Oculus Rift Heads to California Public Libraries
Don't expect to check one out for free, though. They're intended to generate interest in VR through educational experiences.
Oculus Rift headsets and PCs powerful enough to run them are coming to 90 public libraries around California as part of a project to support equitable access to emerging technology.
Oculus, Facebook's virtual reality division, is spearheading the effort. It's not considering the Rifts and computers as a donation, but rather a pilot project to bring VR to a wider audience. If people -- especially children -- don a Rift headseton their next trip to the library and come away wowed by the experience, the thinking goes, it will help broaden VR's appeal beyond its traditional purview of hardcore video gamers.
"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," Oculus Education Program Manager Cindy Ball said in a statement.
Those hoping to play games might be disappointed, since the goal of the program is primarily educational. Oculus didn't say exactly what apps would be available, and while they might vary from library to library, you can expect experiences like virtual explorations of Mars or trips to far-flung art museums.
The VR headsets will take up residence in 90 libraries distributed evenly throughout California, from a tiny library in an Indian reservation abutting the Oregon border to the central branch of the Los Angeles public library system.
Other VR education efforts include Google Expeditions, which offers hardware kits for sale from Best Buy to outfit entire school classrooms with mobile phone-powered VR headsets. Recent Google Expeditions content has included virtual visits to Buckingham Palace and Alexander Hamilton-themed walking tours of New York City.