September 18, 2017

Sensavis Refreshed

What's new these days with Sensavis, the 3D content manufacturer? I followed them over the years, and their recent efforts have lent themselves to a fresh perspective, a rebranding, if you will.

Sensavis continues their U.S. messaging, recalibrating their 3D offering in a smart way. Their previous product, called The 3D Classroom, is now simply called 'Sensavis'. This makes sense, because the nomenclature 3D sounds old-school these days, having been effectively replaced by a newcomer to the mat—VR. (See my past post about this evolution, "What's in a Name?") 

At the same time, Sensavis has reshaped and refocused their mission: “teach, create, activate.” This notion can be translated as better teaching (through visualization), easy content creation, and actively involving students in their own learning. A nice reverse move! Student content creation is the newest meme coming out of educational circles, and Sensavis is wise to make this transition.

September 11, 2017

Beyond the Cool

Every month, I have occasion to meet with many innovators in both the 3D and VR industry—especially with many of the innovators bringing new products, displays, and solutions to the U.S. or Eurasian market. My experience thus far is that they are largely unaware of the seminal work conducted by the American Optometric Association found in See Well, Learn Well

In my experience, most innovators new to the VR scene don’t have a satisfactory answer for the educator or consumer with the concern that “this gives me headaches” or “will this hurt my children?” (The common responses are overly dismissive: “don’t let those children use the technology”; or “there is no problem at all.”) I continuously ask exhibit hall representatives about this issue, and to date, few are able to respond well. Plainly, VR strategists cannot expect success if they are oblivious to vision health issues involving so many customers, as discussed in the previous four posts. 

Just because 3D virtual reality headgear is cool, or the stereoscopic 3D 360 content is eye-popping and captivating, that doesn’t make it impervious to what we know about the vision challenges of children or customers. No, the vision issue didn’t just go away with the advent of the next big technology. The takeaway here is that companies will never sell VR or other advanced display technologies in a sustained fashion unless they also handle this vision health issue well. You can start by reading or re-reading the American Optometric Association’s seminal report on 3D vision health, See Well, Learn Well.

September 4, 2017

The Missing Link

In last week’s post I mentioned there is a bigger problem, one that helps explain why VR may not provide a comfortable viewing experience for a larger subset of viewers. The guilty party is our own vision.

Vision. This is actually the elephant in the room. This is a lesson not learned. Any VR experiences that are stereoscopic can induce symptoms such as soreness, dryness of the eyes, fatigue, headache, eye irritation, blurred or double vision, dizziness or nausea. That’s quite a list. Simply stated, if our eyes are unable to see 3D, and these kinds of symptoms occur, it is an indication of an underlying vision issue. It is not necessarily the fault of the content, the VR experience, or the hardware. It's your vision. Any student with myopia, hyperopia, astigmatism, convergence, alignment, accommodation, tracking, or suppression issues can experience viewing problems with VR.

This is a bigger deal than you think; let me quantify it for you. I often demonstrate VR experiences at adult party gatherings, conference workshops, and my own undergraduate classes. In all of these settings, approximately 20% experience discomfort when viewing a stereoscopic virtual reality experience. (Medical experts suggest that the 3D vision syndrome affects anywhere from 14-20% of the population, worldwide.)

And since I constrain the user viewing approach and my selection of content, this is solid evidence of stereopsis problems, not virtual reality sickness or misguided content.) Also, since most people don’t avail themselves of regular vision care, most people won’t know they have these problems until they strap on their VR headgear.

August 28, 2017

Why VR Discomfits

From an educator’s perspective, there are four reasons why VR may not provide a comfortable viewing experience for all:

The Content. Content can be poorly designed. I am reminded of a display at  InfoComm that was making passersby sick. The culprit: they were showing crummy content: poorly constructed stereo—too much swirling, fast action motion, and montage work. Showing furious rollercoaster rides, wild river rapid trips, or spiraling, headturning motion is simply crazy. The solution: in classrooms, we quickly learned to use only content that was designed well, for comfortable viewing by children.

The Driver. One can easily make teachers or students sick simply by ‘driving’ the viewing experience too fast: rotating images to quickly or zooming in and out too abruptly. In fact, after investigation, this is what caused the two children to vomit in the Florida case mentioned last week. The students were spinning themselves around wildly, trying to take in the overwhelming visual experience of Google Cardboard at a perilous pace. The solution: an ounce of prevention by taking time to explain students how to comport themselves when wearing VR headgear is worth a pound of cure (or vomit).

