August 13, 2018

Disintermediation


Education in the U.S. is an endeavor that gravitates toward disintermediation at every level, whenever possible. Close the classroom door, and teachers can do whatever they want. 

That explains why many schools and classrooms are making VR happen on their own, not waiting in line for approval, authorization, or formalization by Google or anyone.  No, they are jumping right in. Get out of their way. If they want VR, they will get it. Impatient teachers are setting up their own carts, viewers, and curriculum. Interestingly, many experienced educators and administrators are surprised by the rapid pace of this innovation’s infusion. These school leaders are finding themselves in the unfortunate position of having to play catch up.

August 6, 2018

VRCA

“Virtual Reality Coding Academy: Teach Your Students to Code” offers a VR coding curriculum to educators, tapping into the potent coding meme present these days. By the way, VRCA is superheavyweight contender, concealing its considerable prowess underneath an ‘unknown’ boxer’s robe. They are part of EYEQXL, a company with considerable VR heft, and I presume a contender soon to expand in a greater way into the public eye. 



July 30, 2018

Coming Soon


Sometimes we see some VR developments coming up the road, capable companies “waiting in the wings” for better publicity. Here are a few:


Silas. Silas(Socially Interactive Learning Avatar Software) is an avatar-based animation software for teaching Social Skills. It lets students learn and practice social skills by creating their own animated movies on their computer. For Silas, viewing student-created VR is coming soon.

The Beamer. The Beamer has created the Stardust Mystery Game. VR is on the way for this creative learning experience.  In the game, students are sent back in time with three friends friends to find the source for your inherited stardust (atoms). In this simulation, soon to be made VR-ready, a team takes photos, collects samples, and explores the surroundings in search of their atomistic origins. That’s the way VR should be employed—not merely field trips—but in an experiential way.

Parrott Education. A UAV (drones) company, Parrott is showing their tablet-VR-drone interwoven solution, hoping for some audience appreciation.

July 23, 2018

VR: Back to School



VRCA.  “Virtual Reality Coding Academy: Teach Your Students to Code” is offering a four-course VR coding curriculum to middle and high school students, tapping into the potent coding meme so popular these days. By the way, VRCA is part of EYEQXL, a company with considerable VR heft, and I presume a contender soon to expand in a greater way into the public eye. 

July 16, 2018

ViziTech Takes Aim


Vizitech USA has been in the 3D and VR space for some time, but here's a heads up. Their strong suit, mostly ignored by other VR sluggers, is to bring the world of visualization to vocational education or career-technical education (CTE) as we call it in the States. It’s a smart move: the current U.S. administration has just begun a renewed push for both pre- and post-high school vocational education. See their website.

July 9, 2018

Advice to the VR Industry

Here's some advice for the burgeoning VR industry. These suggestions are for the hardware, content, and integration people alike, notions that will help you effectively reach and scale in the K-12 and university market place:
  • improve the digital quality and feel of your VR graphics; 
  • employ more favorable pricing for cash-strapped schools, small-sized schools, and rural schools;
  • realign your volume purchase schedules to create greater incentive to buy (currently many pricing schedules unkowingly disincentivize customer purchase);
  • offer a straight-out purchase solution (as opposed to annual pricing structures, which are distasteful, painful, and unsustainable to most schools).
Many great VR products develop minimal sales traction when they unkowingly pursue a pathway toward pricing failure. Just saying.

July 2, 2018

Being Veative

 Singapore is in the house. That’s right, Veative, a virtual reality company headquartered in Singapore with offices in India, USA, UAE, and Egypt, has hit the VR market with notable fanfare. Veative is a joint effort by two respected digital learning organizations – Piron Corporation and Almotahida Education Group – in a new and growing partnership that advances 3-D, VR, AR and MR in learning.

