Virtual Reality Grab Bag

By Len Scrogan
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The number of activities taking space in the virtual reality space these days is truly accelerating at a dizzying pace. Frankly, it’s just impossible to keep up. The only answer seems to be periodic curation of notable happenings. And that’s what I have here: just a selection of “grab bags” of the most delicious and noteworthy efforts now emerging from the VR world.

Grab Bags

Open any bag, and with delightful expectation, take a look. Of course, the education ally focused running commentary is all mine.

HAPPY GRAB BAGThe Virtual Reality Games & Entertainment Extravaganza Crowdcast. An interesting four-day conference event is now available for on-demand viewing online. 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. 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.

HAPPY GRAB BAGWhat’s in a Name?
Linked In’s 9600+ 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.

HAPPY GRAB BAGThe Art of 3D or VR Cinema. Most of what passes for VR these days is furtively stereoscopic. By that I mean, barely 3D. But don’t you ever wonder about reaching the full artistic tablature of the 3D and VR medium? Here’s a delightful little primer by Louis Pattinson, a video essay on the Art of 3D Cinema, on how to take true advantage of this medium. So much of what he explains logically applies to the VR world. Grab your VR headgear and watch it! Manufacturers, integrators, and content developers alike should consider these principles in their design, showing, and promotion of immersive realities.

HAPPY GRAB BAGPartnerships Proliferate. Long-time 3D and VR content producer Vizitech recently exemplified some growing trends in the education industry: pursuing partnerships and co-locating booths to leverage their own unique technology. At the recent ISTE ed-tech conference in San Antonio, ViziTech USA was a featured partner at the Cisco booth, combining their content with the zSpace hardware platform. According to ViziTech owner, Stewart Rodeheaver,

“It is evident the impact VR is having and will continue to have in the classroom. Our goal is to continue to develop relevant content and to be the nation’s leader in providing classroom VR.”

In addition to the recent partnership with Cisco, ViziTech USA is also a partner with stalwart organizations such as the National Dropout Prevention Network, Destination Imagination, and the Fernbank Science Center in Atlanta, GA. Partnerships work. See this video.

Hallmark VR cards new

HAPPY GRAB BAGSend a VR Hallmark Card. 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 above.

HAPPY GRAB BAGAre 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.

Sad Grab BagNot 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…

HAPPY GRAB BAGThe Good News Whooshes In. Okay, we’ve had enough bad news for now. How about a dose of very good news? 3D Vision Technologies just announced their new app, ColorMe360, an app which lets you “create and live inside your own virtual reality”. 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 they’ve got a leg up in the educational and consumer market. See the android and the iOS apps. –Len Scrogan