learning process.

This is fairly new technology in that there are not many mobile apps in existence to create virtual tour content, apart from Cardboard Camera and a handful of Virtual Tours for Realty and Tourism industry apps; however with the Realty apps, connecting your device to an external 360' camera is required. This may not be financially feasible for many classrooms. On the flip side, a stroll through your local app store will reveal a large amount of VR consumer apps, such as games, and VR tours are becoming increasingly prevalent. Dionisio et. al (2017) researched 360' Immersive Mobile Virtual Reality (MVR) experiences and noted that they are "reaching a wider public, thanks to inexpensive and more powerful mobile technology available on the shelves, and is also rapidly growing as a research arena to investigate how best to design such VR experiences" (p. 165). Of particular interest to the researchers is how MVR's can reveal to be valuable in the tourism industry, which aligns with the above observation with regards to the number of VR tour apps on the market.

Dionosio et. al (2017) go on to state that "the transition of VR towards mobile devices turned VR into a tool that can be easily used with the minimum hardware setup of a smartphone. This allowed for MVR experiences which in turn enabled users to access and navigate 360º photo spheres and 360º videos of real or simulated places for educational purposes [2:2,30]. An example of this would be the Google Expeditions app. I anxiously await a Tour Creator app and have submitted feedback in the form of a request for this feature.


Bucher, J. K., & Taylor & Francis eBooks A-Z. (2018;2017;). Storytelling for virtual reality: Methods and principles for crafting immersive narratives. New York and London: Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group. doi:10.4324/9781315210308

Dionisio, M., Bala, P., Nisi, V., & Nunes, N. (2017). Fragments of laura. Proceedings of the 16th International Conference on Mobile and Ubiquitous Multimedia - MUM 17. doi:10.1145/3152832.3152868

McQuiggan, S. (2015). Mobile Learning: A handbook for developers, educators and learners. Chichester: John Wiley & Sons.

Procter, L. (2012). What is it about Field Trips? Praxis, Pedagogy and Presence in Virtual Environments. Procedia - Social and Behavioral Sciences, 55, 980-989. doi:10.1016/j.sbspro.2012.09.588

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