Veative (apparently a portmanteau combining “virtual reality” and “creative”) brings to the table a number of ‘differentiators’ when compared with other players in the ed market:

  • Veative offers interactive VR modules that include 3D models (learning objects, we call them), 360 videos, simple and complex simulations, as well as accompanying assessments.
  • They offer both Internet and local (offline) delivery options (students and teachers can choose to download VR content from the online store or from a local [offline] content access point.) 
  • Veative features greater interactivity than their competitors, integrating the use of handheld controllers throughout their content for interactivity purposes. 
  • They offer a free creative VR learning app, more than 50 free lessons for schools, and some wonderful virtual labs and simulations, which are especially valuable for online learning programs. Veative’s VR modules are now available for Middle School Math and Science, and High School Biology, Chemistry, Physics and Mathematics. All lessons are currently available in multiple languages, as well.
  • Veative offers a complete ecosystem of surrounding value, including a comprehensive VR curriculum, mapped to the curriculum; VR Learn, a content delivery app for students (students can organize existing VR modules and add new ones in their own library); a teacher tablet with a management control app  (teachers can control student screens or can install/uninstall and launch VR modules remotely on student devices.)
  • They also offer VR headgear options, a wireless classroom router. a lockable/rollable charging/storage unit (called a ‘trolley’), reporting and analytics features, LMS integration, and insructional support (an in-house team of education experts available for advice and lesson/module design).

Ankur Aggarwal, CEO of Veative, reasons: “Content is a key pain point for adoption of VR.” He predicts: “We look forward to extending our 400+ apps in STEM to breadth across new content areas, including coding, language learning, and apps that are cross-curricular.” 


June 25, 2018

Empathy for the Homeless


Let's continue with the work of Fernanda Herrera and her research in the arena of virtual reality. In the last two posts in this series, we laid some preliminary groundwork. Now, let’s fast forward to Herrera’s most recent scholarly work. Herrera’s current research, still in process, focuses on two central questions, instantiated in two separate studies:
Can VR interventions be used to teach empathy and prosocial behaviors toward the homeless?
How long do these effects last, given three follow-up assessments at 2, 4 and 8 weeks after the intervention?
Can VR interventions be used to teach empathy and prosocial behaviors toward the homeless? The scenario in this research study begins in the present: 
...our landlord knocks on the door. When you open it, he says you have until the end of the day to pay your past-due rent or you will lose your apartment. You owe $750. [The VR simulation then requires you to choose what objects in your apartment you will sell to stay. But the items you sell simply won’t add up to the necessary amount.] 
 Next, you receive an eviction notice, and soon you’ve run out of time. You get kicked out of your apartment and start living in your car. In your car, you struggle looking around for a misplaced toothbrush and discover, in general, how hard it is to do mundane things while living in a small vehicle. [Unfortunately, in San Francisco, there is a law if you get caught sleeping in your car three times, you get your car impounded.] 
One moment, while rustling through your belongings, trying to find your toothbrush, you get caught--and cited. Your car gets impounded. At this time you are now sleeping on a bus, experiencing the dangers of not having shelter, and not being able to get to a community shelter before they close the doors [Most shelters are full by 4:00 pm. Although many homeless do indeed have jobs, they cannot always get off work to make it to a shelter on time]. 
While on the bus, someone tries to get close to you Once, you have your belongings stolen. There is even an interactive scene where you talk to others on the bus, people who are also homeless, learning why they became that way [spousal abuse or loss of a job, as an example].
Herrera summarized the overall experience  when she stated that “VR is really a good perspective-producing machine.” Although the findings are preliminary (the study is still ongoing), she summarized the key points of her latest research project using virtual reality to impart empathy:
  • Just receiving information about the homeless problem doesn’t appear to lead to action in addressing those challenges
  • Simply ‘imagining’ the above presented scenario narrative also fails to lead toward active, prosocial behaviors
  • New and previously unknown information, however, can indeed promote more prosocial behaviors (Information such as the notion that many community shelters close by 4:00 pm, already filling to capacity by that time)
  • Immersive and experiential conditions (VR) enable study participants to feel closer to the homeless and their plight
  • Participants in the experiential VR condition evidence heightened movement toward becoming engaged and making a difference

Apparently, the narrative of virtual reality outperforms simple information-giving in the ecology of empathy.  How long this empathy, prosocial behavior, and inclination to act will linger, however, remains to be seen. Herrera has not yet completed the second study. But we may be well on the way to observing the demonstrable emergence of Milk’s “ultimate empathy machine”.

