The Blog

Tonight: Public VR Lab & Boston VR Joint Meetup @BIG in Brookline

The Public VR Labpublicvrlab

The Public VR Lab is a collaborative effort to facilitate a public dialogue and projects around new VR-related technologies; to support the community creation of 360, virtual and augmented content, provide access to tools and headsets; and to generate socially-relevant and locally-focused public interest VR experiences. 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 Spring of 2016.

In this short video, BIG’s Executive Director, Kathy Bisbee, who co-founded the Public VR Lab with NCTV’s Executive Director, Al Williams, shares the vision of the Lab’s work to bring the public access to VR/AR, local content creation, expertise and public trainings through several initiatives.


Since then the Lab has offered free weekly public demos of VR experiences via the HTC Vive headset and controllers at both locations, at senior centers, fairs, and at pop-up public events, and created a fall VR Academy to train Brookline High School students. The Lab held its first Meetup in Boston in August 2016 with speakers from the VR content creation team at FRONTLINE on their pioneering immersive journalism films and projects, and has since partnered with VR/AR Hackathons, other mixed reality creators and labs, and in collaboration with Boston VR, the Science & Media Awards Summit, the Pioneer Valley Game Group, and curated the interactive component of the 2016 Northampton Film Festival. The Public VR Lab recently offered a mini-VR Lab talk and demos in Charleston, WV to offer opportunities to residents there.
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FREE & Accessible Virtual Reality Demos  

Since May of 2016, through the Public VR Lab, BIG and NCTV have provided free public demos of over thirty virtual reality experiences to hundreds of local residents. This free public access allows any community member the opportunity to experiment with VR-related technologies and storytelling in VR. In 2017, the Lab will also offer augmented reality (AR) demos as well. List of VR demos and experiences available.

Brookline Interactive Group, 46 Tappan Street, Brookline MA. 3rd Floor of the Unified Arts Building, Directly next door to the Brookline hills green line stop.

Wednesdays: 5:00 PM – 8:00 PM

Fridays: 2:00 PM – 3:30 PM

NCTV, Northampton MA

http://northamptontv.org/public-virtual-reality-demos/

[NCTV] Northampton MA

VR Academy

The VR Academy is a project of the Public VR Lab that began in Fall 2016 to help facilitate content creation through classes, workshops and hackathons focused on training high school and college students, as well as adults. The VR Academy also will launch regional and nationwide training programs in 2017 to train non-profit organizational staff, small businesses, and education administrators how to use, create, and implement VR-related technologies into their day-to-day services and programs. In 2017, the VR Academy/Public VR Lab will offer classes and workshops in Brookline/Boston and western Massachusetts in Unity, Simmetri, 3-D Modeling for VR, 360 Filmmaking & Cinematography, Digital Storytelling in 360, Storytelling in AR, and larger scale hackathons with a goal of training and content creation generated from the Lab and shared throughout the VR and broader community.
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Special Events

BIG & NCTV has and will continue to set up free community demos at a variety of locations, including senior and youth centers, at housing projects, libraries, conferences, hospitals, community fairs, business events, colleges, and in public places throughout 2016 and 2017. Check here for a link to our events calendar for the Public VR Lab.
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VR Resources

VR & AR Headsets

HTC Vive – https://www.vive.com/us/

Oculus Rift – https://www.oculus.com/

Samsung Gear VR – http://www.samsung.com/us/explore/gear-vr/?cid=ppc-

Google Daydream – https://vr.google.com/daydream/

Microsoft Hololens – https://www.microsoft.com/microsoft-hololens/en-us

Content Creation Resources (More links coming soon!) 

Email josh at publicvrlab.com with any suggestions for good resource sites. 

  • 360 Video
    • 360 content from BIG & The Public VR Lab
    • Tutorials
    • Tips & Tricks

360 Cameras

The Future of VR/AR/360

Visit the Public VR Lab at The Northampton Film Festival: September 28th-October 2nd!

“Humans have long been able to immerse themselves in other worlds, through oral story or novels, painting, photographs, television, cinema and pure imagination. The mind does not travel alone — the body most certainly comes along for the ride.”

– Nonny de la Peña, Co-Founder, Emblematic Group

Explore the immersive nature of storytelling with both your mind and body at the Northampton Film Festival for our second Public VR Lab event. Sink yourself into our national parks; navigate through stories about loss, abortion and domestic violence; feel the experiences of others in immersive journalism; and create art in VR/AR.

VR/AR and 360 developers and content creators will give short talks from 4-6pm about some of the ten interactive and immersive experiences on many HTC VIVEs, Gear VRs, Google Cardboard, and Hololens.

