Testing the Samsung Gear VR

Recently some of our team members had the pleasure to test the new Samsung Gear VR at Curtin University. Unfortunately no actual footage this time (there’s plenty around thought, for example at Gizmodo) as Samsung guys still want to play it down a bit – some social media creatures might ask why, as isn’t building hype still the best way to sell new tech?

Personally, I was a bit skeptical in the beginning (don’t positive accounts always start a bit like this?): How does this make anything different or what is its market segment going to be? After seeing one with my own eyes and using it, I can actually see some nice situations to use the Gear VR. So, some very quick first impressions below.

This was just a very quick try, and we were basically only seeing some VR movies. You know those, where for example an underwater scene continues around you as you turn your head around.

One feature that made the Gear VR pleasant to use, was that it was quite light. It could actually be easy to take with you, and it does not weight too much. Where it differs from the regular Oculus Rift headset, is that it does not have all those wires floating around. Also the touch pad and the back button on the right side was amazingly intuitive. You didn’t have to think about it all while using.

As a gamer myself, I started thinking how the device could immerse you in a game environment (or why not a virtual presentation of the environment where you are actually going to) when you are for example sitting on an airplane. This is something we’ve been thinking with our logistics environment. One might be going to an environment A to do X. He or she might first virtually get to know the space and its objects while en route to the actual location.

Apparently the device also has an affordance for augmented reality (AR), which means that you can see the real world through the device and place virtual objects on the scene. This could be for example a virtual prototype of a building, and you can check how it looks like in the real space. This is actually something we used to experiment with in Finland already like 6 years ago, and I still feel AR holds an untapped potential.

Another thing is of course that as you have the screen on your face, no one else on the airplane or other space sees what you are looking at. This adds security if that is needed. Someone once said that email and social media aren’t the weakest links of privacy, but instead CEOs and employees with their laptop screens wide open for the whole world.

A thing I am a bit skeptical though, is the Galaxy Note 4. The resolution I saw looked amazing, but I just wonder how well the Note’s computing power performs and how long the battery lasts with more heavy-duty 3D environments? I know the Samsung guys would say that the device holds more computing power than many laptops a couple of years back. I guess we’ll just need to see when the actual device with some real content comes out.

Anyway, as a first very quick impression, the headset seemed quite nice. So I am interested in seeing its release and how it might stir up ecosystems around VR headsets.

Cultural heritage and new media seminar – HIVE, Curtin University 25.9.

Dr Torsten Reiners presenting the nDiVE
Dr Torsten Reiners presenting the nDiVE

Two of our nDiVE team members participated in an interesting seminar or get-together of like minded people at Curtin University HIVE (Hub for Immersive Visualisation and eResearch). Professor Erik Champion had organized an interesting event where presenters from various projects and instances in and outside Curtin (the farthest was all the way from Brazil) presented their projects and discussed possible collaborations in the area of digital humanities, cultural/virtual heritage and virtual worlds.

It seems people are doing interesting projects here, but the challenge is as always I guess: how to connect interested people to each other and keep up the great momentum. At least events such as this seems like a nice step towards that. Some pictures and short summaries of some of the presentations below!

Stuart Bender giving a short workshop in 3D filming
Stuart Bender giving a quick workshop in 3D filming

Stuart Bender was presenting his Maldives 3D filming project, in addition to giving a short but engaging 3D filming workshop where we were able to test 3D cameras by ourselves. The introduction gave cool new ideas for the nDiVE project, and the 3D stereoscopic ideas from filming could benefit our work with immersive virtual environments and using head-mounted displays such as the Oculus Rift.

It seems that 3D filming is getting easier and more consumer-friendly. With emerging inexpensive head-mounted displays like Google Cardboard or Duroviz, and the possibility to rig two GoPro cameras together, you could be presenting your own 3D shorts with your mobile phone to your friends in no-time. Still, as Stuart was emphasised, old rules from 2D rules do not always apply and there are things you need to consider.

