Tag Archives: virtual environments

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VR Set to Collide With Pop Culture at London Film & Comic Con’s Inaugural VR Zone

As 2016 rolls on, virtual and augmented realities are increasingly hitting the spotlight. We’ll be showcasing the latest developments, connecting with early adopters and networking with the best developers from the UK and beyond at this July’s London Film & Comic Con by powering the event’s inaugural VR Zone. 

What’s the big deal about virtual and augmented realities?

Virtual reality (VR) transports the user out of their everyday world and immerses them in a 360-degree environment. While VR headsets are generally more affordable and accessible at the moment, thanks to low cost headsets such as Google Cardboard and Gear VR, most headsets have to be tethered to a computer. VR has growing applications for videogames, as well as viewing films, sporting and music events and promos for the latest TV series.

Augmented reality (AR) superimposes interactive digital content into the real world, blending real and virtual realities. Unlike VR, AR systems are standalone and don’t need to be tethered to a computer but this evolving technology is more expensive and still largely in development. Many headsets are being developed specifically for businesses and industry, potentially sparking the next Industrial Revolution.

There’s little doubt that VR and AR are going to be big. CCS Insight is predicting that 800,000 VR headsets will be sold in the UK this year—an impressive number for what’s still classed as an emerging industry. In the longer term, VR market revenue is likely to reach $30 billion by 2020, with AR reaching around $90 billion.

The new reality movement needs a central hub, so we’re building it…

PAULEY’s mission is to become the definitive source of information for mixed realities and immersive technologies, and we will be constantly striving to achieve this goal. Our new pages offer a one-stop source of information, news and views for consumers and developers alike.

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Our brand new VR/AR Resource Centre is designed to help users explore science, technology, engineering and maths through our pick of the best immersive, virtual and augmented worlds. Within this microsite, you can browse our favourite 360 videos, apps and games, sort by device and then click straight through to the download site.

We have also created a linked page that details the hardware and peripherals already on the market and those soon set to join it. The aim of this is to empower anyone interested in immersive media by walking them through the options and helping them understand the best way to get involved. Take a look now to see how you can enter virtual and augmented worlds on your own terms by choosing the headset and creation tools that are right for you.

In addition, we’ve created an online community for VR, AR and mixed reality developers. Here, developers will find advice, tips and useful resources for working in the field of VR and AR development. This network will also connect developers with job opportunities, and unite employers with a community of leading British developers.

As always, we’ll continue to publish the most exciting, inspiring, up-to-date news on our Tech Review microsite, where you’ll also find our blog posts and other updates.

Introducing new realities to the London Film & Comic Con’s VR Zone

We’re excited to be hosting this massive event’s very first virtual reality and immersive technologies area, the VR Zone, alongside the annual themes of movies, TV, comics, sports, wrestling, literature and games.

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By showcasing the most inspiring, state-of-the-art developments in the field today, the VR Zone will form a major part of our effort to engage people with emerging technologies, and to raise the profile of VR, AR, and 360 video developers and companies from the UK and beyond.

We will be tapping into the diversity of the London Film & Comic Con’s 100,000 attendees and vast associated media attention, using it as an outstanding opportunity to bring virtual reality right into the centre of the entertainment industry and into people’s lives. We hope to replicate the success of the event’s Young Adult Literature Convention, which runs alongside the main event to attract a youthful demographic and which successfully positions reading in the wider arena of popular culture.

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We’re seeking a few more exciting developers to join us in showcasing their product or solution to a diverse, enthusiastic audience. So please do email [email protected] or give us a call on 01908 522 532 if you’re interested in getting involved!

Anyone interested in attending as a visitor can buy Comic Con tickets here.

We hope to see you at the VR Zone to help us celebrate the exciting future of VR, AR and immersive realities!

