Thursday, August 18, 2016

Pop Up Thinglab 11: VR & 3D Printing at Northolt library

Virtual reality & 3D Printing  at Northolt  library

Pop Up Thinglab 11 was an open and public virtual reality and 3D printing workshop for anyone held in the open area of Northholt Library on a rolling program for people to come and go as they pleased over three hours.

Outside the box of formal education people still have a hunger for learning and a public library provides life-long, life-wide access to learning without examination, selection or entry requirements. It is such a pleasure to teach mixed learners together informally and it is a real joy to have families come along and learn together. Diverse and Inter-generational experience gives a dynamic to learning that just doesn't exist in the selective homogeneity of formal education.

3D Printing

At the beginning of the session we set up the 3D printer with blue PLA and loaded the 3mm Spanner from Thingiverse to test things out - its small and simple and if this prints OK then the build plate should be level enough and we should have enough confidence that more ambitious objects should print OK. The Flashforge Finder 3D printer we used is a popular model for schools and to demonstrate how friendly this printer is I asked a little girl who came along at the beginning of the session to take out the build plate and remove the little spanner.

3D printing is still a niche thing with innovator, early adopter "geek", techie, makers and professionals - it has yet to "cross the chasm" to the mainstream majority of home users - the majority of whom have heard little or nothing about them and have never seen one in use. We had a range of PLA filaments reels and 3D printed objects for people handle and ask about. We spoke about the next generation of consumer 3D printers that promise to be both easier to use and cheaper such as the XYZ Da Vinci Junior and the (hopefully) soon to be released Mattel Thingmaker - both of which are aimed at children but also "perfect for first time 3D designers and aspiring inventors" of any age! Someone talked about the stories they had come across of 3D printers being used to print guns and we spoke about the potential of technology for both good and bad ... how a pencil can write love letters or hate mail and in the case of 3D printers how they can make toys, tools and medical parts to save lives as well as weapons.

Children are always fascinated by the 3D printed spinning top I have in the collection of 3D printed objects - a traditional toy made with new new technology. When they ask what it is they are fascinated when I explain that it was the type of thing children might get as a christmas present 100 years ago. I printed out and gave away a couple of the spinning tops - this gets me thinking about how 3D printing can make history tangible and bring it to life by recreating objects from the past. I am thinking about a theme for a future Thinglab along the lines of - "storytelling history with 3D printing and objects from the past".

3D printing is part of what I call the "new dimensions" of technology ... technology that goes beyond flat 2 dimensional IT and media that we are all familiar with. the rise of 3D printing is coincidental with the rise of virtual reality and augmented reality and the links between the two are something I am very interested in exploring. The first link between 3D printing and virtual reality I can remember is back in 2014 when Australian Band 'Cut Copy' Created a 3D Printed Music Video. The potential to make tangible the virtual is intriguing so I'm not  surprised we often get talking about Pokemon Go in Thinglabs and people ask about 3D printing Pokemon - the teenager with the blue headscarf in the cover photo for this blog post is holding up a little 3D printed Pikachu. "New dimensions" with technology features heavily in Thinglabs and we often get talking about 3D printing virtual reality viewers - you can find find lots of 3D printed virtual reality viewers and accessories in the Thingiverse VR/AR collection 

Virtual Reality

Virtual reality certainly has a wow factor and I haven't come across anyone yet who hasn't been amazed once they have given it a go. Accessing good virtual reality content is important - especially for first time VR trippers so I am curating useful VR content for the Virtual Reality Travel agency - see our curated free VR trips for Samsung Gear and free VR trips for Cardboard VR . Its also useful to have a range of hardware available so that people get to appreciate the continuum of VR experience from the open, accessible and very cheap DIY and ready made Google Cardboard ecosystem through to the more expensive, better quality but proprietary Samsung Gear VR. People always appreciate the comfort and quality of the Samsung VR experience but the accessibility of Google Cardboard VR really brings VR home when people learn how quick and easy it is to access VR on their own phones with Youtube #360 videos. 

The best way to understand reality and virtual reality is not just to experience it but to make it and InspireNshare Thinglabs make virtual reality real by making virtual reality. We have recorded some VR media in each of our more recent Thinglabs - short VR videos on the InspireNshare DIY #360 VR videos Youtube playlist and stills on the InspireNshare DIY #360 VR stills Flickr album 

We spoke about the differences between flat and linear 2D media and immersive 360\VR media. One director has described making a flat video as being like hunting and making a VR video as being like laying a trap. With VR everything is in shot so you have to take the whole environment into consideration - VR works best when you are surrounded. I suggested we make a short VR video clip ... we surrounded the VR camera and recorded our first improvised and ad-hoc VR video clip "Make some noise in the library"  - LOL .... I must remember everything is in shot ... including the "director" :)

For more images and videos of Pop Up Thinglab 11 visit:
Thinglab 11 videos (Youtube playlist)
Thinglab 11 images (Flickr album)

To find out more about inspireNshare visit

To find out more about inspireNshare Thinglab visit

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