All posts by Liz Falconer

Director, Education Innovation Centre
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Trying out augmented reality

The picture below is a trigger for an augmented reality overlay, showing how the ditch at Avebury Henge has silted up over the past 4,500 years or so.

To see the augmented image, go to the App store on your Apple or Android tablet or phone and download the Aurasma app.    Register with a username, password and email address, and then press on ‘discover auras’ and search for lizfal. Press on ‘follow’ and then press the small purple square at the bottom of the page. Your camera viewfinder will open. Find the image in your viewfinder and hold still for a few seconds – you should see the augmented image appear! You have to have a wireless connection or 3G active to be able to see the augmented image.

Virtual Reality

The recent rapid expansion in devices that enable immersive experiences in virtual reality (VR) has led to a real upsurge in interest, not just amongst gamers, but across a wide range of users of VR in industry and education. The Virtual Reality World Congress will be held in Bristol on 12th April – a great opportunity to interact with the developers of exciting new technologies, and the technologies themselves. We’ll definitely be there! We write about VR a lot on this blog, as it’s a significant area of research and development interest for UWE. The University has some great examples of using virtual education techniques in health sciences,  law, finance, psychology, architecture and forensics, just as examples.

Crime scene image 1_001The forensics virtual crime scene, developed by Dr Carolyn Morton, Maddie Edwards, Manuel Frutos-Perez and me, is one example of augmenting learning through using virtual technologies that demonstrates their potential. At UWE we have a full, physical crime scene house, where students can undertake simulated forensic investigations of crimes; a really great way for them to learn. But the physical crime scene takes time to set up and change, so the virtual simulations are an added opportunity for more practical experience that can be used at any time to help the students to hone their investigation skills.  Below is a short video where Carolyn takes us on a walk-through of one of the virtual simulations, from the scene of the crime to the courtroom.

There are 2 more simulations for the students to choose from; Carolyn works closely with police and forensics services and the crime scene simulations are based upon similar real cases.

My latest project is a virtual reconstruction of the Neolithic stone circle of Avebury Henge in Wiltshire, U.K., as it is likely to have appeared circa 2,300 BCE. I’ll be working with history and heritage students at UWE later this year to explore how these kinds of reconstructions might enable us to experience these ancient sites in a way that is impossible in the modern-day physical world. At the moment I’m ditch-digging (without hurting my back!) and the video below is a brief demonstration of how that is done in a virtual environment. The unfolding story of this project will be told on my blog “Ancient and Virtual” so please feel free to take a look.

So, I can’t wait to go to the VR conference on the 12th April to see all the new developments in VR devices!

The Widening Atlantic

widening AtlanticThe Atlantic Ocean is widening at the rate of around 1 inch (~2.5 cm) per year. But sometimes it suddenly seems to accelerate! One of the issues that bring about this sense of a widening gap between Europe and the USA is the thorny issue of data protection. Some services that we use for education purposes in the UK store data in the USA, although increasingly the bigger companies like Survey Monkey use European data centres. Below is an extract from Survey Monkey’s privacy web page as an example.

“We have many customers in countries throughout the EU, including France, Germany, Spain and the United Kingdom. SurveyMonkey generally provides its survey services to customers located outside of the U.S. from our subsidiary in Ireland. This subsidiary’s privacy practices are regulated by the Ireland data protection authority and also by EU data protection requirements. As set out in our Privacy Policy, you have consented to your personal data being transferred out of the EU and onto servers located in the United States. These servers are maintained by our U.S. parent company. To facilitate our customers’ compliance with European personal data export requirements, we make available to our customers who need it, a Data Processing Agreement that incorporates the European Commission’s Standard Contractual Clauses (commonly known as the model clauses). The model clauses help SurveyMonkey customers in Europe to comply with their legal obligations after the US-EU Safe Harbor Framework was invalidated by the European Court of Justice on 6 October 2015.”

But there’s no doubt that understanding if a particular web service based in the USA complies with EU data security requirements can be a nightmare. Hopefully a new Safe Harbour agreement, “Safe Harbour 2.0” is nearing agreement, despite the EUCJ ruling about the current Agreement. This article from Reuters reports that the U.S. Secretary of Commerce feels that an new agreement is in reach. Here’s hoping we can all be adequately protected but still be able to innovate in our use of learning technologies. No pressure then!