Q: My school's audio-visual club director wants to go in with me on a virtual reality camera. Which ones do you suggest? How could I use it in class?
A: The cost of virtual reality cameras has dropped dramatically in the past couple of years, putting the technology in reach for dance teachers. These cameras allow you to take 360-degree panoramic photos or video.
Of the affordable cameras, the Ricoh Theta S generally gets good marks and is under $350. It comes with a companion app for your phone that allows you to control the camera and download photos and video right onto your phone. If your budget is lower, the LG 360, which I've seen for as little as $135, is comparable to the Theta S. If you're willing to spend more, the cameras in the $400–500 range seem to shoot higher-quality video.
Once you have the camera, the options are endless. Put it on a tripod in the middle of the classroom, and you'll have a video for absent students to watch and learn—just as if they were in class. I'm most excited by its choreography possibilities. How would your students construct a dance for an audience member inside the piece? Look for new, hands-free models coming out soon that function as eyewear. With those, you could record while dancing and reveal what it feels like to be the performer.
If you want to share your 360-degree videos, upload them to YouTube 360, a new feature from Google that allows you to share VR video. Anyone with a VR viewer can experience it, and Google Cardboard makes that possible with a simple version for as little as $15.