Saturday, May 28, 2016

Martin King Joins The Advisory Board Of GetReady4 3D

There has never been a more exciting time with technology and learning

In the mid 1970s micro-processors revolutionised computers and led to a cambrian like explosion of diverse small computing activity - I remember using Apple, Commodor, Atari, Sinclair and the BBC Micro.

Before micro-computing became the PC and became "politically correct" computing was diverse, exciting and creative - there was a DIY style maker culture about it - I remember making computers, micro-mouse competitions, LOGO Turtles and doing projects with small robot arms - I wrote the speech recognition software for a chess playing robot arm.

Today reminds me of that time 40 years ago but back then it was mostly one thing,  the micro-computer, today there are revolutions starting to happen with many technologies. Virtual reality, 3D printing, 360 imagery, 3D imagery, the Internet of Things, drones, robots and artificial intelligence are all developing very fast and becoming available to the general public. With the Internet, social media and mobile technology we have never been more connected - there has never been a more exciting time to learn.

3D printing is one of the revolutionary technologies happening now and is itself about to undergo a revolution as new developments and expiring patents usher in the next generation of 3D printing. In the next few years 3D printing is about to become cheaper, smaller, faster more capable, more accessible and more pervasive. 3D printing is about to have its "micro-computer revolution" and in the same way that the micro-computer revolution led to a computer in every home so will the 3D printing revolution.

Its my pleasure to join the advisory board of GetReady4 3D and be involved with such young, vibrant and enthusiastic company at the beginning of both their journey and the beginning of the next era in 3D printing.

GetReady4 3D inspire and share about 3D printing and are fast becoming the place to go for anyone to find out about 3D printing. GetReady4 3D curate 3D printing news, information and resource and have made their own 3D printer learning resources.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016


Seun and Catarina in Digilab
Digilab came up on my radar when it launched in March - they have a good on-line presence and are inspiring and sharing so many amazing new technologies and practice.

I was lucky today - when I arrived Seun and the Digilab crew were getting ready for a group of 10 year old Tech Ambassadors from a nearby school whose mission was to learn about new technology and pass this on to their colleagues at school.

Twelve Tech Ambassadors met Seun on the grass outside Digilab where he talked to the children and introduced Digilab - the children seemed particularly keen on 3D printing their names and having a go at Virtual Reality. The children were all amazed when Seun told them that he would be scanning and making a 3D printed copy of one of them!

The children are organised into groups of three to circulate through Digilab  - here's what the lucky tech ambassadors got hands on with.

Virtual Reality.
On the grass outside Digilab there was a variety of Google Cardboard VR headsets to have a go with. VR always has a wow effect and no Tech Ambassador was disappointed ... I wasn't either -  I had a go using the VR headset to find giant insects - it was great fun.

3D Printing
Inside Digilab the Tech Ambassadors had a go at 3D printing in its most hands on form with 3D Printing Pens and learned how to write their names. 3D printing pens are a great hands on introduction to 3D printing - it helps you understand the process of 3D printing ... it also teaches you about patience and  perseverance :)

Programming and Robotics
I remember using Turtles to teach programming with Logo way back in the early 1980s and I was really interested to see Digilab using Ozobot for people to experience and learn about programming and robotics together. Programming the little Ozobot with coloured lines is a brilliant hands on way to experience programming ... it reminds me of  the way we used to have kids "program" each other to carry out moves before programming the Turtle - this teaches the fact that you have to solve the problem yourself before you can program a machine to do it. Programming the Ozobot with coloured lines makes it accessible and fun for everyone - its brilliant! A step up from "drawing code" is programming the Ozobot using OzoBlockly which is based on Google's visual programming method Google Blockly - again - this is so intuitive and easy to access - really brilliant!

Visiting Digilab was very inspiring - there is a real startup buzz.

Digilab is Inviting, Innovative and Inspiring.

Digilab is full of inspiring things and activities - it makes learning fun and exciting - it makes us want to learn rather than have to learn.

