Posted tagged ‘Virtual Reality Working Out Loud Week’

Virtual Duality

7 March 2017

Something struck me during this year’s Virtual Reality Working Out Loud Week.

Billed as an event for “anyone who is working with or experimenting with virtual reality, whether that be at home, at school or at work”, this was the second time I had run it. Again I was keen for our peers in L&D and other industries to share what they are doing with this emerging technology.

At the time of writing this blog post, the #vrwolweek hashtag achieved 612,836 impressions on Twitter with an estimated reach of 350,292 accounts. Impressive indeed. Less impressive, however, is the fact that barely a dozen people shared an experience.

And this is what struck me… There is a gulf between those who talk about VR and those using it, and it appears this gulf is widening.

As last year’s 20 real-world examples of virtual reality attests, the technology is being applied by pioneers in various industries. This year unearthed additional examples in healthcare, transport, firefighting, education, special needs, gaming and tourism.

Screenshot of a Virtual Reality experience used to promote surgical gowns.

This year also highlighted folks such as Robert Ibisch, Flemming Funch, Lorraine Minister, M. Lovecraft, Simon Dueckert and Arun Pradhan who are actively experimenting with VR.

Screenshot of a Virtual Reality experience simulating a river canyon.

So that leaves approximately 350,000 people who have nothing to share. Is that because they can’t or because they won’t…? In any case, they didn’t.

As with so many other examples of technology, there is a division between the haves and the have nots. Yet among those who own a smartphone and can afford $20 for an entry-level headset, VR polarises the doers and the do nots.

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20 real-world examples of Virtual Reality

22 March 2016

The inaugural Virtual Reality Working Out Loud Week launched earlier this month. It’s something I started up almost on a whim to promote real-world applications of virtual reality.

There’s plenty of talk out there about how wonderful VR is and the incredible potential it offers us, but how about now? What are our peers currently doing with this emerging technology?

The online networking festival was open to anyone working with or experimenting with virtual reality. Whether you have been playing with Google Cardboard or developing high-end immersive experiences, we wanted to hear about it. Participants were invited to use the #VRwolweek hashtag on social media to share their successes, failures, questions, answers, work-arounds, or anything else we fellow geeks would find useful.

And I’m pleased to report it was a success! Over 60 posts on social media mentioning #VRwolweek is a good start in my book, and is a testament to the enthusiasm with which the digigeek community took up the challenge.

On the other side of the coin, some may say that 60-odd posts aren’t nearly enough. I acknowledge this perspective, and I put it down to two factors: (1) Lack of awareness of the event, as this is the first ever #wolweek dedicated to VR; and (2) Lack of hands-on experience. The technology is still very much in its infancy, and many of us are yet to make the leap from reading and talking about it to experimenting with it and applying it. Indeed, most of the tweets were about what others are doing with VR.

In any case, I learned a great deal about virtual reality via the event, and I’m glad to have raised my awareness of the following real-world applications across multiple industries, including sports, entertainment, healthcare, education, workplace training, and non-profit.

Virtual Reality Working Out Loud Week 2016

  1. Port Adelaide Football Club uses virtual reality for match simulation training – @simongterry

  2. CITEC uses virtual reality to simulate a gym, complete with personal trainer – @kiwirip

  3. Casey Neistat takes us to the Oscars as his +1 with his 360° camera – @ActivateLearn

  4. Microsoft uses virtual reality to immerse players into the Minecraft metaverse – @kiwirip

  5. Six Flags is turning to virtual reality to enhance its rollercoaster experience – @LearnKotch

  6. Torbay Hospital uses virtual reality to improve doctor empathy – @MoorOfALife

  7. The US military uses virtual reality therapy to treat Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder – @simongterry

  8. The Virtual Reality Medical Center uses virtual reality therapy to treat phobias – @despinatracey

  9. MindMaze is testing the use of virtual reality to treat phantom limb pain – @despinatracey

  10. Conquer Mobile is testing the use of virtual reality to train surgeons for complex operations – @despinatracey

  11. Students at Barker College manipulate virtual objects in a 3D space – @ActivateLearn

  12. Students at Wagaman Primary School use augmented reality to bring an educational treasure hunt to life – @karinpfister

  13. Nearpod’s VR lessons allow students to go on virtual field trips – @kiwirip

  14. Prospective students at Harvard and Yale can take virtual campus tours – @kiwirip

  15. Nokia uses virtual reality to simulate public speaking – @Elearnstudiospt

  16. Lancôme uses virtual reality to visualise how its product works on the skin – @Elearnstudiospt

  17. Commonwealth Bank of Australia uses virtual reality to engage prospective recruits in a virtual workplace – @simongterry

  18. Sentient Computing uses interactive virtual reality to deliver high-stakes safety training – @sentcomp @dougbester

  19. The UN uses a virtual reality film to change attitudes in one of the world’s hot spots – @kiwirip

  20. Amnesty International uses virtual reality to help Sydneysiders appreciate the ravages of the Syrian conflict – @NeilVonHeupt

Man training in virtual reality

A special thank you goes out to everyone who participated in VR Working Out Loud Week, including Simon Terry who helped me lift it off the ground in the first place. I’m already looking forward to launching it again next year.

By the way, it’s not too late to keep the conversation going. Feel free to continue using the #VRwolweek hashtag to share with us what you’re doing in the virtual reality space.