I have to say that I was intrigued by the recreational 3D filming possibilities also for scuba diving, now that the gear is getting cheaper all the time and for example GoPro introduced the double camera rig (which you could actually built yourself too).

Jeff Harris from SciTech presenting the possibilities to use the planetarium
Jeff Harris from SciTech presenting the possibilities to use the planetarium

Jeff Harris from SciTech discussed possible collaborations with the SciTech planetarium. You would usually think that planetariums are for, well, for presenting cosmic things and whatnots. Based on Jeff’s presentation and talks with him, it can be much more, and they are happy to collaborate.

Demetreus Lacet presenting his projects in Brazil
Demetrius Lacet presenting his projects from Brazil

Demetrius Lacet gave an interesting presentation in the area of virtual heritage and developing content that can be used with inexpensive mobile head-mounted displays such as the Google Cardboard and Durovis. His project has been engaging youth to produce cool stuff in the area of virtual heritage. I don’t think it needs to be said that projects like his are very important ways to give kids a medium to develop and use their energy and creativity.

A couple of interesting links from the seminar:
Trove: http://trove.nla.gov.au
Digital Humanities 2015 conference: http://dh2015.org
eResearch Australasia Conference: http://conference.eresearch.edu.au

Project team PhD update

teras candidacy presentationSource of the original image: Wikipedia

Our team is happy to announce that our PhD candidate Marko Teras, (well, me!), passed his candidacy presentation last week. How excellent is that!

The thesis, titled as Critical factors that produce and authentic context in an immersive virtual environment for safety training, will examine how virtual environments that are used with head-mounted displays such as Oculus Rift, and interacted with control devices such as Razer Hydra, will support practical skills acquisition in safety training.

The research project will not merely examine how technology alone through immersion “produces” something we might call a context, but also investigates how authentic learning design and possibly gamification processes (e.g. Deterding et al., 2011, Gamification Research Network) might support producing an authentic context.

That’s about it. Short and sweet. More updates on the study as it progresses!

Mobile and Embodied Virtual Reality

3634491365_c63c7ab8c5_zImage by Playing Futures: Applied Nomadology

Our nDiVE crew has been following the latest discussion around virtual reality (VR) with great interests. New technologies like Cyberith’s Virtualizer seem to be emerging, directing us to use our bodies as the user interface and the way to interact with immersive virtual environments. Then there’s the latest Oculus + Samsung collaboration that lets you attach a mobile device into a headset and bang, you’re ready to be immersed.

This raises all sorts of new interesting questions. How might this bring down the costs and the “wow” of virtual environments (for professional use) in the future? Could VR become as ubiquitous and “normal” as the Internet itself? Perhaps a one way of navigating it? Could it be that in 10 years or less users and learners just launch their own mobile devices the same way the students of today their laptops?

Oculus Rift seems to be going forward like a freight train and challenging the technological status quo with innovative thinking – and at least now, their deal with Facebook does not seem to be harming things too much. Interesting times to study these technologies!

Oculus Rift arrived

A very short post: The OCULUS RIFT arrived (www.oculusvr.com). 

First impression: Far better than expected. The immersion is perfect. To perfect. I checked for the person in the back of the car when Kirsten called me from behind. I tried to grab the keyboard in the virtual scene, not the one on the desk. And yes, being afraid of heights is not limited to the real world. Longer report follows, will try if my simple unity terminal is working, waiting for a long time to walk through my created maze.

IMG_9707 IMG_9706 IMG_9704 IMG_9702 IMG_9701

Offering a scholarship for a PhD “Gamified skills-training environment”

We are delighted to announce that we are offering a PhD scholarship in the School of Information Systems at Curtin University, Perth, Australia. This scholarship is for a student working on the topic “research on a gamified skills-training environment using Design Science Research.”