June 18, 2018

VR and Empathy (2)

Continuing from last week's post, there are not many actual studies in empathy using VR, according to Herrera, who also cites related research from the field of Psychology: “If we imagine being a part of a group, we become more empathetic to that person, but also to that entire group and more empathy leads to an altruistic motivation to help.” She asserts that “VR is good for perspective taking: we can have any experience from any point of view,” since VR works by replacing perceptual input from the real world with perceptual input from the virtual world. She adds: “We can take on different skin tone, become shorter or taller, and we can achieve body transfer and body schema.” She explains:  “We start having body cognition, adopting these virtual characteristics into our own. We start thinking of a ‘new self.’” Instead of just being told what someone’s life is like, what their struggles are like, “now we can struggle with them.”

The problems with many empathy studies are typical to the challenges faced in other studies: small sample sizes and/or required college student participation in the studies may skew the results.  I hate to end with a teaser, but please come back for part 3 of this series, as I tackle some groundbreaking new research just coming out of Stanford University, research now being conducted by the delightful Fernanda Herrera. 

June 11, 2018

VR and Empathy


“What if we could teach people about social issues so that they could not only learn facts, but they could also learn how to be more empathetic, to see things from another person’s point view?” asks Fernanda Herrera, a Stanford University PhD candidate. She wonders if it possible to employ virtual reality (crediting Chris Milk’s TED talk) as an “ultimate empathy machine”.

Citing some previous work at Stanford while presenting at an ed-tech conference, Herrera describes two interesting empathy-based studies:

Becoming the Superhero. In one virtual reality study, participants take on the role of a flying superhero who finds their city in a state of emergency. In the rush to evacuate the city, one child has inadvertently been left behind. Half of the study’s participants flew in to rescue the child in a helicopter, while half flew in as a full-fledged superhero. The research showed that participants who ‘became’ the superhero helped find the child faster and helped more thoroughly than those who flew in with a helicopter. Apparently, role models can be effectively ‘embodied’ in a VR experience.


An older version of me. In another study, the participants simply ‘inhabited’ an older avatar of themselves. Researchers were hoping to discover if the participants would become less prejudiced toward the elderly. One study was conducted using the medium of VR, while another experiment asked participants to simply ‘imagine’ themselves to be older. The results? Those participants who just imagined being elderly didn’t at all feel ‘connected’ to the elderly. But those who ‘embodied’ the age study group through VR felt more connected and also wanted to help. A follow-up study, with the same conditions, evidenced no difference if they felt their group was under threat. Evidently, the presence of competition may reduce the ability to empathize. 


Come back for more insight next week...


June 4, 2018

Research: Just a Bit


At a past SXSWedu, I found myself in a delightful summit, “From Information to Experience: AR/MR/VR”, conducted by three experts on visualization in education. The speaker and the breakout session that by far drew the most interest involved Fernanda Herrera, a PhD candidate out of Stanford University. In her breakout, Herrera spotlighted the use of VR in education, highlighting several well-accepted benefits of employing VR, based on extant research:
  • learning physical tasks
  • enabling presence and social presence
  • providing interactivity

Learning physical tasks. Herrera documented the knack of virtual reality to aid with mastering physical tasks, such as flight simulation, medical training, and even Tai Chi. Herrera explained: “People who try to learn physical tasks—let’s  say Tai Chi, for example—via VR versus just having to read about it or see videos about it, are better able to perform the task.” “The VR users can also perform those tasks faster or better than their video or reading only counterparts”, she added.

Enabling presence and social presence. Herrera reminded attendees that both presence and social presence are indeed important in learning. This was especially true with sharing an environment with someone else. “People who had high levels of presence and social presence told us they liked the experience more”, she clarified. “And people who learned via VR with someone else performed better, paid more attention, and learned more than those who learned without VR than those who learned with a computer or an agent.” (An agent is an avatar controlled by the computer.) According to Herrera, social presence is key.

Providing interactivity. According to Herrera, Interactivity within the educational VR experience really counts for something. “The more an experience is interactive, the more students feel agency, the [sense of being] in control. She explains: “the more students personalize the experience and are able to determine what they need to do to get the most out of that experience, then they feel their actions matter more.” She continues: “[Therefore] they pay more attention, and are more likely to finish that experience, and are more likely to come back for more of the same type of experience in the future.”

