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Matt Crosslin

Virtual Reality Companies Continue the March Towards "Full Immersion"

2 min read

Those of us that are old enough remember how movies went through an initial round of "full immersion" experiences - paper 3-D glasses, moving seats, and smell-o-vision. Now that Virtual Reality is catching on (or maybe it isn't?), we now have companies working on full immersion VR. Smells, hot/cool winds, and vibrations are all part of that. Feel Real is offering an interesting all in one device, with a mask that attaches to existing VR devices and a full immersion helmet (all previewed in the video above). The scents cost $5 each (ocean? sure; burning rubber? no thanks), the attachable mask will cost $250-300, and the helmet will cost $500-800. Read Ready Player One to see where this is all probably heading. The Feel Real Nirvana helmet has some SciFi coolness to it, but still looks pretty impractical. My guess is that someday you will see this with a merged reality application to help you walk around more safely, and maybe even an internal camera that will project your face on the outside so that it will have business meeting applications or whatever it may be. The "2001 me" really loves this, but the "2017 me" worries about what could happen to people that could cut themselves off from the real world even more. But like any tech we need to look at ways to keep the human side of ourselves front and center. One plus for Feel Real is that they do have the production tools (mostly free with purchase for now) to add their technology easily to existing VR experiences, putting users more in control.

Matt Crosslin

Second Life is Creating a "WordPress for Social Virtual Reality"

2 min read

You probably did a double take at seeing "Second Life" in the headline. Believe it or not, Second Life is still going strong with 900,000 active monthy users and over $60 million in real cash income in world. But Second Life is still falling behind times, so its creators are moving into Virtual Reality. Sansar is a new project they are working on to allow every day users to create their own virtual reality world, connected by "teleportation" hubs (sound familiar?). Of course, it is still an expensive venture: users really need high end VR headsets, and this article mentions using things like LIDAR (laser radar basically) to scan and re-create rooms. Sansar is still pretty closed and basic, but they have plans to bring it to "everyone." Well, "everyone" that can afford and understand it. Companies always seem to leave that out. However, the ideas are going in the right direction: recreate places in VR that would be hard to access, embed learning tools, let people use other 3D modeling programs to build objects, etc. The first minute 20 seconds of the video above is of Sansar in action, followed by a quick 30 second promo of "possibilities", and then the rest is talk.

Matt Crosslin

Intelligent AI Virtual Reality Worlds That Anyone Can Develop?

2 min read

Virtual Reality seems to be everywhere these days - commercials, game systems, schools (well, a few at least), etc. Behind the hype are some serious concerns (many of which are covered in this somewhat bleeped language honest trailer for PlayStation VR that Justin shared with us). If we really want to look at VR for education, I think we need to look past games and into other applications. The passive nature of much VR content is a big barrier to really being useful. As the Honest Trailer points out, you sit a lot. Connecting AI to VR could help eliminate some of the passive issues, but then you add a layer of concern that comes along with AI (who programmed it, for what purpose, and what are the implications of those decisions on the user?). For me, I would say the best way to bring VR into education is to find a way to let learners create their own simulations (including programming their own AI). But that is expensive and impossible at this point. But hopefully that will be changing. The news last week that Google will be partnering with Improbable is a step in the right direction. Improbable basically looks to be a way that will let users create their own virtual worlds populated with AI in various ways. Of course, both are trying to make money and advertise services off the deal. But if the idea of creating your own AI-driven virtual world can catch on (again? remember Second Life?), maybe other more user-friendly options will emerge. The video above is talking about the engine behind this partnership called SpatialOS. The video looks mostly at games but also peppers in some other references to the wider uses for SpatialOS that might be more applicable for education. However, instead of thinking Matrix, people need to start thinking Ready Player One, and the good and bad that comes along with that.

Matt Crosslin

What will the Rise of Artificial Intelligence Mean for Education?

2 min read

While Virtual Reality is grabbing a lot of the headlines in tech these days, there are other feilds brewing and growing as well. Artificial Intelligence is one area that educators should turn their attention to, for good or for bad. As George Siemens has pointed out, companies like Intel are betting big on AI. In many ways, we are used to AI in things like Siri, Google Search auto-complete, recommend-er systems (like in Spotify), and in our customer service phone calls. Sometimes the predictions of what AI could do in education are a mixed bag of interesting ideas, concerning ideas, and confusing ideas (is it really "self-direction" if AI assists with it?). Whether or not it is really intelligence or just a trick of really complex programming is also a big question, although researchers are making headway into discovering the ways that intelligence occurs naturally. Sometimes when we set AI loose on various creative tasks, the results are not all that we expected (even though I kind of like the song that AI wrote to be honest). Regardless of whether one likes it or not, the field is moving forward and we will see more in education. The video above looks at the basics of what is AI and how it could be used in education. Much of this is about creating a custom curriculum for learners. While this may seem weird to some, it is a solid possibility. I used to work as a director at a tutoring center. We spent most of the day writing out custom curriculum plans for each student. It was based on a very structured modular system that was easy to map out. Much of that could be automated with AI to be honest. The problem would not be the AI system it self, but the materials that it puts together and how they are put together. In other words, don't worry as much about the AI as the designers behind it. How are they creating these systems? Are they creating AI that is transparent and flexible, by telling learners what it is doing up front, why it is making the choices it makes, who (specifically) gets to see their data and what (specifically and completely) they will do with it, and how to change any of that if they don't like anything?

Matt Crosslin

Will Vue Make Wearable Smart Glasses More Practical?

