The Blog

The Public VR Lab at the United Nations Environment Assembly

Hello from Nairobi, Kenya! Yesterday I met and interviewed Sasha Bennett, a seven-year-old Kenyan environmentalist who has planted 320 trees! @SashaBennettKEso .  She was a delight, an inspiration and so fun to spend time with, and hopefully tomorrow, she’ll get her dream of meeting President Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya! We’re hoping he’ll also stop by to try to virtual reality at our booth!

[photo top left: Co-founder/Director, Kathy Bisbee, with Sasha]

We’ve been here in Kenya just 72 hours and we’ve learned so much! Like how fun it is to meet people from all over our planet who are committed to protecting our earth.

We’ve been reminded that VR is still so mystical and magical to people from all over the world, when trying it for the first time, and about how hungry people are to find ways to use technology for good, to tell stories, to educate and inspire for global change. We’ve watched as people try VR and find it so real they peel the headsets off, scream and laugh with delight, and in two cases, thought that it might even provide one with X-ray vision!

We’re very pleased to be introducing VR to new users, to world environmental leaders, to youth, to students, to seniors, diplomats, and NGOs, and help them consider ways they could bring Community VR to their countries. More soon about our partnerships on this project, the collaborations we are forming, and ways to become part of the Public VR Lab!

In the meantime, If you’d like to become an affiliate of the Public VR Lab or learn more about how to work to bring VR to in your country or community, please email our co-founder and director, Kathy Bisbee at the Public VR Lab and Brookline Interactive Group (BIG): kathy@brooklineinteractive.org.

[photo top right: Co-founder, Al Williams, demos VR experiences at UNEA to delegates.]

[photo left: Nir Darom, Lead Creative Designer at the Public VR Lab with the Ibrahim Thiaw, Assistant Secretary-General at the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), partner, Amy Kamarainen from EcoMOVE, and Lab Director, Kathy Bisbee.]

[right bottom photo: Kathy, Andrew, Nir and Amy after we finished showing VR to the wonderful Susie Kitchens – UK permanent representative to UN in Nairobi and Cheryl Case head of UK delegation to UNEA.] @susiekitchens

 

 

 

 

Boston Jewish Film Festival: VR Filmmaking at the Public VR Lab

Watch our conversation on VR Filmmaking with a panel we hosted at the Public VR Lab and BIG in collaboration with the Boston Jewish Film Festival.

So honored to lead this panel last night! Thank you to & – such a great conversation and so much fun presenting with you both!

Immersive Storytellers Craft Unique Experiences at the Intersection of Media, Health, Medicine and Scientific Discovery in Boston

The Boston Globe's STAT team, Brookline Interactive Group, and the Public VR Lab teamed up on three 360 films for Hubweek 2017.

[article originally posted on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/immersive-storytellers-craft-unique-experiences-media-kathy-bisbee]

In 2016, Jeff Delviscio, Director, Multimedia and Creative at the Boston Globe’s STAT news team, bumped into the executive director, Kathy Bisbee, of Brookline Interactive Group (BIG), where she was demoing VR to throngs of science journalists and media makers. He wanted to explore how his cutting-edge news team, STAT, focused on finding and telling compelling stories about health, medicine and scientific discovery, could tell compelling stories about medicine and science using 360 video or VR. Kathy had hoped to share BIG’s experience training and creating VR content with other media organizations.

Kathy had co-founded the Public VR Lab as part of her work at Brookline Interactive Group (BIG) an innovative community media center, and was creating AR, VR and 360 content with her team. The Lab had started planting the seeds for what would become “Community VR,” a local and national project and movement that would train journalists, filmmakers, creators, and storycoders to create VR in the public interest, based out of Brookline, MA and trained and collaborated with libraries, arts organizations and journalists. The Lab now has an affiliate program, and offers VR toolkits, equipment and a training program to VR creators, journalists, filmmakers, educators, and municipalities.

Together STAT, BIG and the Public VR Lab collaborated to produce three unique experiences in locations around Boston that resulted in three 360 films introducing Boston residents and viewers worldwide to what it might feel like to work in a high security lab on the Ebola virus in Boston’s NEIDL (National Emerging Infectious Diseases lab); or to better understand the experience of a Tufts Dental School student, and sense intense teamwork of the effective Boston Children’s Hospital’s infant trauma unit. All films were created in 360 video that can be watched online, in a VR headset, or even on your phone, and screened at Boston’s Hubweek in October 2017.