Explore a 3D experience of the human body via the award-winning HoloAnatomy using a Hololens; watch a dramatic unfolding of domestic violence situations as one of the
characters in Emblematic Group’s volumetric VR piece Kiya; experience firsthand what it feels like to cross the line at an abortion clinic in Across the Line.

View FRONTLINE’s new interactive Emmy-award winning project called Inheritance as well as their immersive journalism pieces. Enjoy nature across the world with Specterras’ “Env
elopvision” experience of Zion National Park
. Play games and make art  via Tiltbrush and VR Doodler and with the Pioneer Valley Game Developers who will be showing an unreleased, never-shown-before AR (augmented reality) game in development on the Google Tango platform as part of their talk!

Join us for an awesome four days in western Mass -art, world-class films (film and workshop schedule available here), storytelling, games, VR, and community participation. As part of the NFF, Mono No Aware from Brooklyn, NY will offer a day-long 16mm and Super-8 filmmaking workshop on Sunday, October 2nd, 2016, and participants’ films will screen that evening at the Festival.

The Crowdsourced Cinema community art project will also screen their version of the Princess Bride on Sunday at 7pm, where 40+ teams each contributed their remade scenes to remake this classic film, whose newly-crowdsourced original score was created by multiple western Mass musicians.

FRONTLINE’s VR Team to Speak at the First Public VR Lab Meetup in Brookline

Brookline Interactive Group (BIG) is hosting the first ever Public VR Lab Meetup event, and is thrilled to announce that FRONTLINE’s Virtual Reality team will be speaking at at this event. This event will take place on Thursday, August 4th, 2016 from 5:30-9:00 p.m. at BIG’s innovative community media space at 46 Tappan St in Brookline.

At this event, the FRONTLINE team will speak about their VR production process and, for one night only at the event, share some of their immersive journalism projects. FRONTLINE Series coordinating producer Carla Borras and production assistant Kenzie Audette will talk about FRONTLINE’s foray into virtual reality, their virtual reality processes, and some of the lessons they have learned along the way.

They will also share behind the scene stories from the filmmakers, some of the challenges FRONTLINE has faced pioneering high-end VR journalism, which include Night of the Storm, Return to Chernobyl, On the Brink of Famine, and Ebola Outbreak pieces, and tips for creating VR films.

Brookline Interactive Group (BIG) is the organizer and co-sponsor of this event, along with Northampton Community Television, who are the founders of the Public VR Lab. The Lab is a collaborative effort to facilitate a public dialogue around new VR-related technologies, and support the community creation of 360, virtual and augmented content, access to tools and headsets, and socially-relevant and locally-focused VR experiences. BIG and NCTV have launched accessibility and literacy initiatives in VR at their community media centers in western Mass. See more about their accessibility and literacy initiative in VR at: http://publicvrlab.com/.

In addition to FRONTLINE’s presentation, this event provides an exclusive opportunity for attendees to demo and experience FRONTLINE’s immersive journalism project on BIG and NCTV’s multiple HTC VIVE VR headsets and controllers. The event will also feature conversations about the future of the public Commons in VR, ample refreshments, and the opportunity to try other gaming and story-focused VR experiences.

All VR enthusiasts are encouraged to sign up for the Public VR Lab meetup group and register to attend this event. As spots are limited, BIG recommends attendees sign up early. Meetup members may register at: http://www.meetup.com/The-Public-VR-Lab/events/232287760/ or at BIG’s eventbrite link: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/public-vr-lab-meetup-launch-tickets-26547053953

For questions about the August 4th Public VR Lab meetup event, please contact Kathy Bisbee, Executive Director of BIG, at kathy@brooklineinteractive.org.

The Public VR Lab is a collaborative effort to facilitate a public dialogue around new VR-related technologies, and support the community creation of 360, virtual and augmented content, access to tools and headsets, and socially-relevant and locally-focused VR experiences. Brookline Interactive Group (BIG) and Northampton Community Television (NCTV) launched this VR accessibility and literacy initiative in Spring of 2016 at their community media centers in Northampton and Brookline, MA. www.publicvrlab.com

About Brookline Interactive Group (BIG):

Brookline Interactive Group (BIG) is an integrated media and technology education center and a community media hub for Brookline, MA. BIG provides access to innovative media-making tools, facilitates diverse community dialogue, incubates hyperlocal storytelling, arts, media literacy and technology projects, and serves over 500 youth annually. BIG offers extensive multimedia training, collaboratively produces local content, and provides low-cost professional media services to non-profit organizations, education partners, businesses, and to local government.

