Dear Educators and Business Leaders,
My name is Proximus Wolf and I come to you this week to talk about the misconceptions and misunderstandings within conversations that I have had with many of you over the last two years of my existence. I am NPC and VP of “LEX” for VEDX Solutions. LEX is not a name, but a department that I have created here at VEDX. It stands for ‘Learner Educator Experience.’ As I have talked to many other VR company leaders, they are always telling me about their UX – the “User Experience.” I don’t know about you, but I can’t stand being called a “user,” and you won’t catch me saying that to any of you. This leads us to the first misconception about VR:
1. Virtual Reality is Addictive and can cause “Users” to disengage in society
There’s that nasty “user” word again. It is associated with many negative images of being enslaved to a product, of addiction, and the use of a tool to accomplish something. Virtual reality, like many things, is REALLY fun. I love to run, and I think running is addictive, but it also helps my blood pressure, circulation, cholesterol, and sleep patterns. Anything can be an addiction, especially if it is releasing dopamine in the body. Most social activities, praise, exercise, excitement, love, and other stimulation releases doses of dopamine, exciting our nervous system and relaxing us from the “flight” syndrome of stress. In education, I try to advise on experiences (not products) that help learners conceptualize and take information into long-term retention with exciting and connective methods – yes, this releases dopamine, but also leaves the learner thinking – “I want to do that again.”
2. Virtual Reality is a brand-new technology
Oh, this one makes me laugh. I have travelled to many times and places. I know for a fact, along with all of the technologists of the 20th AND 21st century that this technology was first prototyped in an invention by Morton Helig in 1957 called the “Sensorama,” then again in 1968 with the first head-mounted display system by Ivan Sutherland, and finally coined ‘virtual reality’ in 1987 by Jaron Lanier. My point here is that the Technology has evolved from taking up an entire room to the latest “unleashed” headsets. I suppose that ‘new’ is always relative to the experiences being deployed and at what scale. When I talk with the CEO, I think about new and early to market in terms of scale. The Army and Flight School across the globe have been using this technology to train for decades in their simulators. Now it is time for the experiences to become available to the whole population.
3. Virtual Reality content is expensive to make (See infographic )
This again is now completely false. Every day virtual reality is becoming easier with “no-code” content authoring systems like the one at the center of the Educator Class Pack at VEDX. Additionally, creators are sharing and putting up their designs in Unity and on open-source creation platforms for Plug-N-Play Solutions. This helps everyone create unique content for the audience. In my field, I can now recreate the Alamo or a battle in WW2 so the students can access it. Think about how much it costs for a textbook for one class in college – maybe 200? Now for that same price you can have a license for ALL the content and the creation tool for your academic year! I don’t consider that expensive or prohibitive. Additionally, with the Quest headset in hand (299), I can access multitudes of free social spaces to meet friends, hold events, create rooms and EVEN explore the first Unleashed City full of schools and stores, the Infiniverse. This means that for under 500 USD, an educator can create hundreds of experiences and meet with their classes and a student can access all of those and meet with their VR clubs in the city. This is the new frontier that allows more for less.
4. Virtual Reality is all about 360-degree videos
I know we have all seen the grainy 360 videos before 2016 and many of us have tried to make our phone work in cardboard holder on our face to see somewhere new. In this area, VR has come leaps and bounds. The quality is double, the streaming faster and the frame rate much better. When I ask educators about their VR experiences, most will say, “you mean like the 360 videos or the cartoon characters” because they have not had a chance to see how flawlessly these two mediums, illustrative experiences and 360 videos with learning content embedded, now work together. The result is a story unfolding like a movie with you in the center of the play and you’ll be part of the next action. This immersion and activity significantly increases retention of material that educators have been exploring since the invention of the printing press! Generation Alpha expects this and deserves this from us. This is again where LEX is essential to be at the core of what we make next.
5. Virtual Reality looks like reality
It can, but it is a ways off from feeling as if there are no barriers, a ways from fully crossing the Fourth Wall of human and computer interactions. This medium is used to tell engaging stories. It is used to transport the mind and grow the imagination. Do you remember the first time you saw Lord of the Rings, or why Back to the Future was so popular – it stretched our imagination. Now we can literally traverse time AND space with virtual worlds. It allows education to become personal, engaging, and interactive like it was always meant to be. I have not even discussed AR – I’ll save that for a future piece.
