xr4change-ethics
Ethics in XR is a vast topic, and I had a chance to moderate a panel discussion for Games for Change / XR for Change Talk and Play salon with four people including Tom Ffiske (Editor of VirtualPerceptions.com), Galit Ariel (TechnoFuturist), Kavya Pearlman (founder XR Safety Initiative), Em Lazer Walker (cloud advocate at Microsoft).

We talk about Ffiske’s six principles for data capture, XRSI’s Data Classification Framework Public Working Group, the power dynamics of the biggest players, business models beyond surveillance capitalism, safety risks, engineering harassment mitigation vs cultivating inclusive cultures, experiences of public vs private spaces, regulation, Microsoft’s approach towards ethics, foreign state actors spying on domestic citizens, ethics of XR for military contracts, research into ethics, addictive gamification, and cultivating moderation.

LISTEN TO THIS EPISODE OF THE VOICES OF VR PODCAST

Here’s the video of the original panel discussion from June 25, 2020.

This is a listener-supported podcast through the Voices of VR Patreon.

Music: Fatality

ieee-vr-ethics-in-mr
The IEEE VR 2020 Conference brought together the academic XR community to share their latest research, and to talk about topics that are of interest to the wider immersive technology industry. I participated on a panel discussion on Ethics and Privacy in Mixed Reality where we talked about the landscape of moral dilemmas, and how the work of the academic research community could help to address potential harms that could be done. Diane Hosfelt is the Security and Privacy Lead for the Mixed Reality team at Mozilla, and she moderated a discussion with Dr. Erica Southgate (University of New Castle), Divine Maloney (Ph.D. student in Human Centered Computing at Clemson University), and myself.

References for Virtual and Augmented Reality Law and Policy

LISTEN TO THIS EPISODE OF THE VOICES OF VR PODCAST

Here’s the video of the panel discussion

This is a listener-supported podcast through the Voices of VR Patreon.

Music: Fatality

Virtual-Sandtray-VR
Dr. Jessica Stone is a licensed psychologist and registered play therapist who has been experimenting with integrating technologies into her therapeutic practice specializing in working with children. She and her husband developed a Virtual Sandtray application for the iPad, which allows her clients to build virtual worlds that becomes an archetypal representation of the dynamics of their inner psyche. After seeing the initial success of this tool, then she requested that her husband create a version that would work with a PC VR and HTC Vive so that her clients could be completely immersed within the worlds that they’re creating for therapeutic insights.

Dr. Stone has found this virtual sandtray technique to be highly effective to allow her clients to communicate in a non-verbal, metaphoric, and symbolic way to go a lot deeper than using words alone.

I had a chance to talk to Dr. Stone at the Greenlight Strategy Conference about her journey into VR, and some of the early lessons she’s been learning from using VR within a psychologically therapeutic context. She’s currently exploring distribution options for the VR version of the virtual sandtray, and adding more remote session capability into the iOS version. She’s also been digesting her insights about the intersection of technology and therapy in a couple of books with Integrating Technology in Modern Therapies, 1st Edition released March 5, 2019, as well as the Digital Play Therapy, which was just released on July 16, 2020.

As more therapeutic applications are developed for VR, then we’ll likely see new design theories, theoretical frameworks, and metrics for success that primarily focus on the psychological wellness and well being of the patients. It’s still very early days of therapeutic VR and experiential medicine in general, and Dr. Stone is doing a lot of important foundational work that could continue to develop into new industry verticals for VR.

LISTEN TO THIS EPISODE OF THE VOICES OF VR PODCAST

This is a listener-supported podcast through the Voices of VR Patreon.

Music: Fatality

VR-Pedagogy-book-cover

erica-southgate

Erica Southgate released a book titled Virtual Reality in Curriculum and Pedagogy: Evidence from Secondary on Classrooms May 19, 2020, which covers the theory and practice of using VR in classrooms. Southgate is an Associate Professor of Emerging Technologies for Education at the University of New Castle in Australia, and she is focusing on going beyond training and into applying the Deeper Learning Framework for using VR to help teach higher-order thinking skills, collaboration, academic mindset, self-directed learning, metacognition, and communication skills.

