Diving Into Virtual Reality With Bobby Carlton

We are seeing VR technology becoming less tethered, notes VRScout’s Bobby Carlton. “There’s a big movement around freeing users—letting them have a full range of motion.”

Although I don’t spend a lot of time sporting the latest virtual reality (VR) headset, I do find tremendous value in immersive learning environments. I regularly explore VR tools and technologies, and promote their value in the training space. At the same time, I am not comfortable walking around a physical room wired to several devices while immersed in a virtual experience.

With so many new companies offering immersive training solutions via augmented reality (AR), VR, and 360 video, I realized it might be time to dive deeper into this space. So I turned to my favorite AR/VR expert: Bobby Carlton, a scout at VRScout covering VR and AR news.

I started by asking Bobby to share what he thinks is novel in the VR space.

“We are no longer living in a world where we need to have expensive computers power expensive headsets—they’re really not over-priced anymore,” he notes. “At the same time, we are seeing the technology becoming less tethered. There’s a big movement around freeing users—letting them have a full range of motion. That capability is coming from what’s called inside-out tracking. With inside-out tracking, the sensors that used to be external and set around the room now are built into VR headsets. Those sensors are scanning outward and tracking your gestures and motions from within the headset. This evolution frees users, enabling them to perform physical motions without having to worry about pulling (or tripping over) a cable.”

I see this evolution as a good thing. I have been tangled up in too many wires, and I’m typically the one who trips over that cable.

COST FACTOR

Let’s go back to that shift in affordability. As a learning technology evangelist, I play with new tools on a regular basis. The trend I see does indicate a much lower cost of entry on the development side of VR-based training solutions. Bobby agrees.

“Think about the way WordPress changed Web development,” he says. “That sort of ‘drag-anddrop’ development process now exists in the VR space. You can easily go online, find a 3-D rendering of an object such as a building or a car motor, drop that into a VR engine, and publish directly from there. Knowing how to code is no longer necessary. Of course, it’s helpful to know some coding because then you can manipulate the environment. But, in some cases, it’s as simple as dragging and dropping an item into an app and hitting publish.”

I have done this, and it was pretty simple. I was surprised at how many VR assets are out there, and how easy it is to combine different assets to layer content in these apps to create an immersive experience.

GETTING BUY-IN

As simple as creating VR might be, there’s still the hurdle of getting buy-in from key stakeholders. I asked Bobby for his take on this.

“Business leaders need to understand how VR works,” he stresses. “They need to understand the type of VR experiences that are available, as well as the technology required to deliver those experiences. They need to consider the specific experiences they want their learners to move through, and the range of data they need to get from their learners in order to measure that learning experience.”

Playing devil’s advocate, I mentioned we also need to consider that VR learning experiences are not always appropriate. There are also issues about wearing VR headsets for extended periods of time—they’re not that comfortable (even if they’re more affordable!). As I raised these concerns, Bobby reminded me that kids in K-12 are learning in VR now, and they’re going to expect to have access to immersive VR learning experiences as they enter the workforce.

As we wrapped up, Bobby shared an interesting application of VR in use:

“I worked on a VR experience designed to train workers how to react in a bank robbery,” he relates. “There was a painting on one wall in the virtual space, and the learners were distracted by it during the training scenarios. They spent two seconds on average looking at that painting instead of taking required actions. We removed that artwork and found there were no more hesitations. When building out the physical facility, the company decided not to put artwork on that wall based on the data we received in this training scenario.”

TAKE THE PLUNGE

If you are still shy about integrating VR into your learning experiences, take a look at my favorite VR experience of all time—Google Expedition. Not only can you easily step aboard the International Space Station, you can do it with a group, along with guiding information and questions geared toward different learning levels. No headset required. You can just hold your phone up or slip it into any number of Google cardboard-like holders.

Bottom line? Immerse yourself.

Phylise Banner is a learning experience design consultant with more than 25 years of vision, action, and leadership experience in transformational learning and development approaches. A pioneer in online learning, she is an Adobe Education Leader, Certified Learning Environment Architect, STC Fellow, performance storyteller, avid angler, and private pilot.

HEADS-UP ON HEADSETS

Tether-free headsets: HTC Focus, Oculus Go, Oculus Quest

Alternative headsets: Gear VR, Daydream View, Google Cardboard

Phylise Banner is a learning experience design consultant with more than 25 years of vision, action, and leadership experience in transformational learning and development approaches. A pioneer in online learning, she is an Adobe Education Leader, Certified Learning Environment Architect, STC Fellow, performance storyteller, avid angler, and private pilot.

 

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