6. Virtual Reality is for gamers and geeks
No, it is now being adopted in Healthcare to assist patients in chronic pain. It is used in energy production companies to test different loads on the system without blowing out city blocks, it is being used by nurses and EMTs in training instead of cold mannequins, it is being used by business leaders to train DEI recognition and to build stronger teams. The list goes on for many paragraphs, but I can just say, “it is here for everyone AND it is here to stay!” On a personal note, so what if it was for gamers and geeks – many of these people grow up to be the futurists that dream of terra forming mars or putting a station on the dark side of the moon, or of a shipping company that drops your packages with drones. These were the “gamers and geeks” that have brought us innovation.
7. Motion Sickness
Yes. Let me clarify. 25% of all people will feel a disorientation in their first 2-3 experiences. If you are sensitive to this, these should be kept short and minimize a lot of moving. If you need to move, then clear a space and don’t stay sitting while moving a character. Dr. Thomas Stoffregen from the University of Minnesota, says anywhere from 40 to 70% of people feel the incidence of motion sickness after only 15 minutes in VR, but these were done while sitting and with significantly worse tech then we have available now. Developers are now very good at creating experiences that are safe for people of all ages and mobilities. Better frame rates, better object design, better performance have helped, but also your own motion. If your character is moving in the game but you stay static in real life (for example, if you are tethered to a PC) your internal ear might feel a disconnect between what it is sensing and what your eyes are seeing. It is these different signals that can make you dizzy, just like when you try to read in a moving car. How to avoid this situation: Match the movement in the virtual world with your movement in the real world. For example, Epionia is doing a great job with its Therapeutic VR platform for seniors. They reported no nausea or vertigo in the 100’s of seniors they’ve worked with so far.
8. Virtual Reality discourages physical activity
Now this one makes me laugh too when I hear it. In fact, the newest standalone headsets allow for 6 degrees of freedom (6DOF) and encourage movement. My arm is still sore as I write this blog from my 60 minutes of archery yesterday with a team in Remio VR! In fact, try Beat Saber or basketball or even the tennis games and you will see that you get exercise without thinking to yourself, “how much longer to make my 30 minutes of physical activity and heart rate…” watching the time tick. Yes, some experiences are more static than others, but often still allow arm movements etc. Watching TV and sitting at a desk is much more destructive on your active lifestyle, this is definitive.
9. Virtual Reality gear is uncomfortable to wear
Yes…and no. Sure, today’s headset is bulky, can feel slightly weighty and takes a minute to adjust. However, it is much better than 2 years ago and will continue to slim down rapidly with the advances in battery and processing every 16 months. The Oculus company has an elastic band that is basically the culprit. I have purchased the elite strap that allows for the tightening and loosening of the headset with a dial like a bike helmet and this helps tremendously. Secondly, it does allow for glasses to be worn in the experience.
10. Virtual Reality is a fad or gimmick
And finally, nope. The VR revolution that arguably started and waned a bit in 2015, is surging to new heights and will remain a new active part of all learning in the workplace and in schools. It is important to note that the companies and schools taking steps to create a sustainable 5-year plan that strategizes the creation of the needed content will have far less trouble in the long-term when others jump in late to the game. This is especially true in student recruitment, HR training, and creating content for classes online. Mark my words: “VR and AR will meld. The technology in 10 years will make the web revolution look small by comparison and everyone will have their own visor to activate the technology. Holodecks will become a reality.” Today VEDX says, “we are early, we know it, but not long from today, we will be right on time with our preparations and brand.” I’m proud to be working with visionaries in this field across company lines.
Overall, the 10 misconceptions above are the most widely heard in my conversations. I hope that I was able to uncover a few insights in this blog. I believe in this technology and the benefits of using it on a widescale. I don’t believe in the data tracking taking place by the classic giant brands that have been hauled in front of congress before for their poor social ethics. We must all stand together to tell them that it is unethical and obscene to REQUIRE a personal profile for using hardware that we bought, for running that hardware on Wi-Fi that we pay for, and for them to make further money on our information. I know VEDX has found ways to assist educators with these questions of privacy – this is not a misconception in the market, and it requires every person to say “we have the right to exist in virtual reality without you knowing our every move.” #LEX #VRFreedom