I had a chance to talk with her on the eve of her book release to talk about her approach to pedagogy in VR, her lessons learned from using Minecraft VR in classrooms to have students create their own content, some of the ethical considerations for VR in the classroom, and moving beyond the Remember, Understand, Apply, and Analyze of Bloom’s taxonomy to do more Evaluation and Creation.

She also explains a bit of her Actioned Pedagogy for Immersive Learning (APIL) as a middle-range technology integration framework that tries to provide more pragmatic suggestions for integrating immersive technologies that are more specific than the more universal, and context-independent approaches of the Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge (TPACK) model by Mishra and Koehler (2006) and the Substitution, Augmentation, Modification, and Redefinition (SAMR) models by Puentedura (2010). Here’s a table from her book, which provides a bit more context:

APIL-framework

Another interesting reference that I wanted to share from Southgate’s book is Dede, Jacobson, Richards’ chapter in “Introduction: virtual, augmented, and mixed realities in education” from 2017 that talks about four types of psychological immersion:

1. Actional immersion: Empowering users to initiate action or discover new capabilities that can have novel or intriguing consequences.
2. Symbolic/narrative immersion: Triggering powerful meanings and associations that can motivate learners or create affective or intellectual connections that can deepen mental models of what is to be learnt.
3. Sensory immersion: Immersive displays or headsets can create a panoramic egocentric view of a virtual world or objects that can be harnessed for procedural (knowing how) knowledge or connecting declarative (know what) knowledge with spatial learning.
4. Social immersion: Sharing reasoning to get things done and learning along the way with others.

This has a lot of resonance with the four types of presence I refer to as active presence, emotional presence, embodied & environmental presence, and mental and social presence, which I’ve talked about with VR researcher Dustin Chertoff before here.

Southgate’s book Virtual Reality in Curriculum and Pedagogy has a great balance between the theory and practice, and as a researcher she’d like to see more industry support to continue to do in situ research within classrooms to get more data and insights for how to integrate immersive technologies into secondary education environments.

LISTEN TO THIS EPISODE OF THE VOICES OF VR PODCAST

This is a listener-supported podcast through the Voices of VR Patreon.

Music: Fatality

cyberdelic-media

carl-h-smith
Carl H Smith‘s work is at the intersection of VR, psychedelics, and esoteric contemplative practices. He’s the director of the Learning Technology Research Center at the Ravensbourne University London, co-founder of The Cyberdelic Society, co-founder of The London Experimental Psychonautics Club, and founder of Holotechnica Academy as well as Technomancy.club. Smith has been researching different experiences of Double Consciousness, including lucid dreaming as well other liminal states of consciousness, as he’s trying to explore the extent of our consciousness through the combination of immersive tech, psychoactive substances, and ancient wisdom traditions.

I had a chance to read a pre-print of a paper on Double Consciousness that Smith wrote, and talk to him about his idea, how these approaches could help us move from an individualistic frame to a more collective orientation, and we talk about some of the larger technological trends towards this “New Screen Deal” and living through technologically mediated mediums, and how we can preserve our nature as social creatures who are connected to each other and the planet.

LISTEN TO THIS EPISODE OF THE VOICES OF VR PODCAST

This is a listener-supported podcast through the Voices of VR Patreon.

Music: Fatality

https://dts.podtrac.com/redirect.mp3/d1icj85yqthyoq.cloudfront.net

kaleidoscope-cannesxr

Cannes XR is a part of the Cannes Marché du Film, which is the business side of the Cannes Film Festival. For the past two years, they’ve collaborated with Kaleidoscope VR to curate a development showcase featuring the creators of immersive stories who are in the early phases of fundraising for their projects. They had already selected over 20 projects in February for their 2020 edition, but they needed to look to alternatives to a co-located event when the global pandemic was announced in March. They had just two short months to convert their gathering to an online, virtual event, and they ended up collaborating with Tribeca Film Festival Virtual Arcade, VeeR, and Positron in putting on a virtual exhibition of over 50 different projects within the Museum of Other Realities.

