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.