The Technology. Let’s stop and mention the mysterious phenomenon of virtual reality sickness. I am aware of several technology-based reasons why virtual reality sickness may make some people hate VR. Let’s discuss just one such theory, the notion of visual lag caused by inadequate rendering due to the limitations of underpowered hardware or software.  Certainly, sensory conflict arises when our eyes recognize a mismatch to our proprioception and vestibular input. According to leading vision experts, when flow is overloaded, interrupted, or confused, a general disorientation will result.

But there is still a bigger problem, one that helps explain why VR may not provide a comfortable viewing experience for a larger subset of viewers. Stay tuned to find out the fourth reason next week!

August 21, 2017

The Janus Incidence

Last week we looked at the love/hate relationship the press has with virtual reality. This week, let’s continue with that theme, but view it from the lens of a school environment. To begin, consider this anecdote from the field of education, recorded and verified in Orlando:
Twelve schools in one Florida school district were selected as part of the Google VR Expeditions program, which brings VR-based virtual field trips to students along with class sets of Google Cardboard VR viewers. Excited to begin, one of these elementary schools began their efforts with a high visible rollout for their new VR initiative. Google Cardboard viewers in hand, children were excited and wowed by their virtual reality field trip experiences. Except the two children who immediately vomited and had to leave the classroom.

Or consider this classroom in Aurora, Colorado just this last semester:

After an exciting VR learning exposure—their first exposure—nearly all of the students in this 6-7th grade classroom complained that they were disoriented afterwards, that their eyes were tired or hurt.

What’s really happening here? Has VR already become—in the minds of the collective—a contranym or auto-antonym? Good and bad in the same package, if you will? A Janus particle of sorts? ('Janus' is the name of an ancient Roman God, who had two faces.) I’m really not surprised at all this. That’s because the nascent VR industry still has not learned a primary lesson from the digital 3D revolution, one we learned quite well in schools. Stay tuned next week for the answers you seek….

August 14, 2017

I Love VR / I Hate VR

With much fanfare and waves of excitement, VR has been heralded in the press as the “next big thing.” Each week at least one article appears in the press, creating a market energy not seen since the early days of the digital 3D revolution. Behind the scenes, just as XPAND created their VR division, NUION, other industry stalwarts seem intent on racing to create their own VR content or hardware divisions.

But if you read between the lines—hidden among all the bluster—there’s an ill wind blowing. Please allow me to make my case, prove my point.
Notice the contradictions housed in each of these quotations from recent articles covering the emerging VR phenomenon:
“...2016 is the year many of us will have our first experience with VR. Let’s not mince words: VR is awesome. It is also very likely to be nauseating or at least a little disorienting, an effect that hits most folks.” 
“A technology might finally have its commercial moment in 2016... [yet] the experience can cause nausea, eyestrain and headaches. 
“It’s marked on 2016 calendars everywhere. Virtual reality finally gets real. ..You may also want some Dramamine. 
”...highend headsets arriving this year require expensive PCs, while inexpensive smartphone viewers can give users headaches.

In the same breath, really, so much vicissitude? Is virtual reality really such an exciting/destructive technology?

August 7, 2017

A 3D Video Essay

Here’s a delightful little primer, a video essay on the Art of 3D Cinema, for your enjoyment. Ever wonder about the artistic tablature of the 3D medium? Grab your VR headgear and watch it!

The Art of 3D Cinema from Louis Pattinson on Vimeo.

July 31, 2017

More 2D-3D-VR

Here’s another look at the differences between 2D-3D-VR. This one comes from Germany.

July 24, 2017

Seeing 2D-3D-VR

Folks are often confused with the differences between 2D, 3D, and VR. I ran into this visual interpretation on LinkedIn, which I am reproducing here, for all to see. I thought it might help a few folks.
Still, this graphic has at least three problems:
  1. It represents 3D glasses as anaglyph only, which is anachronistic. It ignores passive and active 3D glasses and may therefore confuse novices.
  2. It does not represent auto-stereoscopic 3D at all in its limited taxonomy. Glasses-free 3D only requires a screen—no glasses.
  3. The graphic does not provide an accurate representation of most VR glasses

Can you identify any other problems with this chart?

July 17, 2017

Key Questions

Allow me to conclude the previous four posts with a set of critical questions about VR content.  Some key questions to ponder are:

  1. When you display VR content in your classroom, does your content look like everyone else’s VR content? Are you living in an instructional echo chamber?
  2. Are all your VR content experiences found at the lowest levels of the above VR taxonomy? Or are you enriching your instrction by featuring the possibilities at the top end of the spectrum?
  3. Are you featuring passive or active educational uses of VR? Interactive? Collaborative?
  4. Has your overall experience moved beyond the obvious (wow factor, engagement, retention, gadget infatuation) to the real educational advantages highlighted in our taxonomy?

I am interested in knowing what you think. Or suggestions for improvement. Let me know.  

