Upcoming May Events
Virtual and Augmented Reality: Stepping into the New Frontier of Learning Webinar – Presented by Emory Craig and Maya Georgieva: May 1 1:00-2:30 pm, Boatwright 322. We’d love for you to join us to hear from Emory and Maya then discuss how their vision for the future fits into the University’s new strategic plan. More information.
Oculus Rift Technology Demo – in collaboration with Communications Joedy Felts. May 11th 9:00 – 4:00 PM, Boatwright 322. As many of you know, we’ve invested in the HTC Vive for our initial explorations into immersive VR technology. This will be an opportunity for the VR community to try the new Oculus Rift and it’s touch controls.
VR/AR in the News
The first decade of augmented reality
Mobile technology analyst Benedict Evans (of A16z) analyzes the current state of augmented reality technology and speculates how recent developments compares to mobile phone technology in the 2000s. I always find Benedict’s analysis thoughtful and nuanced, this article is no different.
I believe the multitouch -> iPhone, AR -> ?!? analogy is spot on. Demos of AR technology are getting cooler and cooler (Hololens, Magic Leap, etc) but we are still waiting for a breakthrough product that truly changes the way people think/interact.
I also agree with his assertion that ‘real’ augmented reality will be when a device can see and interpret the world around us. This is something I am constantly reminded of when I hear people talk about Pokemon Go. A “dumb” heads up display (HUD) wouldn’t add enough compelling incentive to be a breakthrough consumer product, a cool fad perhaps, but not a lasting computing revolution.
Evans writes: an AR device with “an ambient, intangible, AI-led UI would change everything”. I agree and would add that education in particular will be revolutionized with these advances.
A VR/AR Sandbox
Stéphan Faudeux’s VR talk at the French Film Festival last month was a terrific survey of VR’s past, present and future. Among many insights, he talked about how some French movie theaters were installing VR arcades. Turns out the concept of a VR arcade isn’t new. IMAX has recently opened their first VR arcade in the states this year and similar projects are popping up all over the country. Norm Laviolette, founder of Asylum Gaming and eSports in New England says:
“Ultimately, we are creating an experience for people, and really there are few things out there that can elicit such an amazing physical, emotional, psychological reaction like VR,” he said. “We plan to have a dedicated wing just for VR, and keep it flexible to evolve as VR evolves and becomes more and more sophisticated.
As I talk with more people on campus about implementing VR technologies, the more I believe, in addition to faculty driven academic and research developments, we should also be student focused. What types of experiences will our students expect in 3-5 years when they are campus? We should be giving student’s access to these new technologies and I think a VR sandbox/arcade concept like Mk2 VR might work at an institution our size.
Data Visualization in Virtual Reality shows promise
Visualization can reveal the knowledge hidden in data, but traditional 2-D and 3-D data visualizations are inadequate for large and complex data sets. Our solution is to visualize as many as 10 dimensions in VR/AR all via a Shared Virtual Office, which allows even untrained users to spot patterns in data that can give companies a competitive edge.
We are just at the early stages in understanding what kind of tools will prove useful in VR but this looks very promising. It feels super nerdy to say but being able to walk around a 3D scatter plot sounds exhilarating.
Super Bowl LI was the first Super Bowl you could watch in “VR”
The “get a big screen TV when you strap a small screen on your face” has gained some traction recently but I really wonder if it is a fad like the 3D TVs of the last few years. Same with the 360 live video cameras. Both have some utility and “oh, this is cool” moments but neither seems like virtual reality to me.
I’m more interested in the new recording technology that uses light field (depth + photographs) technology to recreate a place / event for you in VR. Imagine walking on the sideline at the Super Bowl as opposed to these pseudo-“VR” experience for Super Bowl LI.
Another Time Machine historical app announced – this one aimed at ancient Rome, Greece, and Jerusalem.
The new Lithodomos VR App will turn archaeological sites into completed visualizations of how they once appeared. Apps like it will not only impact tourism, but transform how we teach history and archaeology. The days of hand drawn renderings are coming to an end; students will explore deeply immersive environments depicting the past.
I think stating this app and others like it will transform how we teach history and archaeology is a bit of a stretch right now but the technology is looking more and more promising. Hope this app comes out on the Vive soon!
Virtual Reality in Education Lab of NYC develops 360 Experience to give educators a sense of what 360 videos/photos can offer.
