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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!

Hopes & Dreams 2017: A Community Storytelling Project in Virtual Reality

(Brookline, Mass., June 1st , 2017) The first publicly-funded virtual reality lab in the U.S. has launched a participatory virtual reality (VR) campaign titled Hopes & Dreams. The project allows viewers to access community-based stories inside a virtual reality headset, on the web and via mobile.

One goal of the Public VR Lab and this project is to reduce the barriers to entry and show that virtual reality content creation can be easily created and shared on 3D web sites using WebVR and the programming language A-Frame, an open source tool created by Mozilla.

Kathy Bisbee, co-founder of the Public VR Lab, said that the accessibility to mass media, and gaining access to equipment and training are issues that traditional community media and VR share, “The Hopes & Dreams project and WebVR help lower the barriers to entry in the virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) space bringing new creators and storytellers into our community media centers to use our 360 cameras, and take classes in mixed reality content creation.”

“VR/AR is still in its nascent stages, but it’s growing fast. Many creators and storytellers don’t have the technical tools or the new skills required for this new industry,” citing the need for public accessibility to be part of the VR conversation.“

Nir Darom, BIG’s lead creative designer shared how the storytelling works in VR: “In the Hopes and Dreams project we wanted to let viewers feel as though they were right there, inside the circle of people sharing their hopes and dreams. Once you’re inside the circle, whoever you visually “click on” begins talking. This immediacy is what makes VR such a great documentary tool.”

When Fasility’s co-founders heard about the Public VR Lab’s mission, they knew WebVR and A-Frame would be a natural fit. “WebVR has the power to transform human storytelling,” said Kathy Trogolo, Fasility’s CEO. “Creators and storytellers are sharing something precious. Thanks to VR, their words and emotions are almost as impactful as they would be in person; plus, the interactive experience allows the viewer to pause and reflect on the content more deeply. The Public VR Lab and the Hopes & Dreams project is a perfect match with our mission to empower authors to create 3D immersive and interactive webspaces.”

Top five reasons WebVR is a key to the future of accessibility in VR/AR

  1. Works on the smartphone you already have in your hand
  2. Anyone can be an author – no expensive software or hardware needed
  3. Incorporates browser’s built-in accessibility features
  4. Works across mobile, desktop, and VR equipment like HTC Vive and Oculus Rift
  5. No app store!

Learn more about using WebVR to create virtual reality content at the free Boston Meetup at the Public VR Lab on June 8th, 2017 in Brookline, MA. Register here: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/web-vr-and-you-tickets-34548544627

To view the Hopes and Dreams Virtual Reality project, visit the site below: http://brooklineinteractive.org/had

About the Public VR Lab

@PublicVRLab

www.publicvrlab.com

Over the past year the Lab has demoed over 90 virtual reality experiences at senior and teen centers, offered free bi-weekly VR sessions at its Boston-area labs, curated interactive content for film festivals, launched a VR Academy with free and low-cost classes, organized a regional virtual reality hackathon focused on climate change, and created the first private-public partnership for two location-based augmented reality community storytelling projects.  

In its second year, the Lab is building on its long tradition of public access television, to provide increased accessibility and digital inclusion with an immersive media grant program, and teaching specialized classes at their low-cost VR Academy to support the production of experiential storytelling, immersive journalism, storytelling in games, and new forms of artistic expression in the public sphere.

About Fasility

@fasility_vr

http://fasility.com/

Fasility is a WebVR consultancy focused on education and user empowerment. Fasility helps their clients create web-based VR experiences that are easy to navigate, impactful, and play back on desktop, cardboard, and high-end VR devices. Established in 2016, Fasility prioritizes design, human factors, and interoperability to reach broad and inclusive audiences. Through studio projects and customized training, Fasility is bringing the power of VR to everyday content creators.

What Do You Want to Create at the Public VR Lab?

We need your help in developing the Public VR Lab! Click here to fill out our survey and earn a chance to win an Eco Dot or win a free Public VR Lab membership!

Thanks for your help in developing the Public VR Lab! Become a member and make amazing immersive media!

2017 VR Ecohack Highlight Reel

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