Makerspace like Digilab is the future of education

To find out more - check out the links below

Digilab on Twitter:  @digilab_
Digilab on Youtube:  DigiLab DigiLab
Digilab on Facebook: digilabhub

Seun Oshinaike talking to inspireNshare about Occuls Rift coming to Digilab
Seun Oshinaike talking to inspireNshare about "Digilab - The Next Three Years"

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Pop Up Thinglab 3: VR Travel Agency - Staff Development at Hackney ACE

The Virtual Reality Experience  

Pop Up Thinglab 3 was was a staff development event for Hackney adult and community education ICT tutors held in the Hackney service centre - it was part of an inspireNshare session titled "Education: Lets Get Mobile".

Hackney adult and community education takes place in the community - using rooms in libraries, museums, schools and other community venues. This is a form of "Learning Town" and "Scale Free Education" but creates a big challenges for the ICT tutors who have to deal with the idiosyncrasies of the diversity of equipment available at the venues they use. The tutors are mobile in the community and are understandably interested in exploring mobile solutions for teaching and learning. The virtual reality travel agency explored one cutting edge part of the mobile ecosystem - virtual reality.

We spoke about the exponential development of technology and how mobile virtual reality has become possible through "Moore's Law" and the trillion fold increase in computing performance since 1956. The first computer I used was an ICL 2900 mainframe - this cost £2m in 1976 (£15m in today's money) .... in December 2015 a computer with more power than this was given away free on the cover of a magazine - the Rapberry MagPi. Todays smartphone has more computing power than got us to the moon and would beat the fastest supercomputer on earth in 1996.

I first tried virtual reality in the early 1990s  - a Virtuality 1000 series that would have cost around $60,000 and produced blocky "space Invaders" type quality computer generated graphics that at the time seemed amazing but looking back seem pretty terrible now. Exponential change in IT means that we can now experience impressive virtual reality with the computers we carry around in our pockets!

We all had HOHO (Hands On Heads On) with virtual reality and passed around Google Cardboard, View-Master and Samsung Gear VR headsets. From the "Virtual Reality Trips" available we visited Felix & Paul Studios Introduction To Virtual RealityJurassic Worldthe Cirque Du Soleil, Space and a whole lot of Youtube #360 videos from our own phones using Google Cardboard and View-Master headsets.

What impressed me was how easy the tutors were able to "Get into" virtual reality using Youtube #360 videos, their own phones and Google Cardboard headsets - once they worked out how to do it the tutors showed each other. The Google Cardboard experience very accessible but the tutors all appreciated the quality of the Samsung Gear VR experience ... as you can see in the photo at the top of this blog :)

What I am finding out from the Virtual Reality Travel Agency is that Google Cardboard is an excellent quick DIY way  into virtual reality and great for small groups to pass around. Everyone loves the Samsung Gear VR - its a far more comfortable - a better quality more immersive experience and people spend more time "in it" ... its not so good at passing around quickly :)

Its clear that there is a very useful virtual reality continuum from the Google cardboard ecosystem through mid-range mobile systems like the Samsung Gear VR to the high-end "room based" systems like the Occulus Rift and HTC Vive 

Pop UP Thinglab 2: VR Travel Agency - Staff Development At Croydon Central Library

Librarians Use Virtual Reality
Pop Up Thinglab 2 was was a staff development event held in the Children's Library at Croydon Central library. This was a real pleasure - children's spaces are designed to stimulate the imagination - they are colourful, playful and fun - they remind me of Google's "offices".  Why is it that once we "grow up" our work, learning and living spaces become so "corporate" and uninspiring.

We spoke about the history of libraries bringing new technologies to the general public as new ways to access and experience information. Libraries have made computers, the Internet, music and video available and accessible to the general public but its been a long time since anything new happened and these technologies have become widely pervasive in society and most people carry a computer around in their pocket these days. The current period is the most exciting I have known - there are so many exciting new technologies with great potential emerging - 3D printing, 360 imagery, the Internet of Things, Robotics, Artificial Intelligence, augmented reality and for this Pop Up Thing Lab we focused on Virtual reality.

We all had HOHO (Hands On Heads On) with virtual reality and passed around Google Cardboard and Samsung Gear VR headsets. From the "Virtual Reality Trips" available we visited Muse "Revolt"U2 "Song For Someone"Felix & Paul Studios Introduction To Virtual Reality The Tomb of Tutankhamun, Jurassic Worldthe Cirque Du Soleil and The Click Effect - following two renegade marine science researchers as they attempt to free-dive a hundred feet to capture the “click” communication of dolphins and sperm whales. 

