Monday, November 7, 2016

Pop Up Thinglab 20: MAKE:VR at Mozfest

Making virtual reality viewers

Pop Up Thinglab 20 was an inspireNshare MAKE:VR virtual reality workshop in the Youth Zone at Mozfest 2016 with Croydon Library staff, code club children and volunteers.

Croydon library and their code club children helped us re-imagine libraries and their role in the 21st century with citizen tech. We made virtual reality viewers and virtual reality content and shared ideas about libraries and their role in our future.

Virtual reality has been used to help treat severe paranoia 
For me our Mozfest virtual reality session started when I boarded a crowded underground train at Canada Water. I got on just as the doors were closing - there was space for a few more people but one man was getting agitated and expressed concern there wasn't enough room for anyone else - in conversation it turned out he suffered from claustrophobia. I tried to take his mind of the situation with conversation - I asked him how far he had to go and mentioned I was on my way to Mozfest 2016 and explained what Mozfest was. I talked to him about virtual reality and how it can be used to treat anxieties with exposure therapies - being exposed to the feared object or context in virtual reality without any real danger so you to become used to an object or situation and help reduce fear. I told him about how people's fear of spiders, heights and claustrophobia can be helped using virtual reality, Being on the tube talking to a man with claustrophobia reminded me of Daniel Freeman's work using a virtual reality underground train to help treat severe paranoia

"The research team, led by Professor Daniel Freeman from Oxford University’s Department of Psychiatry, wanted to test whether patients could 're-learn' that a situation was safe, by experiencing situations they feared without using their defence behaviours.

But being in a situation they fear is very difficult for many patients, since it causes intolerable anxiety. To overcome this challenge the team used virtual reality to recreate social situations which patients found fearful.

... patients went into virtual reality simulations with increasing numbers of computer characters ('avatars') – seeing many people at the same time would normally make these patients quite anxious. But participants were told that by staying in the situations, they would relearn that they were safe. A train ride and a lift scene were used ... Patients who fully tested out their fears in virtual reality were later much less distressed even when in a real world situation"

A view from the VR camera on the MAKE:VR table
At Mozfest we setup our session as a rolling practical workshop making VR viewers, making VR content and having conversations about libraries, new technology and virtual reality. 

Rather than a “classically scripted” presentation or session we explored a Dadaist style Cut Up improvised “Jazz” technique to “unpresent” an interactive non-linear session using conversations and objects to adapt and scale in real-time and for participants to explore personally.

Experimenting with the 360 degree VR selfie

We hit the ground running making virtual reality headsets and media with the 360\virtual reality camera. This was citizen tech in action - ordinary people participating in technology as the science of craft in an open, fun, accessible and cost effective way.

Face Your Fears is one of our most popular virtual reality trips
My earlier conversation on the tube about virtual reality and phobia therapies continued in our Mozfest MAKE:VR session as we spoke about some of the virtual reality trips available. People want different things from virtual reality but the most common thing people want seems to be a thrill and this involves facing at least a little bit of fear. I spoke about how virtual reality is being used in exposure therapies to help people overcome fear of spiders, claustrophobia, public speaking and height. One of our most popular virtual reality trips at the moment is "Face Your Fears

"Face Your Fears is an experience that exposes you to terrifying scenes based on common fears and phobias.  In Skyscraper, a player stands on the ledge of a skyscraper in the middle of a big city.  When looking down, a giant robot is climbing up towards the player.  In the Haunting, players experience the fear and excitement of being a little kid in bed in a room where things are not what they seem. What starts with a creaking house and distant thunder, crescendos into frightening moments that build up based on where the player is looking (or not looking)."

Dad records a teen pop concert in VR for his daughter
One of the adults that came along talked about the TV advert
for the Samsung Gear 360 camera where a dad records a teen pop concert with the VR camera for his sick daughter to watch. We spoke about attending events in virtual reality and how this might change the nature of events - imagine if everyone attended an event in virtual reality - the event would be empty and it just wouldn't be the same. People are already half present at events as they spend so much time fiddling with their smartphones - imagine what it will be like if they are busy recording or streaming an event for virtual reality - an event might as well be attended by remote controlled drones. We spoke about the value of presence ... actually being at a place and how this is deeper and different from on-line presence. It takes a lot if investment in time and energy to transport your body to an event - events will need to take more care in making it worthwhile to attend in person otherwise they might as well be held virtually or attended only by drones. Being lectured to is no longer enough - we can watch this flat on Youtube - its social interaction and serendipity that adds dimension to real life events.

Talking about libraries and technology

We had conversations about libraries and their role in the future. 

"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 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.

"Libraries are our open university"

Libraries are open education spaces - you can just walk in off the street and read a book or a paper, access the internet and take part in a wide range of activities which are usually free.

To find out more about inspireNshare visit

To find out more about inspireNshare Thinglab visit

No comments:

Post a Comment