July 10, 2017

The Way Forward

Concluding our VR content discussion for the last four weeks, where do we go? The way forward, the prerequisite secret sauce for VR in education, is in interactivity and collaboration. And not just interactivity via head turning. In his book Think in 3D, Clyde DeSouza submits that it’s time for more interactivity in 3D and VR. “Real-time, stop-and-look-around interactivity is the way forward for a truly immersive experience,” he says. “This emotes in the audience feelings of belonging and identifying with the world being presented.”  Of course, DeSouza is on target, as usual. Although interactivity already serves as the bread and butter in the video game industry, that is not yet so with VR in education. In VR-based learning, content must change. Interactivity must be reified—it must become the thing. Current VR content manufacturers produce interactive simulations as an afterthought. There aren’t very many. That needs to change.

July 3, 2017

Way Too Passive

In last week's post, I highlighted my new taxonomy for VR content:

Although some big content developers seem satisfied with plans to roll out passive content, this is the content least in demand by educational gatekeepers (who also control the money in schools).  Remember one thing: school gatekeepers—such as district administrators, principals, and lead teachers—ferociously fight to keep passive learning experiences out of classrooms.

 One wonders: are these VR content developers “barking up the wrong tree?” Jack Ganse, a highly respected Colorado science teacher, once reminded me that they indeed are: “It's always a challenge to be mindful of and responsive to taxonomy when incorporating technology into the classroom. We run the risk of losing student engagement if we rely too heavily on just one taxonomic level, especially passive content.” He added: “Just as too many empty calories dilute our senses and compromise our nutritional health, too many passive technology experiences will dull and weaken the educational well-being of our students.” And there is ample reason for concern: while recently analyzing seventeen VR conference sessions at an ed-tech conference, I realized the interesting notion about [these] offerings is the apparent “echo chamber” at play. Too many of these sessions sound like the same content: the field trip or the gadget.

June 26, 2017

A VR Content Taxonomy

As mentioned in last week's post, I recently developed a new and improved taxonomy, one specific to educational virtual reality content:

In this revised taxonomy (see this link to download a larger image), I added a content category for collaborative virtual reality, i.e., the kind that enables participants to meet together, explore together, or work together. This kind of involvement transforms virtual reality into a shared rather than a solo experience. (A solid example of this genre of virtual reality can be found in the educational company, High Fidelity.) I also made an attempt to differentiate between spherical photography and 360° video, which dominate the Google Cardboard platform.

With an improved taxonomy in hand, I felt much better. But what didn’t change, in my way of thinking, is the core challenge: nearly all of the educational VR content I have seen to date still slides only into the first three lanes: spherical photography, more passive 360° video or animations, or learning objects. (Imagine simple walkthroughs, immersive field trips, and objects that can be rotated.) Despite their immersiveness in a VR context, these learning opportunities are all passive experiences. Yet hardly any VR content in today’s educational marketplace reaches into the more interactive lanes of micro-simulation, complex simulation, collaboration spaces, and user-generated content. These latter lanes often work well addressing a ‘wicked’ challenge in education today—the need to teach complex thinking and problem solving, not just teach for memorization.  

June 19, 2017

Toward Better VR Content

In a previous post (Is educational VRcontent ready for prime time) I tackled the notion of educational content categories for both 3D and virtual reality. I wrote: “…3D educational content came in a diversity of approaches and design--six flavors, if you will,” adding that “contemporary VR content for the education market today still fits clearly into these same lanes.” See my original thinking in the chart below.

Upon further reflection, I knew I was wrong—or at least missing something in my taxonomy.  I refined my thinking and developed this new, improved taxonomy, one specific to educational virtual reality content:

Come back next week for a careful drill down on this new taxonomy.

June 12, 2017

A New Name

In January 2016, I penned a somewhat predictive post entitled “By Any Other Name.” At that time, I noted that the 3D world was significantly changing. It was rapidly transforming itself into the new stereoscopic world of Virtual Reality. In fact, VR has long since overtaken and swallowed the 3D movement, as we knew it. This has been especially true in the field of education . For this stark reason, I am renaming this long-standing legacy blog. It will become Future-Talk 3D VR.

I will continue to cover all relevant 3D related topics, research, and developments, but will move in a full-throated voice to the immersive future of virtual reality.

June 5, 2017

Panel Feted

The ISTE 3D Network’s annual panel presentation at the upcoming ISTE 2017 conference in San Antonio, Texas promises to be a jaw dropper.