Read more and check out these unique experiences from the team at STAT, Brookline Interactive Group, and the Public VR Lab, written and documented below and online by Hyacinth Empinado, STAT News staffer.

[Team photo at Hubweek: STAT Director, Jeff Delviscio; BIG Lead Creative Designer, Nir Darom; STAT News staffer/editor, Hyacinth Empinado; BIG VR Coordinator, Josh Widdicombe]

What does it look like inside a level-4 biosafety lab? And what does it feel like to be inside an operating room, performing a delicate procedure on a critically ill child?

In the world of science and medicine, places like this are often reserved exclusively for highly trained specialists.

But immersive 360-degree videos can gives us all a better sense for what it’s like to see the world through these specialists’ eyes. In the videos below, originally produced for HUBweek in partnership with Brookline Interactive Group and the Public VR Lab, you can explore these spaces on your own screen. To look around, click on the videos with your mouse and move it in any direction.

Raising Ebola

Research on dangerous pathogens like Ebola takes place inside highly secure biosafety level-4 (BSL-4) labs. Elke Mühlberger, a researcher at the National Emerging Diseases Laboratory at Boston University, takes you as close to Ebola as you’ll ever get and talks about why she thinks of the deadly virus as her pet.

Open Wide

On any given day, rows of fake heads are on the receiving end of whirring drills at Tufts University School of Dental Medicine. Mikenah Vega, a fourth-year student, shows us how she preps her head (which she calls “my boyfriend Miguel”) for a day at the simulation clinic, where students learn all about our teeth. 

On any given day, rows of fake heads are on the receiving end of whirring drills at Tufts University School of Dental Medicine, where students learn about teeth.

Code Blue

Watch a team of physicians, nurses, and surgeons simulate a high-risk procedure, called ECMO, on a critically ill child during a training session at Boston Children’s Hospital. ECMO is a machine that temporarily takes over a child’s weakened heart and lungs, giving him or her time to heal. To increase the child’s chances of survival, the team has to make every moment count.

About the Public VR Lab

www.publicvrlab.com

The Public VR Lab facilitates public dialogue; provides professional training; empowers community knowledge and creation of 360, virtual and augmented content; provides access to tools, headsets, arcades, toolkits, and professional expertise; and generates locally-focused, broadly impactful, Next Realities experiences in the public interest.

The Lab has trained immersive journalists, filmmakers, educators and storycoders to use VR/AR/360; offers VR Toolkits of hardware, software and curriculum to nonprofits, arts organizations and libraries; and has collaborated to create VR content, events and training programs with the Boston Globe, the United Nations, Women in Next Realities, Boston VR, the Town of Brookline, and the Northampton Film Festival.

About STAT

https://www.statnews.com

STAT is a national publication focused on finding and telling compelling stories about health, medicine and scientific discovery. We produce daily news, investigative articles, and narrative projects in addition to multimedia features. We tell our stories from the places that matter to our reader– research labs, hospitals, executive suites, and political campaigns.

https://www.statnews.com/2017/10/20/360-videos-ebola-lab/

Science & Medicine in FULL Frame

We’re thrilled to announce that Brookline Interactive Group (BIG) and our VR-in-the-Public-Interest project, the Public VR Lab, launched an innovative 360 video/VR immersive journalism collaboration with the #STAT team from the Boston Globe through this Sunday at Hubweek 2017.
BIG trained Boston Globe journalists from the STAT team on immersive storytelling production techniques, working side-by-side with them to create three day-in-the-life 360 experiences of Boston’s science and medical world. 
Come experience the infant trauma unit functioning under pressure at Boston’ s Children’s Hospital, view the activities of a student at Tuft’s Dental School, and watch firsthand how the world’s leading Ebola scientists work in a lab here in Boston to make Ebola “happy” in order to study how it grows and spreads.

Come find us at shipping Container #18 through Sunday!

Exposing New Realities: Immersive, Participatory Art, Games & Storytelling at the 2017 Northampton Film Festival

Immersive in Northampton

Immersive in Northampton(September 21st, 2017, Northampton, Mass.) The Northampton Film Festival will launch its second year of curated immersive content showcasing games, experiences and stories in VR, AR, 360, social media and participatory art-making at the A.P.E  Gallery at 126 Main Street, Northampton, MA on Saturday, September 30th, 2017, from 12-5pm.

This event is free and open to the public on a first-come, first-serve basis.

With the help of five local artists, Exposing Next Realities will be reflected in LIVE art-making throughout the day inside of Google’s Tiltbrush, a 3D tool for creating art inside of VR, by Robert Markey, Laurie Goddard, John Nordell, Gary Smith, and Lyn Sisler.

Local Pioneer Valley artists; Robert Markey, Laurie Goddard, John Nordell, Gary Smith, and Lyn Sisler will take part in LIVE painting inside of Virtual Reality. Attendees will watch Oscar-nominated VR film ‘Pearl’ and experience the immersive journalism piece ‘Across the Line’ about crossing a protest line at abortion clinics.

The 3D art will be preserved for community viewing during and after the festival. The community can also try Tiltbrush and create their own art or participate in collective virtual and “in-real-life” murals, as well as a new sculpting tool called Masterpiece VR that allows multiple artists to create simultaneously inside the same virtual space. The Pioneer Valley Game Developers will again host locally-developed games and experiences.

Boston-based artist Alexander Golob and interactive media artists from the Public VR Lab (co-founded by Brookline Interactive Group and Northampton Community Television) are coordinating interactive murals and art creation, providing the community an opportunity to create their own 3D and social media art through murals composed of hundreds of individual snapchats, #theSnapGallery.

By adding art to their compositions to the snaps with markers, visitors will bridge image-making techniques and traditions with digital age content creation. This interactive project demonstrates how everyone can be an artist and/or an activist, especially when combining voices into something larger than a single person, like a community art installation.

To participate in #theSnapGallery project, send your Snap submission to Alexander Golob  through his Instagram and Facebook pages (@AlexanderGolobArt) and through email (alexandergolobart at gmail.com).

Drop by Immersive @NFF on Saturday to play games with the Pioneer Valley Game group, experience virtual reality, and create art inside of Google’s Tiltbrush VR and Masterpiece VR’s artmaking tool.

Other Featured Immersive Experiences

Zen Parade is a surreal journey through a 360° 3D animated world of living sculptures – A five-minute psychedelic abstract art experience that can be enjoyed anytime to relax and rejuvenate.

In Allumette, you’re an invisible witness to a moving tale of dreams, love, and tragedy, set within a city nestled in the clouds, where a young girl and her mother sell matches that resemble sparklers. Everything goes well at first, but a tragic event completely changes the story’s tone. However, despite the melancholy vibe, it’s still a heartwarming experience.

Pearl is another 360 interactive story that follows a little girl (named Pearl) and her father as they both pursue their dreams. While short, it’s a remarkably powerful and inspiring tale. You’ll watch as Pearl grows on the road with her musician dad, starting off as a bubbly little child. Soon, she transforms into a teenager with a mind of her own and a love of making music. Pearl is an Oscar-nominated story you have to experience in VR in order to witness its full potential.

Across the Line VR ACROSS THE LINE is an immersive VR experience that combines 360 video and computer-generated imaging (CGI) to put viewers in the shoes of a patient entering a health center for a safe and legal abortion.

Tilt Brush is a room scale 3D painting virtual reality application developed and published by Google.

Masterpiece VR is the first art creation tool to feature collaborative functionality, allowing two users to sculpt at once. Four artists can paint and sculpt together simultaneously. That means that you and your friends—regardless of where they are in the world—can make 3D content together in real time. https://www.masterpiecevr.com/

Immersive Demos: Pioneer Valley Game Developers

VR Jogger | Sick Pixel

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WF1Zgvrsy6Y

Color BlastAR | HitPoint Studios

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_WYKcCe0RWo

Vanishing Point | Woodpenny

https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/vanishing-point/id1064338731?mt=8

 

Public VR Lab

VR Academy Classes

BIG and the Public VR Lab are pleased to offer several classes in virtual reality this summer and fall.

WebVR with A-Frame

Want to make 3D websites? We’ll show you how in this two-session class! Instructors from Fasility will lead two sessions on how to make virtual reality for the web, also known as WebVR. We’ll use A-Frame, a popular and free framework from Mozilla that makes VR as easy and powerful as editing HTML.

Next sessions: September 7th & 14th 5:30-7:30pm – $50

Register here.
https://www.eventbrite.com/e/webvr-with-a-frame-tickets-35549103325?aff=es2

Designing for VR: Creating 3D objects with Blender
Blender is a free professional open-source 3D computer graphics software used for creating animated films, visual effects, and video games. This two-session introductory course will provide you with a basic understanding of using Blender, including creating basic shapes, color and rendering options, and modeling techniques.

