August 29, 2016

Prime time (2)

Is 3D VR content ready for prime time?

Well, I hate to pile on, but it’s always useful to temper exuberance with a stout dose of business reality. Five years ago, I developed a taxonomy of content types for educational 3D content.  At that time, in analyzing the available 3D content specifically designed for the educational market, I first recognized that 3D educational content came in a diversity of approaches and design--six flavors, if you will:

In revisiting my taxonomy, I realized that contemporary VR content for the education market today still fits clearly into these same lanes. But here’s the problem: Nearly all of the educational VR content I have seen to date fits only into the first three lanes: video shorts, shorter animated segments, or learning objects. (Imagine simple walkthroughs, immersive field trips, and objects that can be rotated.) Despite their immersiveness, these VR learning opportunities are all passive experiences. (Incidentally, school gatekeepers—such as district administrators, principals, and lead teachers—ferociously fight to keep passive learning experiences out of classrooms.) Yet hardly any VR content in today’s educational marketplace reaches into the more interactive lanes of micro-simulation, complex simulation, and user-generated content. (Micro and complex simulation often work well addressing a ‘wicked’ challenge in education today—the need to teach complex thinking and problem solving, not just teach for memorization.)  

So that’s the stinky elephant in the room. Until this content reality changes, VR will never reach its potential in the educational market; VR will not scale to the level hoped for by the VR industry. Instead, educators will rapidly disinterest themselves with the lower, more passive forms of VR content and move on to other things. I hope the momentum will not be lost.

Now I know what you are thinking: “haters gonna hate and ain'ters gonna ain't” is what’s rolling through your head. But I’m no hater, mind you. As an executive board member of the ISTE 3D Network, I’ve been working to advance the implementation of 3D VR into schools.  And as the online community manager for the 9000 members of LinkedIn’s Stereoscopic 3D Media and VR Technology group, I continue fighting to keep this agenda on the table. I just haven’t drunk the Kool-Aid. Thanks, Karl.

August 22, 2016

Prime Time (1)

I was delighted to read TI Fellow Karl Guttag’s piece on Display Daily entitled "VR and AR Head Mounted Displays – Sorry, but there is no Santa Claus." In this remarkable piece, Guttag brings the reader back down to earth on the readiness of VR and AR technologies for the marketplace based on the absence of solutions for the many human factor challenges associated with VR and AR hardware.

Guttag’s article immediately led me to think about my area of specialty—schools and universities—and about another building block of scalability that he did not address, but remains an equally significant hurdle to broad adoption of these technologies in schools (or frankly, in any market.): 

VR content

In the grand scheme of things, content really matters. Then I wondered: “Is educational VR content ready for prime time in schools?”  In the next few posts, we will take a closer look at this issue. Stay tuned...

August 15, 2016


Hi, would you do me the privilege of voting for my SXSW proposal on 3D Virtual Reality in Education? (One must be ‘crowdsource’ voted to get accepted.) To vote, just click on the Link or the voting icon below. You will need to create an account and log in to vote, unfortunately. It would be so appreciated!

My proposed Panel Picker Session: Fishbowl: Virtual Reality in Education

August 8, 2016

3D's Real Plus-one

Some tech heads and gadget geeks suggest that 3D goes better with friends. That is to say, 3D will only thrive when combined with another technology. And they suggest the same will hold for virtual reality--that 3D VR needs a "plus-one."

Some experts feel that the next "plus-one" will be gesture recognition. Technologies like Leap Motion are indeed a sexy proposition as 3D’s and VR's potential plus-one, but my instinct says this may be merely a gadget crush. In the education market, delivery outscores feature set. Instead, imagine this:
Being able to deliver stereo 3D via the Internet, enabling 3D companies to dispense with the complexity, copy protection, installation, and reinstallation schemes that so agitate customers. Putting 3D in the cloud will simplify the storage, delivery, and frequent refresh of 3D and VR learning objects and simulations.

Is internet delivery of 3D a chimera? Look what smartphone delivery with Google Cardboard has done for 3D and VR. It looks like the plus-one for VR and 3D may have stepped onto the scene.  Or maybe not...

August 1, 2016

Growing 3D Organically (2)

The second phase of expansion of 3D visualization at Nevada State College (see last week's post) involves their advanced pre-med experiences, specifically, their human dissection cadaver lab. Nevada State is ramping up plans to provide both live and recorded stereo 3D cadaver dissections, using a head-mounted GoPro camera and stereo-displaying Panasonic projectors in the dissection lab and other classrooms. Hoping to deliver instruction as close to reality as possible, Dean Kuniyuki submits: “We want to have students prepared well. “He continues: “In the past, when we were only able to have two cadavers, it was the MDs that performed the dissections. [With 3D] we want more students to do hands on, rather than just passively watching what the MDs are doing.”

Currently, Nevada State has grown to six chambers, hosting three human cadavers and one synthetic cadaver. The synthetic cadaver is constructed of materials that feel like real human flesh (a real cadaver is stiff) and maintains natural coloration (real cadavers lose coloration). The synthetic cadaver looks and feels like a live human body, including a fat layer that oozes. Fluids can also be pumped into it. The synthetic cadaver, however, is still a consumable resource. Fortunately, the synthetic cadaver qualifies for free replacement after it has been used repeatedly. Not so with the human cadavers. The cost of cadavers runs the show. For that reason, the use of 3D video recording and display translates well, economically speaking. Students will make fewer mistakes on costly cadavers, becoming familiar with the tasks at hand (through visualization) before they work with the cadaver. “We want students, besides observing, to get their hands dirty, so to speak,” explains  Kuniyuki.  He also expects students to view 3D videos 3-4 times before making the hands on switch. (In our observing other 3D visualization projects world-wide, this is something we have called “learning replay”—the willingness of students to watch and re-watch 3D visualization for learning advantage.) Then, “when they are then working with the human cadavers, they know exactly what to expect,” he says.

Since many educators can be fiercely traditional-minded, it begs the question: “how did this growth of 3D visualization come to be?” Well, there is a mix of reasons. One reason is that the college had an existing infrastructure in place. “Because we had invested in the original 3D visualization infrastructure, we knew we had the possibility of expanding it in this manner,” beamed Dean Kuniyuki. In addition, school administrators are clearly listening to students, valuing the overall effectiveness of visualization, and seeking to provide improved learning experiences at a more affordable cost.

Currently, one of their challenges is exploring a transition from passive to active 3D in other areas of the campus. The jury is still out on this change up. I’ll have to return to see how the active-passive scuffle turns out.