At this [always] well-attended panel, Payod Panda will speak about content creation in VR and why we need more people (especially kids) to create for VR.  He will look at how VR creation can help students learn certain topics and help educators teach them. He will also highlight the Panoform tool for VR creation. Michael Fricano II from Hawaii will explore VR creation with tools like Thinglink VR and CoSpaces, with plenty of student examples to share with attendees. Joy Schwartz will explain how students not only learn to use CAD and 3d printing as tools but they also can learn to stretch their heart muscles, as she demonstrates how 3d printed prosthetics for children has changed the lives of her students, including how she modified American Girl dolls to have a matching 3d printed prosthetic.  Finally, Len Scrogan will close out the session by offering seven practical go-to resources for moving forward with VR learning experiences in your classroom.

The panel will run from 2:45-3:45 p.m. on Tuesday, June 27 in the HBGCC Hemisfair Ballroom 

May 29, 2017

Critical Friend

The annual SXSWedu phenomenon remains one of the most innovative, fresh, and prognostic venues in the U.S. for envisioning the future of the education and technology marketplace. Clearly, the 2017 SXSWedu conference held in March exhibited two thematic ‘darlings’: social justice and VR/AR/MR technologies. Both themes were hugely present, weaving their irresistible charms into conference sessions, playground exhibits, startup competitions, and even the exhibit hall. And of course, these two themes [social justice and VR/AR/MR] sometimes found an astute nexus, combining themselves into such demonstrations as a pair of Global Nomad VR presentations on promoting international social consciousness through VR-delivered empathy; and the use of popular hip-hop messaging through modern video and VR media by Rapport Studios.

But the main notion I want to convey is that VR/AR/MR (and chiefly, VR) was ubiquitous: as I declared previously—a conference ‘darling.’ But something else changed this year. The whole notion of virtual reality in education is becoming a bit more mature. A tad more thoughtful in nature. We are witnessing (as relates to VR in education) a phenomenon we educators call the “critical friend” role. A critical friend communicates accurately, candidly, yet constructively about the strengths, weaknesses, and potential ‘in-the-field” pitfalls associated with a technology, aiming for improvement, success, and greater potential. Other than the sheer numbers of presentations on the VR/AR/MR theme, a palpable wave of critical thinking about this new educational medium is now emerging. What has changed is this: almost every presentation at SXSWedu was equal parts critical assessment and excitement for VR/AR/MR technologies in schools. No more Sham Wow.  Let’s get down to business. I mean education. 

May 15, 2017

Where to go from here

The 3D/VR industry itself can help us move away from the unwarranted bandwagoning.  (See previous three posts.) Moving beyond the gratuitious hype of the exhibit hall booth, the VR industry can perform some of its own heavy lifting. Yes, the 3D/VR industry can speed up the momentum of VRin education.  How you ask? It can be stimulated by: 
  • simplifying the technology; 
  • establishing reasonable technical standards; 
  • training school-facing distribution and support people; 
  • implementing insightful and transportable case studies; 
  • developing interesting use cases; 
  • conducting both action research and more rigorous educational research; 
  • providing recognition programs and publicity for successful educators; 
  • providing recognition and momentum for effective educational s3D/VR content creation by carving out an educational category in industry awards; 
  • providing platform stability and consistency; 
  • committing to unceasing drip marketing and consistent messaging via social media; 
  • deemphasizing hyperbole; and 
  • talking to educators.

Yet, sadly, much of the industry is following hard after 3D, 4K and UHD in search of the “next big thing” for the education market. Déjà vu all over again.

May 8, 2017

Waiting for GenZ

Trying to push 3D VR to Generation X is like waiting for Godot. I find that, as far as 3D VR is concerned, older generations can take it or leave it. And for those Generation Xers in educational leadership positions, their timorousness can easily translate into defensive gatekeeping. (Their idea of the “next big thing” now demands  1:1 tablets and open educational resources.) 

Not so with Generation Y and Z. They enjoy 3D VR and yearn for more. (Except for those who cannot comfortably 'see' it, due to a personal vision issue.) Some of the heavy lifting required to move 3D VR toward its true educational promise will come from these younger generations, as they acquire more influence over the years. For now, they are nearly invisible.

May 1, 2017

Heavy Lifting

As 3D VR (see the post from two weeks ago) moves aggressively into the educational space, I remain worried. My extensive conversations with folks in the ed-tech or related industries suggest that these people are not interested in the heavy lifting required to push an innovation out of the trough of disillusionment upwards into Gartner’s slope of enlightenment and plateau of productivity.  This unwholesome attitude, this notion of 3D VR as a windfall, somehow sticks in my craw.

Again, they hope for the downwards gravity of an avalanche, anticipating that the “next big thing” in education will rush at them, money in hand. No, selling 3D VR in education will require some heavy lifting. It will require hard work to get this right. And Google cannot do it on its own...