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Blending Reality in Classrooms for the Benefit of All

Long gone are the days of rote learning around the blackboard with the teacher holding a half-broken piece of chalk. Classrooms have become more hi-tech, with interactive whiteboards now a standard centrepiece for group learning, and increasing numbers of teachers eager to experiment with the latest touchscreens and mobile devices. Could virtual reality (VR) be the next big thing?

VR training has already been widely adopted by commercial companies, games developers and the military. Even in the medical field, more devices and apps are catering to improving the skills of doctors and surgeons using both virtual and mixed reality.

Interest in VR is growing exponentially into other sectors, such as education, because of the rapid technological advances in the hardware (see this recent blog for our review of the field). Portable headsets are now making immersive experiences possible in everyday settings.

The advantages of VR in education

Researchers in the field have already seen the benefits of VR in schools.  It seems, when used correctly, that this approach can strengthen the overall learning experience.

It’s often stated that the typical person can remember 20% of what we hear, 30% of what we see and up to 90% of what we do or experience. That gives some clue to the revolutionary effectiveness of VR—what we call active participation learning.

Advantages include:

  • Simplifying learning by more direct communication of concepts and less symbolism, reducing the cognitive load when students are learning.
  • Enabling the student to have a completely personal learning experience.
  • Increasing attention span as a result of doing something enjoyable and motivating.
  • Providing the ability to see and experience things/places that couldn’t otherwise be accessed.
  • Encouraging group activity and interaction—and even global link-ups.
  • Offering students a boost to their digital literacy and computing skills.
  • Boosting a teacher’s ability to be creative with content in a brand new medium.
  • Improving opportunities for students who struggle to make sense of traditional forms of communication, e.g. children with dyslexia.

VR for teaching science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM)

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There are huge opportunities for VR across the breadth of education but STEM subjects may be set to benefit the most from immersing students in content.

The success of Minecraft goes some way towards demonstrating this. This videogame—which involves creating structures inside 3D environments—made the leap into schools as educators realised its potential. Minecraft has been successful in improving visual-spatial skills and collaboration between students as they build scale models and “walk through” the structures they have created.

VR takes that one step further by immersing students in a virtual world. In a VR environment, students can walk around mathematical graphs and 3D surfaces, explore examples of complex engineering up close, and experiment in a laboratory without fear of doing anything dangerous or costly. It is possible to take a tour through the human body, from the perspective of a blood cell or molecule.

The World of Comenius project, for example, is using Oculus Rift headsets and Leap Motion controllers to deliver educational content. Still in development, the final program may include experience such as playing around with atoms at the quantum level, meeting people from history and exploring their world, or swimming around inside a cell.

The Tennessee Aquarium Conservation Initiative has created a VR experience in which students can snorkel down the Conasauga River to explore its biodiversity and the issues of pollution and conservation.

Immersive 360-degree videos are proliferating on Facebook and YouTube, giving viewers a sense of depth in every direction. New consumer gadgets such as Samsung’s Gear 360 camera will make creating these types of videos straightforward for anyone, too.

Short documentaries are already being made specifically for viewing in VR, which temporarily transport the viewer into complex and difficult situations such as civil unrest in Hong Kong and the Ebola epidemic.

A new kind of learning experience

Using VR in education may actually alter the way in which we learn as it blurs and redefines the boundaries of formal education. Experiences can start to reach far beyond the classroom.

VR is a way to not only consume content but also to create content as part of the learning experience. Students can get involved with programming, problem solving and exploration of this new technology.

New VR learning platforms will offer teachers and students the ability to create avatars and create multi-player sessions to achieve a previously unattainable level of socialisation and outreach.

VR technologies such as 8i will allow 3D videos of teachers to be seen in VR—allowing students not only to see and listen to them, but also to walk around them and feel that they are sharing the same room. This remote, emotional connection would be ideal for tutoring at a distance, virtual classrooms and eventually live streaming conversations.

In the future, as augmented reality (AR) becomes accessible the opportunities are even more exciting, because students could visualise holographic-style media overlaid onto their real world surroundings.

