November 27, 2017

VR production suggestions

We continue from last week's post:

For students making their own content, the team from NYTedu makes a number of suggestions:

Storytelling matters. Have students put the story first.

Presence matters. “Take us there. Mecca. Antarctica. Yes, take us to an environment, but instead of just seeing it, put us in the middle of it." And don’t just focus on a single experience, but find a way to focus on all that surrounds you.

Comfort matters. VR designers consider the participants as a “guest, not as a viewer." Design "as if you were literally holding your viewers heads." Kevin Alster recommends avoiding the PPS or "potential puke shot” in the design of VR content.

Journalistic integrity matters. “Be a journalist" first. That means designers need to "look and listen more” and “take time to decide what to tell your guests."

Learning matters. The speakers noted the importance of learning learn from each project you undertake. Each time you create, "come up with more…improve over time."

November 20, 2017

Make the Content

At a recent SXSWedu conference in Austin, however, some of the activities being conducted in the field of user-generated content came into clear sight. Kevin Alster, a learning designer, and Dr. Audrey Heinesen, the VP for product development, both working for the School of the New York Times, provided a presentation on the topic of best practices for user-generated VR content.

At the School of the New York Times, students, budding entrepreneurs, and other interested individuals are able to work with the award-winning New York Times VR Team to learn how to create VR content from scratch. Teaching virtual reality at NYTedu includes design, development, and production in the process, but after running their programs for a full year, they identified some interesting best practices in educational VR content development.

According to Dr. Heinesen, students become excited with “full-on engagement and presence in VR,” but that doesn’t last. Certainly, “VR is just so cool—then we see a drop off.”

 What I learned from NYTedu is that, while the content industry dawdles forward, another revolution is slowly gathering steam. Students are heartily learning to craft their own content. Dr. Heinesen concludes: "We have to move from consumers of high quality content to producers of high quality content.” “[We have to] be conscious creators, not conscious consumers.” Watch out, VR content industry! You may play second fiddle. 

November 13, 2017

Not Much Content

While recently perusing my LinkedIn feed, I encountered this softly repining graphic:

Of course there's more than a smidgen of truth in the notion being alluded to here. I completely get it. Lots of talk at VR conferences, not much content, though. But there may be some sleight-of-hand at play here. While everyone's eyes are on production companies, and their inability to churn out content fast enough for our virtual appetites, the real action is taking place behind the scenes, and on a hugely grand scale. You see, no one is paying attention to the users themselves, many of whom are busy creating the content needed to speed the virtual reality revolution along its way. That's a big mistake, to not pay attention to user-generated content. I guess you could miss if, if you weren't paying much attention. For more insight, see next week's post.

November 6, 2017

The Dark Side of VR

At a recent conference, I saw how virtual reality made its presence known with a collective shout. In today's post, I will spill the other part of the story: “the dirty, grimy, unspoken part.” Here we go...

I left the conference in Austin with an uneasy feeling. It’s that queasy uneven feeling you get when bandwagon carelessly thumps into powerful innovation. No—virtual reality’s coronation pathway to the palace of ed-market success is not paved with gold bricks—at least not just yet. Here’s a reasoned look at why:
  • Nearly all of the VR sims I viewed struggled with granular, lower-resolution imagery; resolution far less sharp than students demand;
  • Most of the VR sims I viewed demonstrated noticeable latency; and latency issues can lead to the distasteful “virtual reality sickness” phenomenon.
  • I witnessed an over-dependence on spherical photography for content, or at least defined as VR content.
  • Nearly all of the VR sims I viewed were passive observational experiences (viewing), and not particularly interactive.
  • In every single session, the presenter(s) grumbled about the need for more educational content. Clearly, there is not enough educational content available for critical mass adoption in schools and universities. Period.
  • Not a single presenter I interviewed had a proper answer to address the vision issues associated with binocular viewing of stereo virtual reality experiences. One presenter naively suggested that the solution depended solely on improved VR content. 
  • Nearly all VR presenters haled from university-level programs or the corporate world, not K-12.

As a result, I left the halls of the Convention Center, writhing in palpable uncertainty, the kind that occurs when hype collides with potential; when exposure to exciting new technology meets with equal parts shudder and disdain.