In the 1980s I helped college libraries offer computers to their students and the 1990s I helped them offer the Internet - supporting libraries curate on-line resources for curriculum areas. Now, in 2016 I am talking about librarians researching and curating virtual reality for the general public - these are exciting times!

Virtual reality products are on a continuum from the very easy, cheap and very accessible entry level Google cardboard, through the mid range with the Samsung Gear VR (and other smartphone ecosystems coming in sometime soon) to the high end room based systems like Rift and Vive. We spoke about offering access to this continuum of virtual reality in libraries. Entry level Cardboard headsets could be borrowed for use with people's own smartphones in the library and for take home - using more robust cardboard headsets like the Mattel View-Master VR for take out. Further along the continuum mobile systems like the Samsung Gear VR (and when it arrives Google Daydream) and room based systems like Occulus Rift and HTC Vive could be offered for better quality and more immersive experience in the library.

I think the Virtual Reality "continuum" can become a big deal for libraries in the future - it offers such a new way of looking at and accessing information - why just read about and look at photos of Tutankhamun's tomb when you can visit it in virtual reality.

Visit your library and go places with virtual reality.

With emerging new technologies like 3D printing, 360 imagery, the Internet of Things, Robotics, Artificial Intelligence, augmented reality and virtual reality libraries have an opportunity to transform into community experience centres for learning.

Visit your library to stimulate your senses and inspire your imagination.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Pop Up Thinglab 1: VR Travel Agency - Croydon Central Library Reception

Pop Up Thinglab 1: VR Travel Agency - Croydon Library Reception
This was the first first outing for the Pop Up Thinglab and the Virtual Reality Travel Agency - exploring new technology and new education techniques.

Originally planned as an introduction to virtual reality for Carillion CCS Libraries development managers but rather than hold this as a standard "back-room meeting" I decided to leap straight in and experiment with this as the first Pop Up Thinglab - in the spirit of the project - out in the public and open. 

We held this between 3.30 and 5pm in the reception of Croydon Central Library so that it was accessible for anyone passing or using the library. We had around 30 people come and give it a go, there was no entry level criteria, selection or grading, we had primary school children, secondary school children, parents and adults all at the same time - it was very busy and great fun.

From the "Virtual Reality Trips" available people visited The Tomb of Tutankhamun, The Titans of SpaceJurassic World, A History Of Cuban Dance, went on stage with the Cirque Du Soleil, and U2, attended Emergency Room Medical Training played Smash Hit VR, rode the Dive City Rollercoaster and the Crazy Swing.

The most useful trip and popular trip was the Felix & Paul Studios Introduction To Virtual Reality - this gave "visitors" a sample of several of their virtual reality "destinations": space, Jurrasic World Dinosaurs, Elephants in the wild, the nomadic world of Sea Gypsies, Herders and the Massai, a Lebron James basketball training session and every was amazed by the "in your face" fire display from the Cirque Du Soleil - people kept talking about this and wanted to see it again and again.

“A library is one of the few places, in a town or even a large village, where you can go in and immerse yourself in that world" ~ Stephen Fry 

Virtual reality has an important role in the development of education and public libraries - where once you might read about, look at photos and watch a film about something - now you can experience it in first person. Where once you might visit a library to read a book about Tutankhamun - now you can visit the Tomb of Tutankhamun in your library by booking out a VR headset! 

Public libraries have introduced and provided shared general public access to books, music films, computers and the Internet. Today there is an explosion of important socially significant emerging new technologies to which public libraries can introduce and provide shared general public access - technologies such as virtual reality, augmented reality, 3D printing, 360 imagery, the Internet of Things, robots and artificial intelligence.

