Tag Archives: Virtual Reality VR

Clouds Over Sidra

Gabo Arora and Chris Milk’s multi award-winning documentary Clouds Over Sidra is a powerful demonstration of the 360 degree video format’s ability to engage emotions whilst addressing a serious issue. By allowing the ‘viewer’ to see through the eyes of 12-year-old Sidra, the piece explores the tension between ‘directed’ and ‘undirected’ narrative in its empathetic depiction of life in a Syrian refugee camp.

I think these notions of what we (the creators of these experiences) seek to convey, and what we leave open to discovery (or not), plays to a major concern when such technologies are utilised in immersive learning and journalism. Namely – to what extent do we allow our audience/learners the freedom to explore? And how much do we feel the need to ‘direct’ them towards (our own) desired outcome?

While not an explorable virtual environment (360 video allows you to ‘look’ around rather than ‘move’ around) the documentary works by completely wrapping the viewer in a visual landscape – with the mundanity and enormity of life playing out around them.

“Presence is still coming into a definition, but we know two things about it: It feels good, and it’s different from verisimilitude. With presence, you do get a profound sensation of space, causing you to forget you’re staring at a screen. Presence is fragile, but when achieved, it’s so joyful and sustaining that those who touch it tend to fall silent.”

– Virginia Heffernan, New York Times

Much more than a static or linear artefact, the documentary is structured around the editing of long scenes (or ‘situations’) with continuous flow conveyed through the young girl’s narration and Mckenzie Stubbert’s musical score.  It is very much Sidra’s story that pulls you through the experience, and when her friends enthusiastically gather close around, you really feel their warmth.

#cloudsoversidra #unitednations #syria #virtualreality

A photo posted by Vrse.works (@vrseworks) on

There’s great potential for this format in education. Not only are the results effective, but the workflows used to create them are significantly less taxing than those used to create purely 3D digital virtual environments. Indeed flat 360 video (which lacks full 3D’s depth of vision) can be produced on pretty standard digital cameras (albeit in a pretty elaborate setup) with some freely available ‘stitching’ software.

360 degree video is more than simply a tool for cautious storytellers who are nervous about giving up narrative control or digital designers who think any form of ‘storytelling’ is restrictive. It’s a challenge to the traditional view of documentary media – adding ‘presence’ to a set of existing film tools to create powerful immersive experiences.

You can view Clouds Over Sidra for free:

  •  through the flat 360 web viewer (with a mouse) using an HTML5 compliant web browser such as Chrome
  • or in 360 3D (using an Android or Apple device’s motion sensors) through the free Vrse app

Also, check out YouTube’s 360 Degree Video channel for a taste of the freely available 360 flat and 360 Google Cardboard-ready videos being uploaded.

Image taken from: a still from Clouds Over Sidra a virtual reality film created by Gabo Arora and Chris Milk in partnership with the UN’s advocacy at the World’s Economic forum in Davos

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!

EIC Christmas

We’re inviting staff and students along to our annual Education Innovation Centre Christmas on Wednesday 9th December!

Innovation at the Library room (Frenchay library, 4D23)
11am till 3pm Wednesday 9th December 2015

Drop in for a drink, mince pie and chat with the team.

Talk to the team about what we can offer you or your colleagues – including workshops and courses, MOOCs, education research and PhD opportunities. PLUS: try your hand with the Oculus Rift, Google Cardboard and augmented reality.

What a time to be alive!

The future is here! Time’s arrived for us to get up out of the chair, leave the keyboard behind, and start using our bodies to become actors in our own 3D virtual experience. Real virtuality is a project coordinated by Artanim, a Swiss foundation dedicated to the development and promotion of motion capture.  They have managed to combine virtual reality (VR) technology (headset) with motion capture to provide a fully immersive environment for its users who are able to freely move within the physical space while virtually visiting a recreated environment. For example, inside an ancient pharaoh’s tomb, users can see it as it really was back in the day and observe paintings and hieroglyphics on the wall – in all their original splendour. The ‘realness’ of the experienced is guaranteed. Exciting times, no doubt!