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 

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