“We need to understand libraries as places of education and nourishment for everyone ...  they save lives.” ~ Stephen Fry 

Public libraries welcome everyone - they have no minimal entry level requirements. Public libraries have always played a vital role in general public access to education, learning and social equality and rather than closing them we need to invest, develop and expand our public libraries for the common good.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Pop Up Thinglab: Education As Art

Pop Up Thinglab Virtual Reality Travel Agency in Croydon Central Library Reception

Education as we think of it today normally happens inside a box - inside a course in a classroom or lecture hall where we are measured, managed, graded, selected, batch processed and linearly determined by the formal education system and its establishments.

The idea for Pop Up Thinglab is to take education out of the box - to deliver the experimental, exploratory, open, informal, DIY and social experience of Thinglab to anyone anywhere and to put into practice new methods, new techniques and new technology.

To take education out of the box I had to break all the rules.
A classroom or lecture hall is a highly structured and controlled environment. People are carefully selected to be as homogenous as possible and fit into clearly defined and managed roles. Activities are designed with a beginning and end in a linear fashion for a specific time period and to deliver specific skills and information in a structured way for testing and measurement.

For Pop Up Thinglab to happen I had to find a way for education to happen for anyone, anywhere -where at anytime there would be any mix of people of any age, ability, culture, race and religion - you name it. I had to find a way for education to happen in public for the general public in public spaces. I had to find a way for education to happen in an unstructured way where anyone may come and go as they please and to make and take away their own learning from the experience - whatever that might be.

For Pop Up Thinglab to happen the techniques of classroom teaching and teaching inside a box just wouldn't work - I had to try something else. For Pop Up Thinglab to happen I had to unlearn what I knew about teaching.  For Pop Up Thinglab to happen I had to break all the rules of formal education - I had to flip from structured, linear, deterministic and highly managed education to unstructured, non-linear, non-deterministic free-style education.

For Pop Up Thinglab to happen I had to flip mainstream education for "un-education" and the DIY style punk counter-culture of Edupunk

Way back in March 2010 I attended Educamp London - an education un-conference that made quite an impression on me (see "The Meaning of London Educamp One"). Some of the methods used at the Educamp London Unconference are very relevant to the type of uneducation I needed for Pop Up Thinglab to happen. In particular Diane Brewster's session about Sussex University's "Creativity Zone"

"Diane unpresented while mingling with us around a table of hands on material  – standing rather than sitting was more dynamic but chairs were there as well – it was a very fluid and natural."

Diane's unstructured and non-linear method using conversation and objects had stayed with me all these years and seemed ideal for Pop up Thinglab to happen and this is the main approach I thought to explore. Doing what might be regarded as "Avant-garde" teach like an artist and explore the Dadaist style Cut Up Technique to de-construct and tear up linear content into fragments so it can be explored, connected and constructed personally and through conversation in real-time in the real world.

Education As Art

Harold Jarche suggests we learn "like an artist" - I take this and try to teach like an artist using human sensitivity, creativity and imagination to create something meaningful in real-timeJulian Bream described me as "a creative live wire" and my presentations as being "like an art installation" - with Pop Up Thinglab I try to extend this as a form of "performance art",  as a form of teaching that deliberately encourages chaotic tangents with their own trajectory and set of interactions without a single point of focus.

The main photo at the top of this post shows a moment in time form the first Pop Up Thing Lab - The Virtual Reality Travel Agency in the public reception of Croydon Central Library. It is like a Cubist representation of multiple simultaneous interacting tangents and trajectories at one point frozen in time. You can see a man using his iPhone to find 360 videos on Youtube to watch with a Google cardboard VR viewer. You can see a young girl in the Royal College of Surgeons medical training simulation using a Samsung Gear VR headset. You can see a group of boys and girls interacting and having conversations around the collection of objects on the table behind me. You can see me talking about an old fashioned 3D viewer with a young girl and boy. 

Pop Up Thinglab isn't about classically scripted education - its about Jazz. Pop Up Thinglab is about education exploration, experimentation and improvisation in real-time and in the real world.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

What Is Virtual Reality

In the first Virtual Reality Travel Agency Pop Up Thinglab a 6 year old asked me “What is Virtual Reality” 

Reality itself is difficult enough to define let alone virtual reality!

The best way to understand reality and virtual reality is to experience it - you have to see it to believe it. Thinglab is all about experience so we had virtual reality headsets to experience and understand what virtual reality is.