Paper cuts

1 March 2016

I’m late to the party, but finally I’ve gotten my hands onto Google Cardboard.

I’ve been tinkering with it and, in the spirit of Virtual Reality Working Out Loud Week, I’ve decided to share with you what I’ve learned so far.

I’ll also share my problems – and there are plenty of them – so if you can solve any for me I’d be grateful!

An assembled Google Cardboard VR mount

The device

The ROI for Google Cardboard is through the roof. For about $20, you gain access to a world of wonder.

While high-end virtual reality hardware is available – and more will become available this year – the folded paper option is the perfect gateway for exploring this emerging technology.

InMind VR screenshot

Apps

Some brilliant Cardboard apps are available at Google Play.

Vrse showcases the 360° nature of VR, while Inmind VR is a somewhat childish game that nonetheless demonstrates the order of magnitude that immersive 3D animation offers over 2D. I foresee biotech companies leading the way on this.

Evidently, though, VR apps are still very much in their infancy. While a sizeable number are currently available, they are accompanied by reams of poor reviews. Many are free, but an astronomy app I tried stopped part way and wanted me to buy the premium version to continue.

I also found it tricky to identify the apps that were compatible with Cardboard. Most that are have the little goggles icon integrated into their artwork, but it would be preferable if the Play Store simply let us filter the results.

MythBusters: Sharks Everywhere! screenshot

360° videos

These are great! A couple of my favourites are Red Bull F1 360° Experience and MythBusters: Sharks Everywhere!

On your PC, you can use the navigation arrows or your mouse to shift your point of view; on your smartphone, you can physically move your device; and if you watch it through Google Cardboard, you get the full immersive experience.

Strangely, 360° videos don’t work on my iPad. I either get the Cardboard-oriented double vision, or else the regular pov stuck in one direction.

I also find the videos a little blurry. This may have something to do with the age of my S4, but I recently read that Facebook is getting serious about resolution.

The good news is you can record your own 360° videos using special cameras that are reasonably priced IMHO. A virtual tour, perhaps?

Panoramic phot of an Italian piazza

360° photos

These are just like 360° videos, but they’re static. Don’t let that put you off – they’re surprisingly immersive.

Google calls them “photo spheres” and they remind me of Microsoft’s Photosynth. Whereas Photosynth stitched together discrete photos, you record your photo sphere in a continuous circular motion.

Here’s my effort from a friend’s rooftop. (Note: This link is not supported in the mobile web version of Google Maps. Oh the irony.)

All you need to record your own photo sphere is the Cardboard Camera app. Having said that, I found it highly temperamental. The app is not very forgiving of human shaking, so a tripod would be helpful. It also drops out frustratingly easily. Clearing the app’s cache and my phone’s RAM appears to help, as does keeping a super-tight turning circle and moving painfully slowly.

Any kind of movement in the scene is a no-no; I tried it at Circular Quay and had no chance. Again, this could be due to the age of my phone, but still I’m surprised there is no photo-stitching option as per Photosynth.

Yet I struck more problems. My photo sphere works perfectly within my Cardboard Camera app; I wear my papery goggles and it’s like I really am surveying Sydney Harbour. Alas, that’s where it stayed.

I tried to upload my photo sphere to SphereShare (not a Google site) but it doesn’t play nice with IE11. Even in Chrome I received the following error: Please provide valid Photo Sphere JPEG image. Umm…?

Then I found out Google had a site called Views, but not any more. It appears they now want photo spheres uploaded to Google Street View. There’s an app for that, but I couldn’t open it – and I’m not the only one. (It appears I need Android 5. My phone only goes up to 4.4.2.)

Google has a slick Street View website, complete with PUBLISH subsite, which inexplicably fails to explain how to publish photo spheres. Thankfully I stumbled on this article by Phil Nickinson and learned that instead of starting at the map and uploading your photo sphere, you start at the photo sphere in your phone’s image gallery and share it to Maps. Then nothing happens, which is disconcerting, but Phil warns that Google must approve your photo sphere which takes about a day or so. It would have been nice for Google to have explained that. A week later, I’m still waiting.

However a more pressing problem was that my photo sphere was rendering in Maps as a photo. This I could not understand, given the file was being transferred from one Google application to another Google application via Google’s operating system. I even tried uploading it via PC, but again it rendered as a regular photo. I posted this conundrum to Reddit’s Google Cardboard subreddit and to one of LinkedIn’s virtual reality discussion groups, both in vain.

Thankfully I stumbled upon this discussion thread in the Google Photos Forum about a different problem, for which Russ Buchmann refers to the Photosphere XMP Tagger app (not a Google app). Hurrah! After using this app to tag my file, it rendered in Maps as a photo sphere.

A final tip: Populate your tagged file’s property details (eg title) in Windows Explorer prior to uploading it to Maps.

Google Cardboard icon

Milestones and millstones

My VR learning journey thus far may be described as joy punctuated by disappointment.

I applaud Google for giving Average Joe the gift of virtual reality – not only to consume, but also to produce.

Yet I am astonished by the lack of interoperability between Google’s own platforms, our reliance on third party products to perform seemingly simple tasks, and the tech giant’s customer uncentricity.

No doubt the boffins at Mountain View know exactly what they’re doing… but how about the rest of us?

They’d probably tell us to Google it.