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.

January 22, 2018

Color Me!

The good news just keeps whooshing in on the VR front, doesn't it? 3D Vision Technologies just announced their new app, ColorMe360, an app which lets you “create and live inside your own virtual reality”.  (Here's the Android and the iOS link.)

Here’s how it works: you print a downloaded grid on an ordinary piece of paper. The child draws a scene (like a park, a castle or an underwater vista) and colors it in, using the full reach of her/his creativity. The conversion from paper to digital VR360 then takes place directly on the phone – without a need for a web link or specialty device.  

According to company founder, Simon Gemayel, “we need to shift consumers from being content consumers to being content ‘creators’”.  This is a move consistent with most educators worldwide. He elaborates: “Facebook and YouTube are historic examples of user-generated content being the life force of a vibrant ecosystem. Virtual Reality will not be the exception”.  Sounds like a winner. 

January 15, 2018

Whoosh! VR

One of the most under-emphasized areas in the booming field of virtual reality involves user-generated content. I’ve noticed at many tech conferences that a keen interest for student-created content options is resonating at an all-time high, especially for folks in higher education.

Enter WhooshVR. Having exhibited in the past at CES and other events, these folks are chiefly known for Whoosh3D, a 3D-enabled 9H tempered glass screen protector which comes with its own app.  Whoosh3D enables a conventional smartphone or tablet device to create, convert, stream, and display 2D and stereo 3D content, in a glasses-free format.  But WhooshVR is a pleasant addition to their platform, something I see as having high potential in the education market.

Basically, WhooshVR is an app that enables a conventional phone to capture a 2D photo with a single click, convert it to 3D VR format, and create tilt-view VR photos and video, whereby the edges of the frame expand beyond one’s peripheral vision. Its current photo capture constraint is 140 degree FOV with a phone’s camera and 180 degrees with a fisheye lens.  Interestingly, all photo capture is via a single photo shot; I do not need to rotate the phone or exhibit socially awkward photo capture behaviors, thank goodness. According to Simon Gemayel, CEO of 3DVT: “We're changing the face of  VR content by shifting people from being content consumers to “content creators” simply by using their phone – the camera we all carry around in our pocket – and using it in a way which is natural to human behavior; photo capture with a single click.” He gleams:   “This is a powerful change in paradigm.  Never before has 3D and VR3D been so simple, so affordable, and so accessible. “

The introductory app is free, yet basic. (In the basic version of Whoosh VR, photos are captured through the app and viewed on the app’s library.) The upsell version will also allow users to access VR and 3D content on YouTube.

I have been playing with the WhooshVR app at work and home, experimenting with both fish hook and other lenses. From the perspective of the consumer, I see this as a low-cost and non-complicated way to capture 3D pictures (and soon, video), enjoying the ability to click through a mass of images using my VR headgear or the auto-stereo display. I can print what I see on a either a color printer or 3D printer and can email or post my images from the app. From an educator’s perspective, I like the hands-free use, enabled through gaze control on an onscreen dashboard. The intuitive dashboard allows immediate depth editing, zooming, and quick visual tweaking. In my way of thinking, it provides an easy way for the youngest children, or beginning students at higher levels, to jump right into the fray, using a tool I consider a valuable precursor to more sophisticated and time-consuming content generation tools. It’s pretty slick.

January 8, 2018

The Counterpunch

Wrapping things up from the last few weeks of posts, let’s pursue a contrarian position on the VR phenomenon. Linda Bush (a past academic referenced in the last two posts and now working as an executive director for a Pearson)  suggests (as most traditional educators will): “There will always be a place for personalized, interactive traditional classroom instruction.  She continues: “I am a bit of a fence sitter, although a fairly engaged one.” She ended with a cautious note: "the pedagogy should drive the application of our technology, not the other way around." 

But, at the conferences, some striking comments by the Mark Christian of the Pearson immersive technologies group seemed to counterpunch. Talking about wearables in specific, he admitted that VR is would see growth in 2017, but soon, it will start to dip. At that time, many more AR applications will be released and these will greatly outnumber VR applications. He explained: “We had some great success with VR, but I'm personally and professionally more interested in AR. AR is the future.” 

January 1, 2018

What Higher Ed Wants

Linda Bush (a past academic now working as an executive director for a Pearson) recently reported on a VR survey she conducted informally.  Here are the informative findings from this survey of faculty and student priorities for AR/MR/VR. 

Apparently, students:
  • don't want to lose human interaction
  • want to share in learning, and not be isolated
  • want to learn how to make it themselves (creating the apps)

When presented with the same survey, university faculty offered an identical set of responses to those above, but added the following pedagogical desirables:
  • knowing how to use it in the classroom
  • resources that are easy to “plug into” curriculum
  • true enhancements to what educators are doing today, not just add-ons
  • customization capabilities
  • the need for control
  • remembering what our priorities are

December 25, 2017

Another Perspective

Linda Bush (a past academic now working as an executive director for a Pearson) recently gave some solid insight on VR at a recent conference.  And it's always useful to see what Pearson, the huge educational publishing conglomerate, thinks about the AR/MR/VR market and where they are placing their business bets.

Bush played the role of a critical friend, yet at the same time revealing the inner thinking of a large publishing company, by asking: “Where do we see the most promise and potential; and how do we not lose time and stray too far by getting caught up in the shiny object of the moment.” She explained: “Every day I talk to faculty that wants a more immediate immersive learning experience for their students; they want experts students can go to at any time and interact with and learn.”

Still, Bush realizes that “almost every content area imaginable can be enhanced, improved, or fixed in some way with an AR/MR/VR experience.” “I have never heard the word ‘WOW’ expressed so much, as when students are viewing VR.” She added: “With AR/MR/VR in education I see an opportunity for synergy in which the whole can be greater than the sum of the parts; and we are approaching an incredibly exciting time, if we remember what our priorities are.”

Bush went on to provide some interesting higher ed survey data, and not all of it positive. Come back next week for a compelling follow-up post.

December 18, 2017

Experiential Learning

With the AR/MR/VR market expected to hit $150 billion by 2020, schools, colleges and universities are now getting the hard sell on making an investment in the “next big thing.”  But wherein lies the hype, and wherein lies the reality? 

Fridolin Wild (a senior research fellow at Oxford Brookes University, who leads the Performance Augmentation Lab [PAL], recently spoke out a conference very much in favor of the VR phenomenon. 

He reminded the audience that we now live in “the age of experience, which follows the age of commodity and the age of services.” Virtual-reality, as used in education, provides such a “memorable and personalized experience.” 

What do you think? Is VR really bringing us, kicking and scratching, into the world of experiential education?

December 11, 2017

Ready or Not

The hallmark movie revolving around a VR theme and setting, Ready Player One, is coming out soon. Here’s a trailer:

Everyone in VR circles is touting this as a vehicle for advancing and promoting the use of VR worldwide. But have you read the book? Seen the ending? Is this wishful thinking? The conclusion of it all (spoiler alert) is not what these VR advocates suppose. I suspect they have not really read the book in its entirety. What do you think?

December 4, 2017

The VR Landscape

Ever wonder how big the VR phenomenon is becoming? Who is jumping into the VR pool? Here’s the data: The VR Fund recently evaluated in excess of 3,000 companies, identifying 450 that met a rigorous criteria (funding, revenue, press coverage, and/or partnership levels) for inclusion in this infographic.