However, for those seeking explanations and definitions, here goes ….

For children (and adults) ... a child's definition

"Virtual reality projects into your eyes as if you are there”

For those who used to be children:
“Virtual” and “reality” have opposite  meanings - making “virtual reality” a contradiction in terms but Nasa offers a way out of the contradiction with a good working explanation and definition of  “virtual reality” - here is what they say:

Many people take "virtual" to mean fake or unreal, and "reality" to refer to the real world. This results in an oxymoron. The actual definition of virtual, however, is "to have the effect of being such without actually being such". The definition of "reality" is "the property of being real", and one of the definitions of "real" is "to have concrete existence". Using these definitions "virtual reality" means "to have the effect of concrete existence without actually having concrete existence", which is exactly the effect achieved in a good virtual reality system.

“Virtual reality is the use of computer technology to create the effect of an interactive three-dimensional world in which the objects have a sense of spatial presence.” 

The basic idea is to present the correct cues to your perceptual and cognitive system so that your brain interprets those cues as objects "out there" in the three-dimensional world. These cues have been surprisingly simple to provide using computer graphics: simply render a three-dimensional object (in stereo) from a point of view which matches the positions of your eyes as you move about. If the objects in the environment interact with you then the effect of spatial presence is greatly heightened.

The main point of virtual reality, and the primary difference between conventional three-dimensional computer graphics and virtual reality is that in virtual reality you are working with things as opposed to pictures of things.

The crucial thing in virtual reality is interactive first person perspective - the sensations (images, sounds, smells, touch etc) presented to you are linked to your actions … for example as you move your head around and look in all directions then the images presented to your eyes change as if you are looking at a scene in all directions.

Tracking your movements and actions and mapping them to presentations to your senses is crucial in virtual reality and for this virtual reality equipment must have positional tracking. If using smartphone based VR headsets like Google cardboard for example - make sure the phone has a gyroscope! 

The quality of virtual reality improves as the tracking and connection with your senses and actions improves. Virtual reality isn;t just about vision though .... ultimately, fully tracked presentation to all your senses may be possible and result in virtual reality so immersive that it is indistinguishable from “reality” … more on this at a later time - let's not get into philosophy just yet.

Monday, May 9, 2016


* Thinglab ... Exciting New Ideas And Technology * 

There has never been a more exciting time with learning.
With the Internet, social media and mobile technology we have never been more connected - there has never been a more exciting time to learn.

There has never been a more exciting time with technology.
With new technologies such as virtual reality, 3D printing, 360 imagery, 3D imagery, the Internet of Things, drones, robots and artificial intelligence becoming available to the general public -  there has never been a more exciting time in technology.

Thinglab Foundations
InspireNshare Thinglabs are about experience and are based the open, informal, DIY and social ideas of Maker culture, "The Web We Lost",  "Web Squared" and Connectivism.

Maker culture emphasises a DIY, informal, social, peer and shared learning motivated by fun and self-fulfilment.

"The Web We Lost" emphasises open, connected social technologies and ways of doing things.

Web Squared  emphasises the exponential potential when new technologies meet Web 2.0 ideas of open, social, and DIY participation in the real world  ... "when web meets world".

Connectivism emphasises the role of social and cultural context - that people learn through contact, connection and experience. Connectivism embraces technology, diversity and continuous life-long learning - it is "a learning theory for the digital age" 

Surf and Learn
Inspired by Maker culture, "The Web We Lost",  "Web Squared" and Connectivism inspireNshare Thinglab explore new approaches with education and technology - emphasising open, social, informal, "freestyle" and experimental methods ...... "where web meets world" we surf and learn.

Heads On Hands On .. HOHO Learning
InspireNshare Thinglabs are not just about ideas - that would be "Thinklab".  InspireNshare Thinglabs are about ideas and experiences - Heads On Hands On (HOHO) to enjoy and have some fun :)

Any Thing
InspireNshare Thinglabs are not just about digital - that would be "Digilab". While digital technology is important, InspireNshare Thinglabs are about 'things" .... artefacts, paper, hand-tools, analogue, art, craft .... even magic, as well as digital.

Find out more about Thinglab at