(Cross-posted on the Google for Work Blog.)

On a frigid spring morning in Ontario, Canada, a classroom full of fifth-graders visited the Galapagos Islands, discovering and classifying animals for a lesson on Charles Darwin. Students at Mariano Azuela Elementary in Chicago toured the Great Wall of China in their math class, calculating how long it would take to walk from one tower to the next. And high school students in Accra, Ghana, explored Singapore to gather ideas for a paper on urban economic development.

These trips were all made possible by Expeditions, a new educational tool coming this fall that allows teachers to take their classes on field trips to anywhere. From the Expeditions app on their tablet, a teacher is able to send synchronized three-dimensional 360° panoramas to each student’s Cardboard viewer, pointing out areas of interest in real time and instantly pausing the trip when needed. Used in conjunction with existing lessons and curriculum, Expeditions immerses students in experiences that bring abstract concepts to life and provide a deeper understanding of the world beyond the classroom.
Expeditions will combine three things: software built with input from teachers and students, immersive virtual reality content and off-the-shelf devices.

The content
Expedition trips are collections of virtual reality panoramas — 360° photo spheres, 3D images and video, ambient sounds — annotated with details, points of interest, and questions that make them easy to integrate into curriculum already used in schools. Partners like the American Museum of Natural History, the Planetary Society, David Attenborough with production company Alchemy VR, and many of the museums and other partners of the Google Cultural Institute are helping us to create custom educational content for Expeditions.

The app
Expeditions trips are accessed and viewed through an app that allows a teacher to choose a trip and lead a group of students through a virtual field trip by choosing what content they’re viewing and by pointing out specific points of interest along the way. Teachers are able to pause trips to get the class’s attention, play ambient sounds to make the experience even more immersive and let students freely explore on their own.

The hardware
While Expeditions can be used on devices already in the classroom, they come alive with Google Cardboard. Our pilot kit is a collection of all the hardware needed to go on Expeditions in full virtual reality — a tablet for the guide, VR viewers for each student, a speaker to provide ambient sounds and a durable box to transport, charge, and store it all. We know many schools don’t have great Internet service (or any at all) so we built Expeditions to work without it. The kit includes a router that allows Expeditions to run over its own local Wi-Fi network so there’s no buffering, dropped connections or lengthy loading times.

“So many times, I've wished that I could take my students on a journey and tell them the kinds of stories that got me excited about social studies,” says Hector Camacho, who took his Economics class at St. Francis High School in Mountain View on an Expedition to Wall Street. “I never imagined that very trip could take place within the walls of our classroom. Expeditions helped create an experience I could never have created using just words, and it helped my students develop a fascination with economics.”

More than 1,000 students have already used Expeditions in their classes, and we’d like to thank the teachers and students in these schools who’ve helped us test and improve the product this spring.

Sign up to get more information about Expeditions as it becomes available this fall, and let us know where you’d like to take your students — we’re excited to hear your wish list.