Making VR a reality

It’s true that the vast majority of VR and AR technologies already on the market—or soon to be released—are relatively expensive pieces of kit, mainly targeting developers. Yet, as uptake increases, prices are set to become more affordable.

Low-cost routes into VR are available through simpler devices such as Google Cardboard that can be purchased for around £10 and make use of normal smartphones. Google’s Expeditions initiative is aiming to bring “virtual field trips” to every classroom.

At PAULEY, we’re passionate about integrating new forms of virtual, augmented and mixed reality into education to give pioneering educators an exciting opportunity to accelerate learning. With VR, here are truly no boundaries to where we can go and what we can learn.

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PAULEY Showcases 3D E-Learning at Space Situational Awareness Conference

  • PAULEY sponsors first Space Situational Awareness Conference
  • Collective efforts to ‘clean up’ Low Earth Orbits is essential
  • Virtual 3D environments could help tackle the problem

PAULEY were delighted to sponsor the inaugural Space Situational Awareness Conference 2013. 

We were invited to showcase our virtual reality visualisation of space using our Oculus Rift developer kit. The 80 international delegates, from research laboratories to government departments and private companies, were queuing up at our stand throughout the two days to take the immersive trip into space.

We garnered some great feedback over the two days of the conference. But why might accurate visualisation of space be such an important asset in the years to come? And how could we help?

Situational space awareness gains urgency

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As Alfonso Cuarón’s Gravity wins plaudits for its portrayal of astronauts fighting for survival after a devastating mid-space collision, we’re becoming increasingly aware of the complex machinery orbiting beyond our atmosphere.

The central plot of the film – in which debris from a destroyed satellite sweeps catastrophically around Earth – isn’t that preposterous. While the movie may portray spacecraft to be much closer than they are in reality, we are launching new objects into orbit all the time.

And collisions do happen. In 2009, the satellite Iridium 33 collided with an out-of-service Russian satellite, creating thousands of pieces of debris. While most of that debris is now thought to have burnt up in the atmosphere, the ISS had to perform an avoidance manoeuvre two years after the event.

“Situational space awareness can no longer afford to be ignored,” says our founder, Phil Pauley. “It’s essential that R&D, industry and military organisations continue to join forces.”

Out of sight, out of mind?

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In this modern, interconnected world, so much of what we do depends upon space satellites, from communications to weather forecasting, navigation and defence. There are around 1,000 active satellites in orbit today, with a net worth of €100 billion. They must be protected.

But there are threats to this status quo, in the form of naturally occurring space weather (predominantly solar flares and cosmic rays), asteroids and comets, and man-made space debris.

The debris issue is a growing problem. Causing most problems in low Earth orbits, debris is found where the majority of satellites used for observations, communications and military surveillance operate.

20,000 items of ‘space junk’ larger than a mobile phone are being tracked, and half a million smaller fragments are circling our planet. Travelling at speeds of 5 miles a second, they can do a lot more harm than you might think.

Just because we can’t see space debris from Earth, doesn’t mean it isn’t there. Tools such as ours could help accurately visualise the extent of the situation, make it real, and create ways to address the problem and help find solutions.

This month’s conference was recognition of the fact that something must be done. Despite political, military and international boundaries, it seems that those invested in space must start working together to take collective responsibility for debris.

Moving towards collective responsibility

Suggested approaches include launching ‘clean-up’ missions to collect large, disused and hazardous objects. Rockets armed with harpoons, robotic arms or nets could collect space junk and then either launch it out into a less crowded orbit or swing it back into the Earth’s atmosphere to burn up.

How PAULEY could help

Screenshot_2013-11-15-09-14-24The UK and international space industry is growing rapidly, and our reliance on the information gathered and distributed by spacecrafts and satellites is booming. There are plenty of challenges and opportunities ahead.

Much discussion at the conference centred on finding ways of incentivising a consistent process of cleaning up. Do we look at implementing a kind of global space traffic control, perhaps, using our technology to allow us to see what’s happening remotely?

