Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Pop Up Thinglab 9: VR at Hounslow Library

"Summer reads" ... Virtual reality in Hounslow Library 

Pop Up Thinglab 9 was an open and public virtual reality workshop for anyone held in the reception of Hounslow Library.

Life-long life-wide diverse open learning
In a public library there are no minimum entry level criteria, selection tests or divisions based on age, gender or ability etc - everyone is welcome to come and learn and people's natural learning curiosity brought them over to see what I was doing as soon as I arrived and "we hit the ground running"! 

A public library provides 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. The selective homogeneity used by the formal education system to batch process and mass educate leads to a certain blandness. It is such a pleasure to teach mixed learners together informally - learner diversity lends itself to learning diversity with a good range of views and ideas brought in and taken out. The dynamics in learner diversity leads to natural peer teaching and learning - its such a pleasure to see 8 year olds explain virtual reality to 68 year olds and for 68 year olds to describe their experience of 3D images with View-Masters when they were young. Inter-generational experience interest is something I have noted before with the diverse learners in Thinglab - children have a real interest in the stories older people tell about the past ... sometimes I think of it like meeting a time traveller who can tell you what it used to be like - it really does bring history to life when you can talk with someone who has lived it.

Diverse Responses to VR
With such diverse groups of learners in Thinglab its not surprising that we see such diverse responses to virtual reality. Some people put on a VR viewer and hardly move  they seem cautious and I have to encourage them to look around - up, down, left, right and "behind you" :) Other people put on the VR viewer are animated straight away looking around, gasping, moving their hands and even moving around. I've noticed that some young children can't help but try to walk about as if completely immersed in an imaginary world although when I ask them about this they are quite cleat about the difference between reality and virtual reality ... just as they are quite clear about reality and and what they imagine in make-believe play. One man used the VR viewer as if he were watching a flat screen - he didn't look around at all .... until he plugged his headphones in. The more immersive the virtual reality the better the experience is  - headphones and viewer quality make a big difference to the experience. Motion controllers, haptic feedback, body tracking and the inclusion of more senses will in the future make virtual reality experiences very "interesting" .. potentially blurring the lines between reality and virtual reality and raising no end of philosophical and practical questions, opportunities and concerns.

We use a range of VR headsets for people to experience and compare - Samsung Gear VR for good quality VR and a range of Google Cardboard VR viewers for experience of cheaper and open VR. Cardboard VR generated a lot of interest - especially when people used their own phones with the cardboard viewers to search for and view 360\VR videos on Youtube - using your own familiar tools and interests really helps bring a connection to learning something new and it was a real pleasure to hear people talk about how they will show their family and friends how to access virtual reality with their own phones. It was also a real pleasure to see and hear people swap the Youtube VR discoveries they had made.

Technology developments have made the creation and sharing of DIY virtual reality increasingly accessible and we bring experience of creating virtual reality to Thinglab with a Samsung Gear 360 camera. We are experimenting and learning how to make 360/VR media in thinglab with our learners as we go along - Pop Up Thinglab 9 was the second outing for our VR camera ... you can see our little 360 media experiments on the links below

360 Images: Hounslow Library 
360 Images: Hounslow Arts Centre
360 Videos: Pop Up Thinglab 9: 360\VR Experiments

The smartphone has largely replaced the idea of a separate camera for most people but 360\VR media looks set to breath new life into the separate digital camera market place. With "flat" media the camera operator is behind the lens pointing at something but with 360 media everything is in shot and because of this a standalone VR camera really makes sense. Samsung's mobile VR ecosystem works really well with the smartphone as the hub for its VR camera and VR viewer. Remotely controlling the VR camera over direct wifi with your smartphone is a real pleasure and works really welI. Creating and sharing 360\VR media will be an increasing feature of our future Thinglabs and I will be writing a lot more on this topic in the future.

For more images and videos of Pop Up Thinglab 9 visit:
Thinglab 9 Image Collection 
Thinglab 9 Video Playlist

Find out more about inspireNshare at

Find out more about inspireNshare Thinglab at

Find out more about Virtual Reality at

No comments:

Post a Comment