Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Pop Up Thinglab 16: Making Edtech Relevant

Experiencing virtual reality at Thinglab 16

Pop Up Thinglab 16 was held in the student fresher fair at Westminster Kingsway college Victoria centre with 3D printing and virtual reality.

The education system as we know it today has been shaped by the 20th century industrial technologies which facilitate batch mass production and consumption of standardised products on scale - its a discourse that has shaped and normalised much economic and organisational thinking - including the standard education model.

The information revolution is only just getting started but is already interrupting the discourse of the industrial revolution and information technologies are disrupting models based on industrial technologies.

With contemporary information technologies in everyday life people expect fast and personalised (even personal) experiences - something which is often at odds with the experiences people have with large institutions.

Relevant and personal experience interests, motivates and engages people and Thinglab 16 started to explore how contemporary information technologies could bring relevant and personal experiences into education.

Thinglab 16 set up with two very contemporary technologies that offer incredible potential to bring relevant and personal experiences into education - 3D printing and virtual reality.

3D printing is the antithesis of industrial era mass scale standardised production .. 3D printing is ideal for small scale personal production and this was our aim with 3D printing at Thinglab 16.

Using cheap,free and easy "citizen tech" type technologies we set about demonstrating small scale personal production with a pair of Flashforge Finder 3D printers, the Thingiverse 3D design gallery and Tinkercad for simple 3D design. We started straight away - the people on the stand next to us were from the anti-smoking group "healthy heart" so we found printed a heart shaped box for them. Next up a man from Pizza Express came over and asked if we could print something for Pizza express and we printed a Pizza express tag for him. A student came over and asked if we could make a tag for the DC comic Suicide squad supervillain\anti-hero Deadshot so we quickly threw some letters together in Tinkercad and printed out a deadshot tag for him.

A 3D printed heart shaped box for the healthy heart campaign
3D printed Pizza Express tag for the man from Pizza Express
3D printed Deadshot tag for a student
We had excellent in depth conversations with students about different personal manufacturing technologies and the business opportunities with 3D printing. We talked about the pros and cons of FDM v SLA printing and additive v subtractive manufacturing. We spoke about the value of 3D design skills in the future in the gaming, virtual reality and manufacturing sectors. With business students we talked about what was needed to start their own personal manufacturing businesses and examples of what they could do.

Virtual reality is not only a "hot technology" at the moment but its also one with real transformative potential. Familiar media we find on screens and paper is "flat" and observed "voyeuristically" and passively from a second or third person perspective. Virtual reality is immersive and experienced as if you are there in the first person. 

Virtual reality - an Immersive and active first person experience 

In virtual reality you are inside the picture and putting people in the picture is what we aimed to do with virtual reality at Thinglab 16. We used the little Samsung Gear 360 VR camera to take a series of virtual reality selfies with groups of students and view them back in virtual reality with the Samsung Gear VR viewer. 

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.

Students see themselves in virtual reality and ask 'Can I walk into myself?' 
With virtual reality students travelled to cities around the world went to Borneo, Kenya, Mongolia, a refugee camp in Jordan, walked a tightrope, rode roller coasters, went into outer space, went back in time to the Jurassic era and went on stage with the Cirque Du Soleil.

We spoke with teachers about the potential of virtual reality in education - not only to interest, inspire and motivate students through contact with the technology but more importantly to transform learning through new forms of experience which go way beyond the type of flat simulations and gaming that people have used with technology in the past.

With 3D printing and virtual reality its not about content delivery anymore but about living an experience.

With 3D printing and virtual reality education can shift from systems thinking mass production to design thinking personal experience where we put people in the picture.

For more images and videos of Pop Up Thinglab 16 visit:
Thinglab 16 images (Flickr album)
Thinglab 16 videos (Youtube playlist)

To find out more about inspireNshare visit

To find out more about inspireNshare Thinglab visit

Friday, September 2, 2016

Pop Up Thinglab 15: A World Of Pure Imagination

 Welcome to Virtual Reality

Pop Up Thinglab 15 was an open and public virtual reality workshop for anyone held in centre of Hounslow Treaty public Library on a rolling program for people to come and go as they pleased over three hours.

"Come with me and you'll be In a world of pure imagination"

We started in Little Top - a wonderland for children's education inside Hounslow public library. Little Top is an artistic interpretation of the circus "big top" for children - its an imaginative colourful playful space that stimulates your senses and mind ... "a world of pure imagination". Little Top is a lot bigger on the inside .. it stimulates your senses to become as big as your imagination ... Little Top is like the TARDIS and is excellent compliment to the virtual reality travel agency.

Our first virtual reality trippers were a group of teenage volunteers helping with The Big Friendly Read who had grown up with the Little Top and had very fond memories of time spent in there as children being introduced to books, activities and the world of imagination. The Little Top had such a profound affect that here they were as teenagers introducing children to books and the world of imagination. 

Little Top ... a legacy of imagination

People respond differently to virtual reality ... there is a continuum from those who are serious and "matter of fact" about it through to those who get very excited and lose themselves in it. The Little Top alumnae leaped enthusiastically into virtual reality had a wonderful time and lost themselves - there is no doubt that Little Top has a legacy of imagination.

We set up the virtual reality workshop in the centre of Hounslow library and talked about tech, made VR viewers made VR media and went on virtual reality trips. One elderly library user turned around several times from using a computer to remind us that we were in a library and to keep quiet but It was a busy day in the library with toddlers' storytime, The Big Friendly Readknitting, Lego education taster sessions, the virtual reality travel agency and all the other activities that go on in a modern public library these days.

We showed people how to make Google Cardboard virtual reality viewers and how to use their phones with them to easily access the thousands of 360\VR videos on Youtube. The accessibility of Google Cardboard VR really brings VR home when people learn how quick cheap and and easy it is make a viewer and to access VR on their own phones with Youtube #360 videos. It was a real pleasure when some children came along and told me how they had been using Google cardboard VR at home after learning about this in Thinglab 9 

The best way to understand reality and virtual reality is to be part of it

The best way to understand reality and virtual reality is to be part of it so we set about making some virtual reality images and videos with ourselves. The VR selfie is the strangest selfie yet - seeing ourselves in-situ in virtual reality is something new and really messes with our senses. One of our visitors captured the feeling of the VR selfie by describing it as like "an out of body experience".

Google Cardboard and the box camera

We talked about the past present and future tech. One of the visitors captured the present state of virtual reality by comparing it to photography in the 19th century and comparing Google Cardboard and the box camera ... which was also often made of cardboard. We are at the very beginning of the development of virtual reality and If virtual reality today is like photography in the 19th century then what will virtual reality be like in the future? We spoke about the state of the art in virtual reality and the Lytro Immerge "volumetric" light field virtual reality camera with its hundreds of cameras and terabytes of storage that renders virtual reality with 6 degrees of freedom and lets you look closer at a scene. We spoke about how exponential changes in technology could eventually shrink all this down to some sort of mobile\wearable system - how the future of mobile is virtual reality and when you can realistically capture and re-live moments from different perspectives. We spoke about how virtual reality can help you see and hopefully understand the world from different perspectives and how - how virtual reality can develop empathy and about how the United Nations is using Virtual reality to raise awareness about vulnerable communities.  

For more images and videos of Pop Up Thinglab 15 visit:
Thinglab 15 videos (Youtube playlist)
Thinglab 15 images (Flickr album)

To find out more about inspireNshare visit

To find out more about inspireNshare Thinglab visit