The PhD scholarship supports a learning and teaching grant:

This project develops and trials immersive virtual environments as an innovative and authentic approach to teaching and learning for practical skill acquisition, with integrated assessment and feedback. Educational and assessment tools allow students to demonstrate that they have successfully applied theoretical knowledge in real contexts and achieved appropriate skills before entering workforces. Greater authenticity allows students to experience multiple roles and business cases. The project addresses the largely ‘inauthentic’ pedagogical approaches currently used in classrooms and distance-learning environments. It proposes a methodology utilising existing technologies in creative and innovative ways. The simulation combines emerging technologies to project multiple business dimensions into one space; enabling students from different disciplines to observe, engage, interact, and participate in self-guided or group-based learning scenarios; receiving instant, multi-perspective, rich feedback to support their learning; enabling iterative scenario-based training in a safe environment. Experiments and evaluations are executed on supply chain scenarios where, in reality, business dimensions like space or time impose difficulties in understanding impacts of decisions.

The focus of the PhD is the application of authentic immersive virtual environments in Higher Education. The Design Science Research method will be used to establish whether a gamified skills-training environment is an effective method to increase engagement in both routine training (e.g., regular health and safety training) and experiential/active learning (e.g., university-based education or situation-specific training such as evaluation of a new system or new facility layout). The PhD incorporates one or more of the following topics: 3D environments, authentic learning in 3D spaces, implementing scenario models, software engineering, methodology, conceptual development of the visualisation/human computer interaction, complex systems, and interaction between components. However, these suggested areas are examples rather than an exhaustive list and the scholarship recipient will be encouraged to explore these areas for her or his interest for a focal research.

The candidate is expected to have some experiences and interests in the following (or equivalent) areas

  • Completed Master (or equivalent degree) to enrol in a PhD program.
  • Good written and spoken English.
  • Extensive programming experience in OOP and scripting languages.
  • Experience and/or interest in virtual environments, virtual worlds, games; e.g., developments in environments like Second Life, OpenSim, and Unity.
  • Willingness to conduct experiments with focus groups to test the artefacts.
  • Ability and willingness to engage in joint research projects and team activities.
  • Ability to communicate with academic and professional audiences; e.g., with industry partners in the project.
  • Willingness to publish the research outcomes in high-ranked journals and conferences.
  • Interest in computer games.

The PhD is sponsored; that is the tuition is covered and the student will receive for 2.5 years (option to extend) approx AUD 27,000 pa.

The PhD student will be supervised by Dr Torsten Reiners (t.reiners@curtin.edu.au) and Dr Lincoln C. Wood (l.wood@curtin.edu.au), and Christian Gütl (christian.guetl@iicm.tugraz.at). Please contact either of them for further information.

First meeting

First meeting – going well. Lots of great ideas and plans being discussed, particularly drawing on the expertise of the team relating to evaluation and group interviews. We’ve all got a much better idea of what we need to do and we are busy filling in the gaps in our research plan.

Still very confusing with the range of different collaborative tools for researchers. Nothing on the market that brings everything together – we wish we had Google Wave running!

2013 will kick of with the same pace of work, with implementation and initial work picking up over the next couple of weeks. Great work, everyone.

WordPress – Facebook Connection Test Post

No magic? They know what I shop, where I travel, when I drink, when I eat. And always match this with the best advertisement. Searched for a book, got the offer for the DVD. Thirsty? Just wait for their suggestion what I would like to have.

BUT when it comes to set up you social websites. Nothing. I expected the “Just do it” button. One click and every word is posted everywhere, friends are automatically bought and added to my social media sides, some companies offer me fancy items from their 3D printers, and maybe the first offer to be taken over by some companies. No, it is even difficult to set something up. Just the Facebook link for having all from here posted on out project wall cost me a lot of time. At least I have now some new accounts, Facebook did send me many SMSs, and maybe becomes friend with me.

Alright. Time to hit post and see what happens. Expectation: None. Fun part is that Lincoln will get notifications for new posts with every time I try something different.

 

Whatsoever. If I did something right, this post will appear on Facebook.