Next sessions: TBD

Introduction to Unity
Unity is a powerful and widely-used game engine for developing VR experiences, as well as video games for consoles, mobile devices, and websites.
This 2-session workshop will introduce you to the basic functions and concepts of Unity and will provide you with the opportunity to do 3D modeling and coding through its systems.

Next session: Monday, October 23rd & 30th – $50

Unity – Basic Coding
Unity is a powerful and widely-used game engine for developing VR experiences, as well as video games for consoles, mobile devices, and websites.
This 2 session workshop will introduce you to the basic functions and concepts of Unity and will provide you with the opportunity to learn basic C# coding.

Next session: TBD

Creating VR Experiences With Simmetri –
Simmetri is an immersive design tool for creating interactive experiences for VR. In this one-session workshop taught by its lead developer, you will learn about the basics of Simmetri and create a mini-VR experience with your classmates. You will also export a 360 degree video of your creation for uploading to YouTube to share with friends.

In the class, we’ll learn the basics on using the tool and begin exploring and experimenting with various ideas.

For ages 14 and up

Next sessions: TBD

Illustration in VR: Using VR Doodler
Want to create a virtual reality experience? Not crazy about learning Unity? If you like to draw or tell stories, come learn how to use VR Doodler, an easy-to-use online tool that enables you to make a 3D drawing on the web that you can ultimately turn into a virtual reality story!

For ages 14 and up

Next sessions: TBD

What is Community VR?

What is Community VR? (the short version, for now)

Kathy Bisbee presenting on Community VR

Co-founder and Director of the Public VR Lab, Kathy Bisbee presenting on Community VR at NATOA 2017

I’m in the process of writing a longer article than this one about a new movement I hope you’ll join me to seed, fund, cultivate and grow. It’s called the Community VR movement. Like its sister movement, Community Media, it’s a movement where everyone can participate, create, learn, share and express. Where everyone’s stories matter, everyone is included, and everyone’s voices can be heard. It shares a goal of providing equitable access to media making tools, training, and in inspiring the next generation of journalists, filmmakers, creators and storytellers. The only thing it doesn’t have in common with community media is that it’s not yet ubiquitous or woven into our social, cultural, economic and public fabric. Yet.

The Public VR Lab is building an inclusive Community VR movement that will facilitate public dialogue; provide professional training; empower community knowledge and creation of 360, virtual and augmented content; provide access to tools, headsets, arcades, toolkits, and professional expertise; and generate locally-focused, broadly impactful, Next Realities experiences in the public interest. Here’s a recent highlight reel about our work at the Lab.

At the NATOA conference (the National Association of Telecommunications Officers and Advisors …) in Seattle this week, I was met with surprisingly-engaged enthusiasm from government employees who tried our HTC VIVE after my presentation and wanted to figure out how they could use VR and 360 in their communities. Colleagues began the process of signing up to become a Public VR Lab affiliate; others wanted to purchase our Public VR Lab Toolkits (VR demo and content creator toolkits); others still asked about our curriculum, equipment, staffing; and NATOA attendees from Alaska to Massachusetts inquired about applying to our national collaborative project called “Immigration Stories in Full Frame: Reimagining Migration.”

We have to be mindful not to make early mistakes as this new medium grows from infancy into its preteen years, assuring that equipment/headsets, powerful computers, and training programs are accessible to all, no matter your geography, income, gender, ethnicity, etc. We need to educate creators on the potentially troubling “virtual literacy” issues and ethics concerns inherent to this visceral medium; to the dangers of limiting our characters in VR to our own/current biases and roles; and to consider policies that hold VR/AR marketing, propaganda, access to the new currencies of the metaverse, and the use of public spaces in careful check with public interest needs.

A longer article will be published later this month on the implications of this work, my thoughts on the immediate challenges and opportunities, the projects we’ve set out to grow the movement in the next year, and ways you can help to support Community VR. Stay tuned!

Brookline Interactive Group (BIG) and Northampton Community Television (NCTV) launched this VR accessibility and literacy initiative at their community media centers in Northampton and Brookline, MA, beginning in April of 2016, and have expanded the Lab to grow a national network of Lab affiliates to work collaboratively to build a movement for Community VR. Please join us!

Become an affiliate of the Public VR Lab at your library, community media or arts organization, government agency, or newsroom, and be part of building the movement for Community VR. 