2 min read

A few years ago, I made a technology trailer for a grad class. Justin Dellinger of LINK Lab was part of it, and he made a spontaneous joke in the video about how he had to get the prescription Google Glasses so he could teach his class. Little did he know he was predicting the future. Or maybe he did know? Either way, it looks like Vue is well on its way to funding a KickStarter to create more practical wearable glasses. And yes, you can get your prescription lenses in these. As the video above shows, the creators of Vue took the clunky nature of Google Glass into consideration, making their glasses stylish and practical ("Smart glasses - you can spot them a mile away"). Oh, and they removed the creepy camera. What is left might not win over those that loved Google Glass, but at least these glasses will be more practical. Which is good, because many people are starting to look at wearables and say "so what?" If the makers of wearables want to move forward, they have to move from clunky and distracting to practical and seamless. The Vue is a step in that direction it seems. The big question is will they tap into the AI capabilities of things like Siri more. or will you have to learn a whole new set of apps that make you do everything? What will they do with the data that is collected if they do tap into AI? What privacy issues will they create if Siri can know where you are and what direction you are looking? We will see as the KickStarter was looking for $50K and currently has nearly $1.4 million. Yes, million. A lot of people want this form of smart glasses. Did Google Glass ever reach $1 million in sales?

Matt Crosslin

Google Earth VR Takes Virtual Reality Global

2 min read

Most people probably saw this coming once Google Maps started offering 3-D maps of certain parts of larger cities, but now we have Google Earth VR. Certain select areas of the Earth are offered in virtual realty for HTC Vive users. The Vive is and $800 device that requires a powerful computer to run, so don't see this as global virtual tourism for the masses. But it is another sign that interest in virtual reality is exploding. Services like this are probably a good way to work the kinks out of VR navigation and interface problems. Someday we will probably see VR "record and broadcast" devices that cane be set in a room or at a famous landmark or whatever to record video and sound in immersive VR to broadcast like Facetime. Then those devices will probably be integrated into our phones as quickly as possible. So now is probably a good time to start talking about the future of immersive real word broad VR. What will privacy, permission, data, etc become in a situation where a device can record and broadcast immersive VR from all directions? I like the idea of visiting the Eiffel Tower from my living room, but what happens when my neighbor carelessly broadcasts their VRcast (maybe that will be a thing?) from their front yard and my window is open?

Matt Crosslin

How Will Learners Create Their Own Content in Virtual Reality

1 min read

When talking to educators about Virtual Reality, the big question I always run into is "how can my learners create their own content?" This is a good question. If we don't get our learners into the creation process, we are really just creating fancy textbooks and lectures, or slightly more immersive movie experiences. Interesting but passive in the end. There are some ways to use newer high-end phones to record 3-D panoramic images with apps like Panorama 360 or InstaVR. But these aren't moving, and you need some serious sound equipment to re-create immersive sounds. Projects like Jump from Google are looking at how to work on these issues. But even then you are looking at recording the world around you, bringing in limitations. How does one create content for games, fiction scenarios, historical re-creations, etc? It seems that Google is also looking into this with the Daydream platform (see also the video above). Still very rudimentary, but a good start. Someday we can hope that building VR will become as easy as placing a box of crayons and paper in front of learners and letting them create whatever comes to mind.

Matt Crosslin

Are We About to See Virtual Reality Go "Mainstream"

1 min read

Virtual Reality seems to be everywhere I look now in technology news. Does this mean that VR is about to leap from "cool futuristic idea" to "mainstream tool that most people are familiar with"? We will see. Just in the past week alone: Sony Playstation finally released their long awaited VR headset and suit of games (with reviews not always being that glowing), Occulus Rift released a pair of controllers (that did earn glowing reviews), Walmart started selling a headset/controller combo that turns your smartphone into a VR device for $19.98 (made out of plastic instead of cardboard), and a VR model was used to convict a Nazi War criminal. The real educational potential will be more in allowing learners to design their own experiences in VR, from creating 3-D models that they can then walk around virtually to designing and releasing various games and simulations.

Matt Crosslin

Visualizing Wearble Data: Is It a Good Idea?

1 min read

Finding ways to visualize wearable data is sometimes a tough challenge. How exactly do yo visualize physical attributes when the meaning of those numbers are different for each person? Then there are the ethical considerations of what should you be displaying and where you should display it. So this article about displaying stress levels for everyone to see seems more concerning than intriguing (see also the video above about bio-wearables). Anyone that has used a stress monitoring device of some kind knows they are not always accurate. But even when they are, would you really want that information broadcast to people around you? Maybe you would, maybe you wouldn't - we are probably all different. But there is also the very real concern of people that could see you are stressed and take advantage of that. Which I realize already happens without technology, but the concern over what data is being collected and who it is available to is a huge one to grapple with.

Matt Crosslin

Room Scale Virtual Reality with a Smart Phone

1 min read

If you are like me, the first time you used Virtual Reality, you probably ran into one of the more painful problems with VR: you can't see real life obstacles with a device that blocks your view. While it might seem that mapping an entire room into VR would be incredibly expensive, Occipital has found a way to bring that price down to $500. Occipital's Structure Sensor can apparently scan the room around you in 3-D, and bring the physical world into your virtual one. So now, instead of being a passive participant basically watching a VR movie unfold, you could possibly roam around in simulations with real movement (instead of moving virtually with a controller pad or awkwardly with an omni-directional treadmill). And while $500 is not cheap, its still less expensive than other options.