What Color is the Car?

Using VR and AR to drive learner exploration.

GUEST COLUMN | by Rob Manson

Statens Museum for Kunst SMK.dk.pngWhen my son was little I remember helping he and his friends learn to cross the road safely. When we started, they got the usual drill about looking both ways and all the parents felt we’d done a great job briefing them. But when it came to actually crossing the road the kids would stand on the curb and just swivel their head left and right without taking in what was really going on around them at all. I realized then that they were literally acting out our instructions with no concept of what the real goal was. Obviously, getting them to focus on the big picture of “road safety” was a bit of a stretch at this age, so I thought deeply about how we could make them really “look” both ways. I also thought about how I could validate and feel confident that they were actually doing what we needed them to. After much discussion we came across the idea of asking one simple, probing question that would solve this problem.

What color is the car?

This simple question changed the way they behaved on the curb. Their “little detective” instantly kicked in and they were now scanning the street intently trying to be the first to spot the color of any on-coming cars. This is exactly the type of behavior that VR and AR can deliver for education. It lets you immerse people in a situation where you can drive them to really explore content in a more deeply engaging way.

27 steps is too far!

Getting access to these VR and AR experiences can be a massive hurdle. With one app we found it took 27 steps to get the user from “knowing there’s an experience available” to “actually using the experience”. And many options require specific hardware, which means if you’re creating VR/AR content then you need to spend more time and effort creating a different version for the many different brands of Head Mounted Display.

There is an easier way

Imagine you could easily experience location based AR (like Pokemon Go) with the richness of 360° photos and videos by simply clicking on a web link. No need to find, download and install an app.

Well you can do this right now. Your mobile web browser already lets you and your students experience this content – all you need is a link. Best of all you and your students can not only experience VR and AR, you can create your own content too using nothing but your web browser – all you need is a web link.

So now I’d ask you one question. If you could create VR and AR that’s easy to share and runs in your web browser – what would you create?
Here’s one simple example that shows you how you can drive your students to really explore some space or location.

What color is the girl’s hair?

In a normal online quiz, the place and the way in which the questions are asked are often quite separate from the task itself. Especially when it comes to using new equipment or other skills based competencies. By contrast, the in-situ quiz quite literally uses a visual representation of the “situation”. The learner is put in a simulation of the situation and asked to interact as they would in real life. This can be as simple or as complex as you like and is a great way of turning any equipment, place or location into an interactive quiz. Just take a 360° photo and add interactivity.

First, we need to work out the location we’re going to use. For this example we’re going to use some great existing 360° photos from the National Gallery of Denmark (http://www.smk.dk/). These photos were taken using a Ricoh Theta by Peter Leth – we’d like to thank Peter for his Creative Commons contributions. For this demo we’re going to use the following four photos from one single room:
PHOTO 1 (we start here)
PHOTO 2
PHOTO 3
PHOTO 4

There are over 5,000 of these images on Flickr you can access or you can capture your own using one of the popular 360° cameras or apps. Of course you can upload this type of 360° media to Facebook or Youtube, but they only present them as static “display bubbles” and you can only look around inside one at a time. But it’s the interactivity here that’s key. To create an in-situ quiz that really engages people you need to add some interactive objects or hotspots and link them together to define the quiz’s question/answer flow.

In our example we combine these four different 360° photos together with some interactive hotspots to let you walk around the room to explore the different artworks. You’ll see giant orange circles on the floor and if you tap or click on those you’ll then load the 360° photo from that location. These giant orange spots can be any type of media you like. You can use images, videos, 3D primitive shapes or 3D models. And adding interactivity and animations here adds a lot of engagement value too.

Now we need to work out a question we can ask our student in order to verify they’ve really explored the artwork in this room. For this example we’re going to use “What color is the girl’s hair?”. Of course anyone else could add any other questions they liked over this existing quiz and Peter’s photos too – this is just one simple example.

Here are some screenshots to show what this type of in-situ quiz looks like, or of course you can just click on this link to try it for yourself. Try it on you computer, your mobile or your tablet. And if you’d like to try it in your Cardboard style VR Viewer then you can just tap the orange circle in the bottom right corner then hit the “stereo” button. It’s that easy – no app downloads required.

TIP: If you like cardboard with your mobile device but want something a bit more portable and comfortable you might want to look at these pop-up VR phone cases that are sold for as low as $4. Checkout this cool animated gif that shows how it works. 

If you create these types of VR/AR apps using the modern web then people can experience your immersive creation by just tapping on a link to open it in their browser. It will work in over 3 billion capable browsers and can be viewed both with and without a Head Mounted Display or Cardboard Viewer.

A new experience, right now

Using these modern web standards, you can create a whole new type of immersive experience that can be shared instantly with anyone. This is a whole new wave of computing and using these modern web standards you can create this type of experience for yourself, right now.

However, this is just the smallest slice of what’s possible with a modern web platform that supports Mixed Reality (VR and AR). These immersive learning experiences can be customized based on who the user is, what their role is, where they are in the world, their previous learner analytics and even personalized learning objectives. And all kinds of smart VR and AR tracking can be added – e.g., gaze, hand, face, marker, image and object tracking. This provides a whole new generation of learner analytics.

On top of this, students can easily create their own immersive content too. This enables them to annotate the world around them leaving virtual messages and content in-situ. With these modern web tools “creation” is not something you go back to a desk to do. It’s something you and your students do on your mobile device while you’re out in the real world.

Pervasive and immersive learning is now possible using the modern web – just click on a link and go.

This in-situ quiz was created using a freemium SaaS tool which gives you the power to create these types of experiences. You can create your own awe app for free right now, and because this is simply built using the latest open web standards you can share this link just like any other web link. Or even embed it on another web page just like a YouTube video.

Rob Manson is CEO and co-founder of the Awe Media platform which gives people the power to make 360 photos and videos truly interactive; users can create, view and share VR and AR content using a web browser on any device without any app store downloads, installs or updates. Awe Media is a 2017 EdTech Award honoree.

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