Review by Shaun Langevin, Common Sense Education | Updated June 2018
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Unimersiv

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VR experiences marred by uneven quality

Subjects & skills
Subjects
  • Science
  • Social Studies

Skills
  • Character & SEL
Grades This grade range is a recommendation by Common Sense Education and not the developer/publisher.
2–12
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Pros: A few of the activities are compelling and have room to grow with updates.

Cons: Some of the experiences feel unfinished; others may have excitement that wears off quickly.

Bottom Line: Unimersiv offers some gems but ultimately doesn't live up to the potential of virtual reality.

If you happen to teach a unit that involves Roman architecture, the Titanic, or the International Space Station (ISS), Unimersiv could be a powerful addition to these studies. One ISS experience comes the closest to having a compelling reason to use Unimersiv as a VR activity: Students are given the opportunity to float around and learn about different areas of the ship. A second ISS experience provides an excellent narrated tour or free exploration of the exterior. The Titanic experience showcases many areas of the ship and allows for some free exploring. The Roman architecture experience allows students to see quality digital 3D re-creations of significant Roman structures. Each ends with, where possible, a 3D view of what the structure looks like. The tour here really is topnotch, with some animated gladiators sword fighting (there's no blood), with great narration and text that pops up. Importantly, these tours move at a good pace to avoid being boring. Any of these VR activities would help students get a better understanding of the subject material and generate excitement at the same time.

While several languages are available, switching languages changes the interface only superficially. All of the audio content is still in English, as are the course descriptions. Avatars are customizable with skin and hair color and can be male or female. While Unimersiv has said it's adding a social component in the future, as of right now there isn't anything available to extend the learning beyond the app itself.

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Unimersiv is a virtual reality (VR) app available on Google Daydream, Google Cardboard, Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, and Samsung Gear VR. Pricing is slightly different for each one but typically costs from $3.49 to $5.00. There's also an option to pay $49 per user for what's essentially a lifetime subscription, granting access to future content. Users can log in and create an account with Unimersiv, but there doesn't seem to be any teacher account or tools to add or manage students.

Content is divided into experiences and courses. There are experiences such as Stonehenge, the Titanic, Roman architecture, dinosaurs, and human anatomy, such as the skeletal/muscular structures, circulatory systems, and the brain. The courses are currently in beta. Essentially, Unimersiv allows professionals to create courses with PowerPoint slides and audio recordings. Unimersiv takes these, adds an animated avatar that moves its mouth and waves its hands around while showing the slideshow. It isn't clear what vetting process Unimersiv uses for people who offer to do content for them, so be sure to analyze it yourself prior to using it with students.

Oddly, it's the comparison of all the experiences and courses that exposes some of Unimersiv's most significant shortcomings. It feels as though each experience has been designed by a different team or is in a different stage of development. Although the narration is good overall, it isn't available on everything. Some experiences have text and labels that pop up to support content, while others have nothing. Some have animation while others are static. Some have the ability to explore while others are entirely guided. A student may get asked quiz questions during or after some VR experiences, but not others. Even the best experiences Unimersiv has to offer have little if any meaningful interaction. The ISS tour talks about where astronauts carry out experiments and control a robotic arm. Student learning would be brought to the next level if students had the opportunity to perform such actions. 

The courses (acknowledging that they're currently in beta) are going to need some fundamental rethinking to appeal to students. It's cool to be sitting in the sky in the middle of Egypt looking over the Sphinx's shoulder at pyramids. It's not cool to be sitting in the sky in the middle of Egypt watching a series of PowerPoint lectures. All but the most interested students will be put off by this very quickly, and many will wonder why the potential of VR would be squandered in such a way.

Overall Rating

Engagement Is the product stimulating, entertaining, and engrossing? Will kids want to return?

Students will enjoy many of the experiences offered, though the quality is inconsistent throughout.

Pedagogy Is learning content seamlessly baked-in, and do kids build conceptual understanding? Is the product adaptable and empowering? Will skills transfer?

The experiences could support student learning, but they don't take full advantage of VR's potential. The courses are essentially nothing but a PowerPoint presentation. 

Support Does the product take into account learners of varying abilities, skill levels, and learning styles? Does it address both struggling and advanced students?

Much of the delivery happens via audio and would be improved if consistently supported by text. All of the content is in English with some text menus available in other languages.


Common Sense Reviewer
Shaun Langevin Technology coordinator

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