Herrera concluded, “We know a little bit about VR as a learning tool” while moving on quickly to another question: “But what if we could teach people about social issues so that they could not only learn facts, but they could also learn how to be more empathetic, to see things from another person’s point view?” Stay tuned for part 2 of this short series, as we take a closer look at the capacity of virtual reality to enable empathy and prosocial behaviors. 

May 28, 2018

Will VR impact student outcomes?

As virtual reality grows increasingly bullish today, the key question now becomes “Is it really worth it?" In a past SXSWedu conference session entitled "Will VR really impact student outcomes?” this topic came under long-deserved consideration. The scholarly panelists included Eric Sheninger (Fellow, ICLE or International Center for Leadership in Education); Jennifer Holland, (Senior Program Manager for Expeditions and Classrooms, Google); Elizabeth Lytle, (Director of Education and Product Experience for zSpace); and Rebecca Girard, Science chair, Notre Dame High School, Belmont CA).

Sheninger delicately warned about the current tendency to view “VR as a miracle.” Too much time is spent, he suggests, merely “exposing students” to it. And too much effort is expended on excitedly identifying "what is possible" with this new technology. He suggested we need to look deeper and think more effectively about virtual-reality as it will play out in schools. “We need to take a critical lens about this. We can’t let this become another gimmick,” he argued.

The last two speakers, Holland and Girard, together attempted to answer the key question: "Will VR really impact student outcomes?” They highlighted some of the ‘observed’ benefits for students when using virtual-reality in the classroom:
  • deeper questioning
  • a better sense of scale
  • conducting experiments not possible due to safety, distance, or time constraints
  • increased motivation
  • learning that is extended outside of the classroom
  • better comprehension of concepts
Although these observed benefits represent only low-lying fruit, and are typical to most informal studies and industry-sponsored case studies, they still remain informative. The most interesting refrain coming from students and teachers is the notion of “deeper questioning”, a theme we have heard echoed for the last seven years in other related 3D visualization studies.

May 21, 2018

VR for the Crayon Crowd



When I first saw this technology on display, I knew I had to write about it. I knew our readers needed to know about it, not just because this technology embodies two important trends now impacting education, but also because you really want to try this with your own children or grandchildren. Yes, it's that cool. Really.

This post is about VR for the youngest among us. The crayon crowd. This project emerges from North Carolina State University’s respected Immersive Experience Lab. One among many projects in this lab is the Panoform project. Payod Panda, the lead designer and developer for the Panoform project, explains the value proposition for their solution in this way: “When you think of kids, they really want to create things, but there is no way for them to create [easily] in VR right now.”


So how does Panoform work? Panda’s workflow explanation, along with the pictures shown below, helps explain exactly how Panoform is quite unique: "From our perspective, this is a tool which can let people create VR environments in a really quick way. So you just sketch on the template we have, you take a photo of it, you crop it, go to our website, and you then upload that photo. On a desktop, the website allows you to view your sketch on a flat screen, but the real magic happens when use your phone to do it—after loading your sketch on your phone, just switch to VR mode and put it in a VR viewer (like the Google cardboard). Instantly, you are teleported to the center of the sketch you just created." 

And here's the big change for the crayon crowd: Panda continues: "This is a complete shift in the way you look at a 'sketch'—you just went from creating a paper sketch, which is typically a tiny window into a world you imagine, to an environment that you are inside of and that you can look around in—all using paper and crayons.” 

Interestingly, Panoform is currently provided to schools, educators, and in my case—grandparents—free of charge. Considerable thoughtfulness has been applied to this product in its design, at least for education, in that schools can create their own private directories for storage of student work.  Aside from being a tool for artistic VR creation, the Panoform team is also thinking of ways for using the tool in middle- and high-school curricula for subjects that can benefit from the modaility of spatial thinking. 

Panoform represents a continued and formidable echo of the user-generated content theme, albeit at a much lower grade level. Panda explains: “Our main idea is to get more kids to become ‘creators’ of the art form more than ‘consumers’ of the art form.” Although the technology is neither new nor proprietary, it also represents a creative 'rethinking' of existing technology. No doubt, we are increasingly in the business of producing little geniuses.