Industry, government and business, some of whom we met at the SSA 2013 Conference, are keen to find new ways of training those involved in the industry, to visualise crafts in space, and to begin astronaut preparation in immersive e-learning environments on Earth.

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A Future of Endless Interactive Training and Virtual Learning Opportunities

Advances in computer graphics and technology have already offered us opportunities to enhance training through the use of virtual environments, 3D product modelling, touch screen, and mobile devices. But there is much more to come as manufacturers continue to innovate and create even more engaging opportunities for interactive training and virtual learning experiences.

Unfortunately, many training tools and content that exist today, are still static, unintuitive, overwhelming, and disconnected from the real world. They don’t relay information as an instructor would in a live training session. Live sessions themselves however, can be expensive, limited in reach, and hard to schedule. Virtual  environments can be used to replicate real scenarios in a digital environment and facilitate interactive and virtual training from practically anywhere without the need for a live instructor. This facility currently empowers companies to accelerate user learning, reduce training costs and decrease expensive live training by being Visual, Immersive and Scalable. Training can be tailored to individuals or groups and is accessible 24/7.

Instructional information can be displayed as interactive content that mirrors the real world in both ‘form’ and ‘function’. Simply put, this means it looks like the real thing, and acts like it. Particularly useful for technically challenging training and system operations and maintenance, interactive training can transform the learning experience and offer flexible options where it is difficult to get the individual to the real life equipment. It is becoming increasingly difficult to align tutors and end users with physical equipment.

Key benefits to using a fully interactive solution, include:

  • Learn-by-doing
    Unlike static text or images, 3D interactivity adds unprecedented depth to training and technical publications by turning passive observers into active, hands-on participants.
  • Fault-based Scenario Training
    3D interactive training available can create true-to-life immersive scenarios to troubleshoot faults and tasks as they would occur in the real world.
  • Lower Training Costs
    Reduce the travel costs, facility expense, and instructor fees associated with live training for operating & maintaining equipment. No need to print paper-based materials or ship equipment to and from each location.
  • Train Anytime, Anywhere & Reduce Operational Risk
    Train large, distributed workforces to perform complex tasks with no risk to staff or equipment, on WEB, PC, MOBILE & TABLETS.
  • Crawl-Walk-Run
    Multiple modes of instruction to Explore, Study, Practice and Evaluate.
  • Easy Deployment
    Content modules are designed and developed to promote reuse of 3D content across the training curriculum. Critical updates are pushed out to the field immediately.
  • Competency Management
    Digital reports can be generated as a result of tracking when an individual has read/viewed training material, making it easier for management teams and tutors to keep a record of what training has been completed and when.

Interactive virtual training is currently deployed in many different industries, but is still really in its infancy. There are industries where interactive training can be extremely effective. In manufacturing, transport and logistics and engineering, for example, Simulation and Interactive 3D Visualisation can be used to train staff in how to maintain and operate machinery using interactive tools and the application of that training to the live environment can be completed with relative ease. Virtual training is also very useful for re-training or ongoing assessment, so even if an individual has been trained in a real-time environment in the first instance, there training updates can be conducted through a virtual interface, saving on ongoing training costs. Interactive training courses can help staff deliver effective after sales service too.

Vision of the future: In store touch screens

Vision of the future: In store touch screens

3D graphics and virtual environments can also be used in the retail industry, online, instore or even on touch screens within window displays. Touch screens are also used to capture visitor data (eg, brochure requests etc) and for way finding around shopping centres and large stores. The medical industry are also using technical animation as a sales tool to demonstrate products and train staff in their use and application.

In classrooms, smart boards can now be seen, which allow teachers to create a more interactive experience for their pupils. These are likely to be superceeded by fully interactive classrooms when the pupils have an element of control over what they see and learn, and the speed at which they progress.

So you may ask yourself, how can technology improve your opportunities even further?

The simple answer to this is innovation in manufacturing – The evolution of ‘Glass based’ touch screen technology.