This experience is segmented into 3 “rounds” based on 3 different themes: (1) VR Experiences in Art, Museums and Cultural Sites, (2) VR and AR Experiences with the Human Self, and (3) VR Experiences in Storytelling, Journalism and Social Science. I highly recommend trying out this experience – if you need a Google Cardboard viewer, come by the CTLT in Boatwright library.
Unity releases new tool that let’s you create VR environments in VR
Unity is, and has been, the ‘go-to’ tool for VR game / environment creation but, until now, development occurred on your basic PC and monitor. It makes sense that building in VR would be a natural development for the tool but this is exciting regardless. I wonder if it will reduce the learning curve for new developers? As an inexperienced developer, I hope so!
Come join us!
The CTLT will be hosting a Virtual Reality Open House in the Jepson C&P room on February 9th and 23rd from 1-4 pm. All on campus (faculty, staff, & students!) interested in virtual or augmented reality are invited!
During this open house you’ll have the chance to interact with new VR technology that uses positional tracking (which basically means it knows where you are in space) to mimic your movements in the virtual world. Our positional tracking device is called the HTC Vive and using it really gives you a sense of how powerful VR can be.
We in the CTLT believe in exploring emerging technologies that can create new educational opportunities. Positional tracking VR has the potential to pave many new avenues in learning and research here on campus. To help guide your journey, we’ve outlined a few different experiences to choose from.
Amulette (cinematic / storytelling)
- Described as the first VR masterpiece, this animated tale gives you a taste of how virtual reality creates new storytelling challenges and opportunities.
Destinations (presence / social)
- A promise of VR has always been to take you places you’ve never been. Destinations and Realities.io are apps that push the envelop of imaging technology to take you to far off places and allow you to experience medieval churches or mountaintops from the comfort of Jepson Hall.
Tilt Brush (Content Creation)
- Technological advancements are so important to the educational landscape because they create new opportunities that were never before possible, opening new avenues for educations to guide their students down. Tilt Brush is an app that creates a completely new opportunity: to create in virtual space. You can create paintings, sketches, buildings, even volcanos and then walk around and interact with them.
- Tilt Brush
- What’s the difference between a virtual experience and a real experience? As virtual experiences become more prevalent we must ask ourselves whats the difference between virtual and actual reality? Experience what virtual reality ping pong has to offer?
- Paddle Up
The Lab (gaming: bow and arrow)
- Let’s be honest, most content available on VR are games. This is probably one of the most fun. Protect your castle from stickman in this fantastic game from Valve.
- The Lab
Engage (virtual classroom)
- Have you ever been frustrated with the laws of nature when teaching in the classroom? Have you wanted to show a microscopic structure with your hands or demonstrate a dangerous interaction for your students? With virtual reality, there is potential to engage with your students in new ways. Just as a fair warning – this app is early in development but will give you a glimpse into the direction the field is going.
Hope to see you at the open house!
Doing Augmented Reality well is going to require significant improvements in optical technology.
I still think we are further away from a successful consumer product than most think.
Digital Storytelling with VR technology becoming mainstream. Google’s Virtual Reality Spotlight Story ‘Pearl’ Gets Oscar Nomination.
I highly recommend experiencing both “Pearl” and a short animated VR experience (it’s more than a movie) Allumette with the Vive. Both experiences give you a glimpse of how this new technology can be a beautiful storytelling tool.
Designing for Virtual Reality
Designing for virtual reality presents new challenges to a UX designer because good VR prioritizes presence over simplicity and function. How can we design for presence?
The devices that formerly relied on more external cues now rely heavily on how our minds are built and wired. Although user-experience designers have traditionally accounted for cognitive science in how they design mobile and desktop interfaces, the user-experience of virtual reality is different because it does not prioritize function but instead prioritizes displacement.
As a neuroscientist, I don’t know if I 100% agree with the author’s conclusions about the brain on virtual reality but I think they are onto something with how impactful sublime experiences are in VR (i.e. Google Earth).
Samsung on the Possibilities of VR in Education
An immersive experience in a virtual reality classroom, however, would be a fundamentally different proposition. The study of anatomy could go beyond frogs to embrace large mammals and even humans, whose computer-imaged insides could be examined in detail. (emphasis is mine)
I’m really looking forward to the day when we can start writing and reading articles that address actual VR education software/hardware instead of hypotheticals.