March 12, 2018

Bad News

Not All the News is Good News. Sometimes we take backward steps.
One example is the international organization of educators, ISTE, which recently disbanded their popular 3D (and VR) Network interest group of more than 1,000 members. Quietly, these folks were told to go elsewhere—to the games and simulation group, or to the Second Life interest group–just as long as they exited softly. One wonders if educators perceive the VR phenomenon as nothing more than a craze…

March 5, 2018

Pleading the Fifth

Are You Ready for the 5th Dimension? Here’s an interesting thought with some serious educational implications. We all know about 3D. And then 4D came (and went) in cinema, leaving behind in its wake the automated moving seats or the odorous whiffs that were sprayed into the audience. Ho hum. 

Now, however, we hear about innovators working in a possible 5th dimension: time. Imagine an immersive virtual experience that you not only can view, but you can roll forward or backwards in time. Like rolling back a pastoral valley to its Jurassic age counterpart. Or winding the battlefields of World War I forward to more calming views in the present age. Intriguing. Bring it on.

February 26, 2018

VR in a Card

Have you sent a VR Hallmark Card yet? Has VR gone mainstream or are legacy greeting card companies essentially jumping on the train? You decide.  

These VR greeting cards are now for sale in the Hallmark section of cards at your grocery store, and are probably available at Hallmark stores. Uh-oh—the Hallmark people should watch Pattinson’s Art of 3D Cinema video. I don't think their product is as artistically rich as it could be.

February 19, 2018

VR Games Crowdcast

An interesting four-day conference event held this summer is now available for on-demand viewing online at this link. This crowdcast brought together many of the power brokers of the VR/AR/MR industry for a delightful sharefest. 

A few educators were in attendance, greatly enjoying the conference, although expressing worry about the repeated reference to virtual reality use in education as ‘edutainment.’  “We just have to get them to avoid using the term ‘edutainment’”, quipped one educator, while others agreed. That eleven-letter word (never to be spoken aloud in educational circles) is the kiss of death as far as educational gatekeepers, leaders, and purse holders are concerned, mind you. Of course, the conference speakers were referring to ‘light’ educational uses of VR in the home consumer market, and not K-20 education. Still, it’s an unfortunate dog whistle in formal education circles. Good to know.

February 12, 2018

A New Name


LinkedIn’s 10,000+ member Stereoscopic 3D Media and Technology Group got both a new name and a shot of virtual adrenaline. 

They are now called the “VR AR Media Group” on LinkedIn, and membership has grown steadily. This move is consistent with what I see happening in education circles, as the VR motif has all but replaced the legacy 3D meme of the past. 

Please visit the group at https://www.linkedin.com/groups/3671

February 5, 2018

Future-Talk 3D VR Worldview

Добрый день      Bom dia   مرحبا   こんにち Bienvenidos

The Future-Talk 3D VR blog serves a diverse international audience interested in educational 3D and VR. Our readers might be interested in seeing which countries are our top blog visitors. Based on web impressions, here is how the data shape up:

It is worthwhile to note that Russia has been a real leader consistently; and that, over the years, there is a relentless back-and-forth wrestling match between the other countries on this list.

Are there any surprises here? Or are these just “the usual suspects?” What do you think? Please comment.

Of course, this chart only represents the top ten. Many hundreds of other visitors have frequented this blog, coming from countries all over the world. Future-Talk 3D VR blog has been visited by nearly every country in North, South, and Central America. The same is true for Europe; the entire Middle East is also broadly represented. Most of Asia has visited us, as well as the plurality of countries from Africa.  

I want to thank you for your deep and committed interest in 3D and VR in education. Please write me, let me know what you are doing in your country. I would love to feature some interviews in 2018.

January 29, 2018

People's Choice

Last year was a thriving year for the Future-Talk 3D VR blog. It is fitting to reflect on the most popular topical post of 2017.  The top post is highlighted below, earning the most web impressions:



Actually, it’s quite thought provoking to speculate as to why this particular topic was “top of mind” in 2017 for the diverse international audience that regularly follows this blog. Please let us know your hypothesis or thinking by posting a short comment.