Elie-LevasseurI had a chance to see all of the experiences, which I talked about in a previous episode with VR critic Pola Weiß, but I also wanted to touch base with Elie Levasseur, XR Program Lead for Cannes XR, to get more context on the event and process of pivoting online. Cannes XR considers itself to be more of a funding accelerator and incubator than market or exhibition of completed works, but these circumstances catalyzed them to collaborate with Tribeca Film Festival, VeeR, and Positron on putting on a more robust exhibition of completed immersive narrative projects ranging from 6 degree-of-freedom experiences that would have normally premiered at Tribeca, to VeeR’s curation of 360 videos from the festival circuit over the past couple of years, to experiences that could work within Positron’s rotating chair, which would normally be a part of a location-based entertainment installation.

This collaboration that Cannes XR catalyzed resulted in what I see as the closest online, virtual exhibition that I’ve seen that matches the caliber of work that you would normally see when attending a major film festival, and it was all available for free through the Museum of Other Realities.

In talking with Levasseur, I got a lot more context as to just how unique this collaboration has been, and it was a short, two months of development time in order to pull together so many different things. He talks about the evolution of Cannes XR in the past three years as something that came out of VR projects appearing in previous years in the Cannes Next portion of the Marché du Film, but it eventually merited the creation of it’s own event. Levasseur explains that a main difference between Cannes XR and other festivals like Sundance, Tribeca, South by Southwest, and Venice is that they’re focused on the early stages of funding where these other festivals are exhibiting completed projects.

Cannes XR is also collaborating with René Pinnell’s Kaleidoscope VR again as he’s been cultivating a robust community of immersive artists and storytellers. As the exclusive event coordinator for the Museum of Other Realities, Kaleidoscope took charge of collaborating with the MOR, gathering the project builds, and organizing the pitch sessions on Zoom. Cannes XR has been cultivating relationships with funders and distributors, and helped to set up over 200 one-on-one meetings for the group of 20+ projects in development.

Pinnell started Kaleidoscope after his own experiences of going through the the labyrinthian process of fundaising for immersive narratives, and decided to build a social network to reduce the friction and make this process more accessible to more artists and creators. Cannes XR collaborated with Kaleidoscope on the open call for projects, and a lot of the infrastructure that Pinnell has been building happens to be perfectly suited to virtualizing this process that normally has happened face-to-face at a series of International Film Festivals from around the world. If you’re an immersive artist or storyteller, then be sure to check out what else Kaleidoscope has been doing with their monthly, community-funded grants.

This whole Cannes XR event was a bit of a miracle that they were able to pull it off on such short notice. As a result, there were a number of rough edges and bugs within the Museum of Other Realities that I’m sure will be sorted out in future iterations, but the whole event was a pretty remarkable collaboration between the MOR, Cannes XR, Kaleidoscope, Tribeca, VeeR, and Positron. It’s shows that it is possible to replicate aspects of an immersive exhibition virtually, and moving forward I hope that the other immersive festival exhibitions continue to experiment with remote and virtual distribution, and dedicate themselves to doing hybrid events with a physical and co-located exhibition as well as an online and virtual exhibition. Both the Virtual Hamberg (VRHAM) and Cannes XR festivals showed that it’s not only possible, but in some ways more streamlined and a better overall experience avoiding lots of lines and hassles of travel.

LISTEN TO THIS EPISODE OF THE VOICES OF VR PODCAST

This is a listener-supported podcast through the Voices of VR Patreon.

Music: Fatality

Tempest
Tender Claws continues to be one of the most innovative studios pushing forward what’s possible for immersive storytelling in VR by launching a Tempest, which is a live, immersive theater show within The Under Presents. It’s a show that blends the ambitions of live theater with the ambitions of gaming, with some embodied live action role playing in order to tell the story of Shakespeare’s Tempest.

samantha-gormanThe Under Presents has been employing live immersive theater actors since it’s original launch in November 2019, and they’re taking the lessons learned and putting on a 40-minute, one-man show for $14.99. It’s a unique fusion that seamlessly blends the affordances of theater and VR to create something truly unique that yields new innovations for the future of immersive storytelling.