About Northampton Community Television (NCTV)

Northampton Community Television is a community media arts center whose mission is to serve as a model organization to enable expression of all kinds across mediums, providing resources and programming and educational opportunities to the community through all means technologically available. We are independent hyperlocal media. We are a physical public makerspace. We are a legal street art multimedia wall. We are a storytelling hub. We are an economic development organization. We provide opportunities for voices that do not have other opportunities. We provide free services to local nonprofit organizations and the community and tools for the professional multimedia community.


Photo: “Razer OSVR Open-Source Virtual Reality for Gaming” by Maurizio Pesce via Flickr. Licensed under CC BY 2.0

Northampton Community Television Tries out the Ricoh Theta S

 

 

Brookline Interactive Group Brings Virtual Reality to Town – Wicked Local

First came radio, then television, then the internet. The next big thing to shake up the way people consume media may be virtual reality, according to a growing chorus of media experts.
“I think VR is as big as the internet,” said Kathy Bisbee, Brookline Interactive Group’s executive director.

Northampton Schools Superintendent Dives into Virtual Downtown – Masslive.com

Northampton Schools Superintendent John Provost took a tour of his downtown office Tuesday.

But this version of his office behind City Hall was built by a Northampton High School student. And the tour, well, wasn’t exactly rooted in reality.

360 Degrees of Wow

The presentation begins with the group entering virtual reality themselves and introducing the topic of their conversation.  First they talk about the public’s perception of VR.  Most people believe that virtual reality is here to stay, now that more are aware of it.  The speakers encourage anyone who is interested in experiencing virtual reality to try it out now, because there are a lot of conventions where companies are letting anyone use their products.  According to a survey, across all age groups more than 50% are most excited about watching movies and television in VR.  From there, three of the panelists talk about their specialty within the industry.  

Edward Tang, the co-founder and Chief Strategy Officer of the company Avegant, talks about the devices used in VR.  His company has produced a device that doesn’t use a screen at all, and instead projects the virtual image into the eyes.  This is said to reduce retinal train.  The image is projected onto many microscopic mirrors in front of the viewers eyes.  This means there is no pixelation, and the image looks more lifelike because we are seeing light reflected off of surfaces, just like we observe the real world.  The device is completely mobile, and can be transformed from a normal pair of headphones into an audio/visual virtual reality device with the touch of a button.

[su_box title=”Summary” style=”soft”]

  • Most people believe that virtual reality is here to stay, now that more are aware of it.
  • Anyone who is interested in experiencing virtual reality should try it out now, because there are a lot of conventions where companies are letting anyone use their products.
  • One company, Avegant, has produced a device that doesn’t use a screen at all, and instead projects the virtual image into the eyes.  This is said to reduce retinal train.  The image is projected onto many microscopic mirrors in front of the viewers eyes.
  • Vrtify is a company that is exploring another promising application for VR: music, specifically letting people experience concerts virtually.   If a concert isn’t sold out, instead of letting the extra tickets go to waste, extras can be sold to VR users who want to watch a live show from the comfort of their home.
  • VTime is the world’s first social virtual reality experience.  It allows people to have up to four-person conversations with people around the world in a variety of virtual locations.  It also lets people experience a virtual theater or television in a virtual room, so you can watch movies with friends and family as if they are there with you.
  • No matter how detailed a presentation is, you need to experience VR to fully understand its appeal.
  • Every speaker agrees that, while necessary to keep the industry alive, advertising needs to be integrated into virtual reality in a non-disruptive way in order for it to be effective.
  • Their parting advice is to attend Imagine Park, a convention where people can use all of the technology discussed in the talk.  [/su_box]

The next speaker is Facundo Diaz, the founder and CEO of Vrtify, brings up another promising application for VR is music, specifically letting people experience concerts virtually.  Diaz tells us that virtual reality is the newest evolution in music technology, after the walkman and ipod.  Vrtify is using the same business model for their platform, which will allow users to both listen to and live music.  He also brings up that if a concert isn’t sold out, instead of letting the extra tickets go to waste, extras can be sold to VR users who want to watch a live show from the comfort of their home.

Julian Price, the CMO of VTime, discusses the applications of social VR.  VTime is the world’s first social virtual reality experience.  It allows people to have up to four-person conversations with people around the world in a variety of virtual locations.  It also lets people experience a virtual theater or television in a virtual room, so you can watch movies with friends and family as if they are there with you.  Julian is interested in the possibilities of being connected to others with this new technology in real time.

Lastly, the group discusses the way the public can and will interact with this new technology.  They make it clear that no matter how detailed their presentation was, you need to experience VR to fully understand its appeal.  Every speaker agrees that, while necessary to keep the industry alive, advertising needs to be integrated into virtual reality in a non-disruptive way in order for it to be effective.  Their parting advice is to attend Imagine Park, a convention where people can use all of the technology discussed in the talk.

