On Monday of this week, InTELA hosted VR Day at Marlborough School in Los Angeles. Thanks to the amazing connections and hard work of my colleagues, a fantastic line up of presenters filled the morning with talks of the future, bleeding edge technology, and the ethical considerations of VR, AR, and AI in our society today.

We started the morning with Milica Zec from New Reality who presented Tree, a VR film described as follows on their website:

This virtual-reality project transforms you into a rainforest tree. With your arms as branches and your body as the trunk, you’ll experience the tree’s growth from a seedling into its fullest form and witness its fate firsthand.

Milica’s presentation was only part one, as she allowed attendees to see and experience the film in VR gear in a separate room during the day.

The second presentation, from Megan Lubaszka, SW Region Creative Media Leader at Gensler, shared how they are using VR and AR in the architecture and design fields to enhance the user experience. According to the presenter, they are using VR in approximately 40% of their current projects. One video demonstrated how designers and architects from around the world could gather inside a virtual model, walk around, see each other, and converse as if all were in the building…before it exists in the real world. While not the same video, here’s one I found on Vimeo about their work in VR.

Chris Chin, Senior Director of VR Content at HTC, was our next presenter. He shared the work being done with HTC Vive specific to Education and Health Services, stating the company foresees education as the second largest market for VR in the coming years. HTC has partnered with Foundry10, an organization whose “objective is to better understand the experiences, passions, and relationships that drive learning.” Chris talked about some of the research findings at Foundry10. One revealing data bit showed that students surveyed about their interest in VR stated that rather than gaming, they preferred to engage in experiences that were “real world.”

Our final presenter was Todd Richmond, Director of Advanced Prototype Development at the Institute for Creative Technologies at USC. He presented Ethics in Augmented and Virtual Reality. He dove deep into the social, ethical and moral issues surrounding new technologies, specifically AR/VR and artificial intelligence. This topic was incredibly thought-provoking and timely as we in education prepare to embark on the AR/VR road trip without much forethought and a dearth of research into the value, impact, effectiveness and potential harm of these new technologies.

The second half of the day was divided into stations, where attendees could get a hands-on experience with a variety of these tools. I was fortunate enough to experience Tree and must admit feeling a bit overwhelmed as I immersed myself in this rainforest, starting off as a seedling, growing out from the ground and soon above ground to see the world around me. I witnessed “firsthand” the destruction of the flora around me through fires and deforestation.

Thank you to the organizers (Steven, Tom, Angela, Jolina and Shauna), volunteers, and presenters for an amazing day of learning, thinking, networking and exploring. I am excited, and a bit trepidatious, about the future of VR in education.

Are you using VR or AR technologies at your school or place of work? I’d love to learn about it. Comments are welcome below.


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