Virtual Reality Headsets: Beyond Entertainment

woman-wearing-virtual-reality-headsetThe purpose behind writing this is to explore the utility of Virtual Reality Headsets and  the accompanying software, beyond the narrow scope of Entertainment.  

Google Glassware – Where are you? 

I often ponder and while pondering, I often think about failed technology. Google Glass and it’s accompanying apps (Glassware) qualifies for such a thought exercise. Why didn’t the Google Glass catch on? 

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Back in 2012 Google’s version Smart Glass was defined as follows:

Project Glass is a pair of glasses that would allow technology to interact with wearer’s seen reality and integrate capabilities like voice recognition, Google maps, GPS location, and more to help interpret and react to what is being seen. *

Soon after the release, it seemed like the Google Glass on sitting comfy on many celebrity noses – from the singer FKA Twigs (pictured above)  to actress  Jennifer Lawrence (pictured below).

Screen Shot 2016-05-01 at 2.25.27 pmThere is even a tumblr for this – > Celebs wearing Google Glass.

Google was clear from the start that these glasses were conceptual at best and that they were looking for feedback to help refine the product. Still, halting sales in under three years of the launch hints at lack of confidence in the hardware/software while the rest of the world is ramping up for AR wearables.

According to ARC Applause, the Glass’s failure was due to a mix between public perception, social contract and the very visible wearable technology. The Glasswearers, with the ability to record and transmit footage from their glasses, offended members of the general public who were not keen to be a part of the trial.  Rowinski goes on to reference tech guru, Robert Scoble, who expanded on the notion of the social contract and the smart glasses:

“A lot of people misunderstood Google Glass and blamed for the camera for its failure and that was absolutely wrong.

It messes with our social contract. We evolve as humans to look into each other’s eyes. To pay attention to each other. Are we interested in each other? Are we trustworthy? All kinds of stuff.

When we put a screen in-between our eyes, it messes with that contract and we don’t know how to explain it. ‘Will you take those things off? Are you recording me?’ Those types of things.”

Could it be that simple?

There was name-calling (Glasshole) and even an instance of violence, all due to an experimental device.  I am not convinced. There has to be more to the story behind the Glass’s spectacular crash-and-burn.

Scoble claims that the camera wasn’t strong enough, the battery life was a mere 45 minutes, and what the $1,500  Google Glass lacked was the ability to ID a complete stranger the second we looked in their direction.

Not much unlike the data feed that comes up in the Terminator:

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Reasons for Google Glass’s Failure:

  • Establishments banning the device due to fears of and instances of surreptitious recording of private conversations – Privacy Rights.
  • Buggy Beta-mode – Little effort to bring it out of the trial phase.
  • Safety Concerns – Should be anyone be driving with it on?
  • Health Concerns -How about having a wi-fi signal (carcinogenic radiation) inches from your brain for hours on end?
  • Lastly, I like how Bob Doyle sums it up “The idea was great, but the execution and development weren’t.”
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“You’ll start to see future versions of Glass when they’re ready (for now, no peeking).” 

A voice from the other camp, Tim Brown of IDEO/industrial design expert, sees that while the Glass may have lost popularity, this is true of all new technology when it’s introduced to the public – it is a trial-by-fire:

“When a new technology first emerges there’s a friction caused by the clunkiness of the technology not quite being sophisticated enough and society not being used to the idea. Over time, those two things get closer and closer together. Eventually that friction goes away and the technology is accepted.”

Meanwhile the elves at Google have been busy –  they patented a contact lens camera back in 2014, and after shutting down the Google Glass experiment in 2015, have now filed a patent for an electronic device that will implanted directly into the eye and is meant to improve poor vision.

With Google Glass and other similar Smart Glasses in our rear-view mirrors, we have moved past the era of early adopters of wearable tech.

What is the Everyday Utility?

Researchers** at Disney have created an app that scans coloring book pages and brings them to life for children – a process which is termed live texturing. While the technology is still under development, this demo shows how keen big business is to bridge the divide between traditional products and Augmented Reality.

Possibilities of Virtual Reality in the Classroom

Whenever a new technology becomes accessible, we all wonder “How will it work in the classroom?”.  Google has been making waves with it’s Expeditions Pioneer Program, where it’s team visits classrooms around the world to experience ‘journeys’ via the Cardboard headset.

The team assembles headsets in the class and guides the teacher to set up an Expedition experience via a tablet. Up to 50 students can take a virtual field trip and experience the depths of the ocean or the peaks of the Himalayas, without moving an inch!  A program like Expeditions covers the Geography, History and Social Studies components of a traditional elementary syllabus.

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What about Mathematics? the Sciences?

I see it being helpful in understanding abstract concepts common in Geometry where having students experience the transformation of a 2-d shape in to a 3-d object can increase learning.

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The potential of active storytelling seems boundless.  Students can relive story lines from books assigned in Literature class, or write their own  during Writing and Comprehension class – provided the VR app is readily available to them.

As young scientists, they can conduct investigations like forensic experts shown on popular t.v. shows or imagine a climate-change scenario with various hypotheticals.

The more I pair VR with Primary Education, the more questions there are. Seeing how we recognize that the traditional school system does not equally engage all learners, Is VR the tool to be used for those students who learn more by doing than listening?