Genevieve-FlatiI had a chance to talk with Tender Claws co-founder Samantha Gorman, who also wrote the Tempest, as well as Genevieve Flati who is one of the dozen immersive theater actors from The Under Presents who will also be taking on the role of Prospero in the Tempest. We talked about the lessons learned from The Under Presents, the process of fusing theater and gaming with inspirations from Journey, how to deal with different audience temperaments, how to make the audience feel seen and connected, and the three guidelines for adding in the “live” element of an experience of setting parameters and boundaries, engaging activity and responsiveness, and assigning roles and permissions.

The Tempest is one of the most innovative experiments of immersive storytelling that I’ve seen so far that starts to create unique group dynamics that will be different every time. Gorman expects to see quite a lot of different variations from performer to performer, and Flati expects that even from show to show that she plans on mixing it up quite a bit. (UPDATE: July 6, 2020, See the text below for more details on pricing.) If you’re interested in the future of immersive storytelling within XR, then this is must-see performance that will give you a really great idea for how to successfully blend together the ambitions of immersive theater and the affordances of VR.

How does pricing work for all this?

  • Tempest will be available for $14.99 (US) per ticket as an in-app purchase and includes permanent access to The Under multiplayer space.
  • The Timeboat single player experience will be available as an in-app purchase for $11.99 (US) and also grants permanent access to The Under multiplayer space.
  • The intro to The Under Presents (about 45 min of gameplay) will be free of charge as a demo of the experience.

LISTEN TO THIS EPISODE OF THE VOICES OF VR PODCAST

Here’s a teaser trailer for the experience:

Tickets to the Tempest show are an in-app purchase for Oculus platforms only (Quest or Rift), and Alex Coulombe walks through the process in this video:

https://twitter.com/iBrews/status/1280196311392927744

This is a listener-supported podcast through the Voices of VR Patreon.

Music: Fatality

violence

shola-amoo

Shola Amoo’s Violence is a provocative virtual reality experience that “re-contextualizes the notions of violence by examining it through the lens of state oppression against marginalized groups.” It’s difficult to say too much about my experience of this piece without giving too much away, and so I highly recommend trying to find a way to see this experience before reading too much more or listening to this conversation exploring all aspects of the experience and it’s design.

Violence was originally set to premiere as a part of the Tribeca Virtual Arcade in April, but due to the global pandemic the premiere was delayed until June 24 to July 3rd as a part of the Tribeca showcase at Cannes XR within the Museum of Other Realities. There are a lot of very timely themes around the ethics of violence in protest that have been a big topic of discussion the wake of the range of riots and non-violent and peaceful Black Lives Matters protests that happened in the wake of the death of George Floyd.

Amoo is a filmmaker who directed The Last Tree, and it was from the film festival circuit that he was able to see some of his first VR experiences at Sundance and Encounters with pieces from African creators produced by the Electric South that provided a lot of inspiration for what could done with the medium. He knew that he wouldn’t be able to explore the issues of race, perception, bias, and agency within the more passive and flat medium and film, and so he set out to create a piece that contrasted the sonic refrains of compliance and the futility of protest by Margaret Thatcher and the more revolutionary and liberation rhetoric from Malcolm X.

There’s a lot of really well-considered design intention put into this piece with the use of a lot of symbolic and metaphoric imagery and embodied dance performances, as well as a number of challenging provocations that merit some further discussion and conversations. There’s a lot of really inspired innovations around the immersive power of virtual reality as a medium, and how to set up and debrief an experience through the innovative use of surveys that are conducting a scientific study in collaboration with Royal Holloway.

There’s a lot of provocative polarities explored in this piece, and after debuting it in a virtual reality world of the Museum of Other Realities, then Amoo says that he’d love to be able to screen Violence within a larger context of talks, seminars, discussions with historians, artists, and educators to be able to provide additional context and statistics about the role that violence has to play in tandem with non-violent resistance in order to bring about revolutionary change. It’s hard to encapsulate everything within a singular experience, but Violence provides an experiential context to have further and deeper discussions exploring these issues. I’d highly recommend keeping an eye out for Violence, and to check it out and carry on this conversation.

LISTEN TO THIS EPISODE OF THE VOICES OF VR PODCAST

This is a listener-supported podcast through the Voices of VR Patreon.

Music: Fatality

MinimumMass_ImagesOnly_Page_04
Raqi_SquareRaqi Syed and Areito Echevarria’s Minimum Mass is an emotional, immersive narrative that explores grief of miscarriage. They apply their visual effects knowledge gained from working at WETA Digital in New Zealand to push the real-time game engine to go beyond the cartoony, flat shader look. Syed is interested in exploring more photorealistic lighting in VR with a film noir style inspired by Todd Hido and dynamic lighting inspired by Lumia artist Thomas Wilfred.

AreitoEchevarria is also interested in researching how the proximity to characters in VR is correlated to the emotional impact of a story, and they’re experimenting with a rotation mechanic to rotate these table-top scale scenes within the experience. Having a table top scale allows a lot more agency for the viewer to walk around and act as a sort of cinematographer choosing the perspective that is the most appealing to them.

Minimum Mass was a part of the Tribeca Showcase at CannesXR 2020, and I had a chance to catch up with Echevarria and Syed to talk about their experiential design process, exploring metaphoric embodiment of grief through a sort of tentacle smoke, how they worked within the limitations of a real-time game engine of Unreal Engine, their process of working with actors in VR, their experimentation with using the world rotation mechanic to get the best perspective, the philosophy behind their lighting and fragmented black hole world to invoke a personal dream-like quality, and how they took inspiration from Jungian psychology and the alchemical principles of the reconciling third to resolve the tension of opposites.

It has one of the most distinctive styles that I’ve seen in VR, and it’s a powerful personal story about the trauma and grief of experiencing a miscarriage. Syed said that it’s the process is both retraumatizing, but also cathartic to be able to create a piece of art that becomes a point of conversation in something that is otherwise a pretty taboo topic. She says that good art requires that you have skin in the game, and that this work is a result of putting themselves out there to be public and vulnerable about a very difficult experience. Given that they were an independent production, then they were also freed from the overplanning that can happen in big film productions and they were able to follow their artistic intuitions in an iterative fashion. They described their process as a sort of deep, intuitive listening of what the piece was telling them what it wanted to be.

Minimum Mass is still available to see for free until July 3rd as a part of the Tribeca Showcase within the Museum of Other Realities.

LISTEN TO THIS EPISODE OF THE VOICES OF VR PODCAST

This is a listener-supported podcast through the Voices of VR Patreon.

Music: Fatality

cannesxr-MOR-lobby

The CannesXR Showcase features over 50 different immersive narrative experiences in the Museum of Other Realities from June 24 to July 3rd, with showcases featuring 12 experiences from Tribeca Film Festival, 12 360 video curated by VeeR, 6 experiences for the Positron chair, and over 20 projects in development curated by Kaleidoscope VR. Usually these types of narrative experiences are shown at film festivals, but with the global pandemic, then there’s an opportunity to actually see some of the content from the film festival circuit that’s normally not widely available.

pola-weiss
I had a chance to see all of the content, and then talk with VR critic Pola Weiß, who writes the VRStories.blog focusing on the evolution of immersive narrative. We talk about all 12 of the 6DoF experiences form Tribeca, and then our highlights from the rest of the showcases. I’d recommend checking out as much as you can before it ends on Friday, July 3rd, and then have a listen to this episode where we unpack our takeaways from CannesXR.

LISTEN TO THIS EPISODE OF THE VOICES OF VR PODCAST

Here’s a thread with more context information about the festival, where to download the content, and some of the logistical feedback on the social dynamics and experience of using the MOR.

This is a listener-supported podcast through the Voices of VR Patreon.

Music: Fatality