Monday, August 22, 2016

Pop Up Thinglab 13: Welcome To the Pleasure Dome!

Pop Up Thinglab .. "welcome to the pleasure dome"

Pop Up Thinglab 13 was an open and public virtual reality and 3D printing workshop for anyone held in the entrance pavilion of Thornton Heath Library on a rolling program for people to come and go as they pleased over three hours.

Pop Up Thinglab a "pleasure dome"

The Thornton Heath Library entrance pavilion is a wonderful light, airy and informal space - "its function makes it an object of pleasure" and for Pop Up Thinglab a "pleasure dome" as people couldn't get enough virtual reality and 3D printing.

Children used Google Cardboard VR viewers to watch "Invasion", "Take flight", "The Evolution of Vrse" and to ride our VR and Cosmic roller coasters.

Adults used Samsung Gear VR to watch "Introduction to Virtual Reality" and to visit "Jurassic World", the Cirque Du Soleil, the Tomb of Tutankhamun and to free dive with dolphins and Whales.

The best way to understand reality and virtual reality is to be part of it so we used a VR camera to put ourselves in the picture by recording ad-hoc 360/VR images and videos with ourselves and playing them back "in-situ" .... where the VR was made and with us in it! 

"In-situ virtual reality is strangely compelling and messes with our senses" 

We are familiar with seeing ourselves in two dimensions on flat media such as photos and videos but seeing ourselves in virtual reality is something new - the VR selfie is the strangest selfie yet. In-situ virtual reality is strangely compelling and messes with our senses as we move from the familiar two dimensional passive voyeurism of flat media perspectives to the active immersive first person perspective of virtual reality.  The best lie is close to the truth - In-situ VR is close to reality and gets the closest I've seen yet to confusing people that what they are seeing is real - people seem spell-bound looking around, many start reaching out to touch things and many can't resist moving around.

We had conversations about trends in digital technology ... about "Moore's law", the speed of change and how exponential growth has reduced costs, increased availability and led to the "cambrian explosion" of digital technology we see now with smartphones, wearables, 3D printing, virtual reality, robotics and AI.

"Libraries are ideal venues for 21st century learning"

Today is the most active and exciting time I have known in digital technology and the signs are that the rate of development is only going to become faster - for better or for worse this is just the start of the digital revolution and the information age. Many of the adults expressed concerns about keeping up with technology and how they can do this - life-long, life-wide learning is where libraries, adult and community education come in. Libraries are especially useful as gateways to learning - they are open public places with no entry level criteria for learning. Libraries are ideal venues for 21st century learning - anyone can come along to learn what they like without prejudice, without judgement and in their own way.

"Diversity provides great opportunities for diverse learning"

A public library offers life-long life-wide learning and our pop up Thinglab had life-long life-wide learners of all ages, abilities and races all together at the same time. Diversity provides great opportunities for diverse learning, peer learning and flip learning. We had conversations about the trends in and future of 3D printing and virtual reality. We talked about the difference between 360-VR and 3D-VR and about the problems of 3D mapping the physical environment. One of the visitors spoke about a room based VR system he came across that fools your senses to make it seem that you are in a bigger physical space by adjusting perception and fooling your senses to think you are walking in a straight line when in fact you are walking in a circle. 

Peer and Flip learning with adults learning from kids

A wonderful example of peer and flip learning was a young boy who explained and talked about virtual reality and 3D printing with adults and helped them with the VR viewers and the content.

 A traditional toy made with new new technology

As a reward for his help with Thinglab our peer young teacher chose to take home the 3D printed spinning top I had in our display collection of 3D printed objects. Children are always fascinated by the 3D printed spinning top - 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. This gets me thinking that themed workshops might be a good way to introduce and demonstrate 3D printing - workshop themes historical periods and specific subjects as well as practical workshops on toy making and jewellery making for example.

Its 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 normally prefer the Samsung Gear VR but one lady found it made her eyes ache and preferred Google cardboard which she got on with just fine - spending time visiting the Tomb of Tutankhamun and free diving with dolphins and Whales

Google cardboard viewers are a great first step into virtual reality - they are cheap, easy to use and have a lot of free and open VR content available, not least the thousands of user generated VR videos available on YoutubeGoogle cardboard is less immersive than higher end products and not having a head strap is an advantage -  it helps keep you grounded in the real world and means you can control your experience better by letting you come in and out of virtual reality a lot quicker and easier. Not having a head strap also makes Google cardboard viewers a lot easier to pass around and share when you are in a group.

For more images and videos of Pop Up Thinglab 13 visit:
Thinglab 13 videos (Youtube playlist)
Thinglab 13 images (Flickr album)

To find out more about inspireNshare visit

To find out more about inspireNshare Thinglab visit

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