  • With VR becoming commonplace, How can instructors determine the balance between regular classroom curriculum and VR-aided curriculum?  
  • How much of the write-ups about VR in the Classroom is funded by the companies hawking these gadgets? 

Research shows 76% increase in learning outcomes if students are taught via a gamified lab simulation – if coupled with traditional teaching, the retention of knowledge jumps close to 100%.  No wonder the VR market is projected to be worth $400 billion and it’s users to be more than 25 million in 2018!

(Interested in trying out the Google Cardboard experience for yourself? While the introductory Cardboard Viewer is a mere $15, Google provides instructions to create your very own viewer with household items (velcro, cardboard, lenses,magnets).  Follow the link.)

Spiritual Tool: Bots and Virtual Reality as the New Rosary
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We have Buddhist monks using a mini monk bot in the temple to spread ancient wisdom across the land.

“Xian’er chants Buddhist mantras, responds to voice command, and chats about his way of life.Via his screen, the robot can answer 20 basic questions about Buddhism and daily life, and can perform seven different movements on his wheels”

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The Shrink is Out, The HeadSet is In

VR is being touted as a post-traumatic stress therapy tool at The Institute for Creative Technologies; patients are exposed to virtual scenarios, directional 3D audio , vibration and even smells during a session.

Aside from mental health, VR is increasingly being used by surgeons and medical school students to visualize hypothetical procedures.

“Last December, a Google Cardboard providing a 3D image of a heart helped a surgeon in Miami visualize what he needed to do in order to operate on a baby.”

There is so much more to discover and discuss when it comes to the use or even misuse of virtual reality, beyond it being a tool for passive entertainment.  What excites you about VR headsets becoming easily accessible?  Have you tried one on yet?  Drop me a tweet @marsonearth.

Sources

*What are Google Glasses? What is Project Glass?

**Disney Research: Live Texturing of Augmented Reality Characters from Colored Drawings 

Mini-Goal#1? Learn Basic Coding

I am finally getting around to starting on my mini-goal for 2016 (Hello April!), which is to learn basic coding.

I began with CodeAcademy’s free javascript introductory course.

What did I learn to do? I animated my name.

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Now, I’d like something much more challenging so I am looking at exploring one of the back-end languages like Ruby, Python or Java.

Here’s the Quora Answer that I am referencing  as well as the long-list of coding resources that are completely free.

Will post an update as soon as I select a new language to learn during the mini-goal adventure.

 

 

 

bits, bytes, blockchain

CW bits,bytes,blockchainBlockchain is today what Big Data/ Cloud Data was back in 2012- part new-kid-on-the-block and part mysterious technological chanteuse. Everybody’s talking about it, everybody wants a piece of it and almost everybody is intrigued by it.

The open ledger-mining method for tracking, trading and creating digital -slash- cryptocurrency called Bitcoin for monetary transactions across the internet – that’s how most of us have been introduced to Blockchain technology.

Not familiar with what  Blockchain is?

“The blockchain is a digital ledger of sorts, where all transactions that have been made, or events that may have occurred, can be seen online, by anyone, without compromising the privacy of the parties involved. These ledgers are shared and distributed amongst different computing nodes, and can only be changed once there is a shared consensus among all nodes. Once information is entered, it cannot be erased, and the distributed nature of these records — along with a built-in layer of cryptographic protections — make them difficult to hack or alter by any one individual.”

A blockchain is a massive, fraud-resistant distributed ledger that could be the new infrastructure of the future. The open ledger uses consensus algorithms to transparently record and verify any transactions without a third party. It replaces the middleman with mathematics. Because the blockchain infrastructure is decentralized, there’s a lot less friction and time wasted than traditional, centralized processes.

CW blockchain everythingNow, more and more, we hear of Blockchain being paired up with varying partners – Education, the Banking sector, Governance  to the Music industry- any discipline where records are kept.

Zeroing in on my particular favourite, what can we expect if Blockchain technology is applied to Education? In particular, what, if any, revolutionizing will take place if the open ledger database system is applied to everyone’s academic records?

Looping back to last year’s hottest story, the Axact – Fake Degree scandal, there are enough people out there with inauthentic academic qualifications, intentional or not, to make a case for verification of academic credentials and to identify products of diploma mills. Then the question is raised whether a public ledger system for educational records will be considered reliable.

Audrey Watters covers this particular conundrum wonderfully in a recent post of hers. Here’s an excerpt:

…When it comes to issues of “trust” and, say, academic certification, who is not trusted here? Is it the problem that folks believe students/employees lie about their credentials? Or is the problem that credential-issuing entities aren’t trustworthy? I mean, why/how would we “trust” the entity issuing blockchained credentials? (What is actually the source of “trust” in our current credentialing system? Spoiler alert: it’s not necessarily accreditation.) How would the trustworthiness of blockchained credential-issuing institutions be measured or verified? If it’s by the number of transactions (eg. badges issued), doesn’t that encourage diploma milling?”

Audrey Watters of  Aud.Life 

According to The New Stack blog, the Holberton School in San Francisco is using blockchain technology in a bid to authenticate degrees it offers. Effectively providing a service to both the graduate as well as the potential employer by being the very first educational institution to offer secured and publicly accessible academic certificates in the world.  Sounds like music to my ears, what with recent experiences in hiring department, though it seems to put the pressure on other institutions to either follow suit or share why they will stick with the status quo.

Sony Global Education announced it’s launch of  block-chain-based technology to share academic records; