Google to shut down its VR field trip app Expeditions, migrate tours to Arts & Culture
Google announced that it is ending support for Expeditions. The Virtual Reality app will be pulled from Play Store and Apple’s App Store. The app offering educational VR tours will be removed from app stores on June 30th, 2021. The majority of its tours will be migrated to Google’s separate Arts & Culture app, allowing users to view them through the web or a mobile device.
Google is also said that it is ending support for the Tour Creator feature that allowed users to make their own tours in Expeditions. The Tour Creator will not be available for use after June 30th next year, but Google will allow users to export the assets from their existing tours in the coming months.
Jennifer Holland, Director of Program Management and Education says that the decision was made to make the Expeditions tours content more accessible to students and educators during the coronavirus pandemic. She writes in the blog, “We have recognized that immersive experiences with VR headsets are not always accessible to all learners especially more this year as the transition presented challenges for schools to effectively use Expeditions. As Arts & Culture will offer most of the Expeditions tours, we will not any longer support the Expeditions app.”
Google has launched Expeditions for its Cardboard VR viewer back in 2015, and then classrooms could use boxes of Cardboard headsets for virtual field trips. The tours included 360-degree panoramas capturing museums, festivals, and far-flung wonders of the world. But Google has since retreated from VR. The company later discontinued its Daydream VR platform and made Cardboard an open-source community project just last year.
She further writes, “Engaging with students in classrooms has taken an altogether different meaning this year. As schools around the world reimagine education during the pandemic, we’ve also been thinking deeply about how to adjust our tools to meet the moment and also build for the future.”
The content will now be a part of Arts & Culture’s museum tours and other content, available for free to all users. That, at least, is a small win for teachers and parents who have struggled to keep up kids’ education at pace during the Covid-19 pandemic that has contributed to major school closures.
The move takes place after over a month Google announced it would be ending support for the ill-fated Daydream VR platform. Launched about four years ago, this project was a big effort by the company to bring low-cost virtual reality that failed to reach its potential.