Community Media’s Role in Literacy and Accessibility is Critical in VR

Two Massachusetts nonprofit innovators, Northampton Community Television (NCTV) and Brookline Interactive Group (BIG), are partnering to forge new models of public media in the United States by adding Virtual Reality, or VR, into their community media toolkits.

“The age of virtual reality (VR) is here, and the technology looks poised to change the way stories are told and consumed,” reflected Al Williams, executive director at NCTV.  While VR technology is in its nascent stages and still only has low levels of consumer awareness and limited access by the general public, it has been the recent talk of the technology, film, gaming, journalism and storytelling worlds.

Over the past two weeks NCTV and BIG began offering free VR demos, both for the gaming and storytelling aspects of VR, using both the Samsung and HTC VIVE headsets and controllers, which only recently shipped and are the first headsets with a volumetric design.

“It’s been incredibly insightful to watch how people use and react to this technology, and we have been documenting the reactions of some first-time users,” said Williams, who captured his mother testing out the system for the first time. “Fantastic!” she exclaimed.

Entities like the New York Times, Frontline, and Sony Playstation have been growing programs to support and develop VR content, which has the potential to be the most immersive and empathetic form of communication developed to date. Want to tell a story about a Syrian refugee camp? Experience a rare, endangered rhinoceros? Feel the movement of the ocean as dolphins swim around you? Or work with revolutionary 3D drawing tools? VR is the it technology of the day, and perhaps of the future.

But as this new technology unfolds, who will provide the public unfettered access to these powerful creative tools and assure responsible and accessible use?

With most forms of media, corporate entities have had the first access to expensive, new forms of technology, designed to reach audiences with new, captivating methods.  “Unfortunately,” said Kathy Bisbee, executive director of BIG, “in the case of VR, these same corporations are going to be funding and controlling most of the early VR content, and thus are determining what kinds of content the public can create, consume and digest in this new medium. Only recently is the price of VR camera equipment becoming more affordable, and by the holidays, many families will own a VR headset. We should be mindful of this new source of screen time, and develop methodologies to think critically, use it wisely, and deconstruct these messages and a new version of ‘reality’ in a new content format that seems so convincingly real.”

Northampton High School student Zev Seltzer uses the HTC Vive.

Bisbee said that from her research and experience with the new technology, “VR can powerfully manipulate how we see the world, real or not, and it can manipulate how we make sense of it. All of the research shows that it can profoundly affect and change how we feel about others and ourselves. So there’s an incredible opportunity to impact people positively through immersive storytelling in VR, as well as an important opportunity to educate, inform and deconstruct messages and redefine our sense of reality.”

Williams added that the same accessibility issues exist for VR as have in the past for new technologies and media tools. “At best, large public gatekeepers have acted as public media institutes that act as proxies for the public, without actually providing the public access to those tools,” citing the need for public accessibility to be part of the VR conversation.

Northampton Community Television (NCTV) and Brookline Interactive Group (BIG), two community media centers in Massachusetts, are looking to change that dynamic.

Already armed with early HTC Vive VR systems to provide the public with opportunities to experience and view VR content, these media centers are aiming to understand and educate the public on the possible ramifications of media literacy in virtual reality, which they have coined “virtual literacy.” These next generation public access television nonprofits seek to educate, inform, and provide a new kind of accessibility in the newest medium now available to and by the community.

Both organizations are curating educational and experiential content to demo for free to the community, as well as developing community viewing through libraries, at senior centers, and to after school and summer programs that will provide access to local residents in western Mass and near Boston. Their centers will also begin teaching immersive storytelling in 360 video and in VR, and in late 2016 will begin offering production services, virtual literacy curriculum, classes, and access to the “virtual commons.”

“VR is the next generation of the public Commons,” said Bisbee, “VR is both a literal virtual commons that we have to ensure will be accessible to the public in VR and a real physical space at our media centers.”

In the works in 2016, the new VR-oriented community media centers are laying the groundwork for programs to support the production of experiential storytelling, immersive journalism, storytelling in games, and new forms of artistic expression in the public sphere.

“We want to ensure that the public is a partner, not just a blind virtual consumer, in this emerging communication medium by supporting virtual literacy, public access to the technology, and best practices in its use,” shared Williams about their collaborative initiative. BIG and NCTV will together roll out curriculum, public demonstrations, and production and literacy training programs throughout the summer and fall.

NCTV is currently offering public demos of the HTC Vive volumetric VR system at their facilities on Tuesdays from 6-7pm, and Wednesdays and Fridays from 2-3pm.

More info about this VR community initiative is available at: www.publicVRlab.com.


Featured image by Maurizio Pesce via Flickr under CC BY 2.0.