Building a Community VR Movement: The Lab Featured in MIT’s Immerse Publication

The Co-founder and Director of the Public VR Lab, Kathy Bisbee, was one of several immersive storytelling thought leaders featured in a recent MIT publication, Immerse, in an article about Who is VR for? Kathy shares her expertise and thoughts about building a national movement for Community VR, a phrase she’s used to describing how community media and place0-based arts organizations can develop to create hyperlocal immersive stories, games, journalism, and experiences in VR by collaborating, co-funding, and partnering with media outlets, municipalities, libraries, community media arts organizations, film festivals, and universities.

https://immerse.news/who-is-vr-for-20b3f077a912

 

 

Virtual Reality (VR) in the Public Interest….

Tomorrow we’re driving down to Games for Change in NYC. As usual, I’m thinking about VR-in-the-public interest and how we can differentiate gaming from the many other ways we can learn, share, create and teach VR. At the Public VR Lab, we’ve been teaching our community and beyond for over a year now to use new tools and equipment for community storytelling, immersive journalism, and documentary filmmaking in order to heal from trauma and to create awareness and action around the health of our planet. Here’s a few of this week’s highlights and resources we’ve seen so far in the space.

On the content creation side, our team is learning how we can deploy content, trainings and toolkits to our members, community of media makers and to share with other colleagues. While this may seem something drawn from the 1992 novel “Snow Crash” and its “metaverse,” it means the beginning of public creation tools and a door to many new social, creative and possibly economic platforms/spaces that are sure to follow for an almost ready VR-ready world. This might be the closest thing to Dreamweaver for VR that we’ve seen to date. P.S Snow Crash is a must-read.

Start Building Your VR Second Life in Sansar

Empathy-producing content can help us to understand what it is like to “be” a tree, or understand what it might be like to be in the body of another, and to feel “presence” that helps you to put yourself outside of your own experience. Feeling empathy inside of VR can even move us to action on issues like social and environmental justice in the “real” world.

VR-related technologies can help shape beautiful new ways we see ourselves, our current reality, and can shift our perception of what truth and reality are. VR can help us experience and understand many things from visceral perspectives that embody the experience of the “other.”

Tree, is a virtual-reality project that 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. Tree elevates the concept of empathy in VR, helping the participant understand what it’s like to be a tree in the Amazon. I particularly love the redwood version of this created by Marshmallow Laser Feast (I so love this name!) with a haptic feedback vest that makes you feel like you are entering inside the tree. 

And this project, RIOT  whose filmmaker, Karen Palmer, will speak at our favorite festival for storytelling, the Future of Storytelling in NYC this October. According to FOST, she was inspired by the events in Ferguson, MO, following the shooting of Michael Brown, and created RIOT, an emotionally responsive, live-action film that uses AI and machine learning through facial recognition to allow participants to navigate though a dangerous riot. Palmer’s work challenges participants to understand other people’s lived experiences, and represents a powerful development in the emerging field of neurogames.

Another area of VR-in-the-public interest growth is in the health sector, and how VR can make us “think” differently and even heal from trauma. This New York Times had a great story today about the use of VR by therapists to heal patients from the fear and trauma of car accidents, the fear of heights, flying, spiders, PTSD, and other forms of anxiety and stress.

And lastly, the team at the Public VR Lab sat in on an insightful VRARA webinar a few weeks ago hosted with Robert Scoble as he shared his always intriguing insights about where tech and VR in particular is headed (here). Check it out!

Gateway Arts Visits the Public VR Lab

We’ve been super busy this month at the Public VR Lab and Brookline Interactive Group.

We’re hiring a new Assistant Director, have several summer multimedia programs (aka “camps”) for kids, launched new VR classes for adults, and co-coordinated Crowdsourced Boston to get ten other community media centers involved in re-creating Back to the Future! BIG’s talented members won three awards at the Alliance for Community Media‘s national Hometown Awards, and BIG won Best Public Access Station in the country! Woot!

We are laying our plans for our fall eleven-day film sprint, curating the immersive content and LIVE VR ART at the Northampton Film Festival for their September 27-October 1st, 2017 fest, in collaboration with our sister organization, Northampton Community Television (NCTV).

We’re launching a national collaborative on a VR project around immigration stories, and an affiliate program will be announced soon so that libraries, teen centers, arts and cultural organizations and media centers can learn to share VR with their communities, have the equipment and training they need to start a Lab on site and engage their communities in a conversation about the future of 3D computing!

Our VR demos are weekly, and recently we had Lead Boston, Brookline High School math camps, and the Gateway Arts program stop by for a tour and VR demos at the Lab.

Check out the cool vid of their folks playing for the first time in VR above!