Interactive learning is becoming the expected delivery method amongst our younger generations as tablets, smart phones and tv’s become mainstream tools in our homes, and as the mobile phone turns 40 years old and is becoming the most popular gadget in the world. But the opportunities for even greater levels of engagement is likely to mean that it will become the ‘norm’ and exist not only inside , but also outside every classroom across the globe.

Technology already exists that will facilitate interactive learning during every action that we take during our day, not just within a classroom or working environment, but it is currently unaffordable at the sort of scale required. A company called Corning have a vision of a future where transparent glass touch points could exist in our house, cars, at outdoor venues and in schools and offices (see http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6Cf7IL_eZ38). Transparent glass could be applied to doors, windows and even dashboards in cars that could be configured to produce a touch dashboard controlled by software on a mobile tablet. Further innovation in manufacturing could make this a reality in the not too distant future.

So not only can we now create 3d virtual environments and projections that you can interact with, but we will also be able to display these graphics on many different devices from small hand held tablets to large scale walls and windows. This increases the scope for our whole world to become a virtual learning environment, from learning what products are available in the interactive store window as a consumer, to selecting what to buy from the virtual supermarket, to learning how to operate heavy machinery as a skilled engineer at work or following the curriculum as a school child. Everywhere we go and look there will be a touch point that we can engage with. Physical objects may become less and less familiar to us during the course of our waking hours.

Visions of the future: Virtual consultations in operating theatres and Interactive tables in classrooms

Visions of the future: Virtual consultations in operating theatres and Interactive tables in classrooms

The technology will impact all of us in some way or form. It is in fact opening up opportunities for fully immersive ‘virtual’ experiences in environments that wouldn’t have previously been able to facilitate it. For example, sterile glass may now make it possible to create a virtual operating theatre to train surgeons, and other medical staff, allowing them to collaborate remotely with other experts in an emergency situation. This could also be applied to forensics labs and reduces risks involved with using real patients. Surgeons can even operate on real patients from the other side of the world via virtual and realtime interfaces.

Touch screen tables and video walls that facilitate collaborative learning can already be seen in interactive galleries in museums and heritage centres and in exhibition environments. There is no reason why the use of these will not soon be extended into our offices, classrooms, and houses globally.

Capacitive touch, which is now widely accepted, allows more than one touch at once to be recognised. It is regularly cited as one of the key drivers of smartphone popularity and allows you to pinch, zoom and twist using multiple fingers. But 2014 could be the year when touchscreens are launched which react in three dimensions, not even requiring touch to recognise what action the device should take.

A prototype of a new touch screen has been developed that would allow apps and devices to be controlled using human (3D) gestures. A small USB device that you plug into your computer consisting of cameras and led lights, recognises, to an unbelievable degree of precision, your hand movements. Although Nintendo have already made strides towards this with their Wii devices, further development has the potential to change the way we interact with virtual environments and video games in the future, opening up a further wealth of opportunity when it comes to learning.

Transparent interactive signage already exists and can be informative, aesthetically pleasing and interactive. However, opportunities exist for the execution of this technology on a much larger scale if manufacturers can find a solution to hiding electronics and cables whilst retaining optical clarity. Transparent screens could create walls in large open spaces that remain clear when there is no display, but become an interactive show that enhances the landscapes when in use (known as “Smart Glass”).

Augmented reality is another up and coming educational tool. This allows for real environments to be augmented with additional relevant content (in 3D) through the use of transparent glass tablets with onboard 3d cameras.

The endless opportunities we have available to us are causing not only a significant shift in the way we communicate and engage technology, but are creating a future of ubiquitous displays, open operating systems, shared applications, cloud media storage and unlimited bandwidth . What have previously been obstacles, may now become an obtainable reliable reality.

Inspired by the innovative opportunities that might be open to you? Get in touch with us and we can help you make them become a reality! Email [email protected] or call 01908 522532.

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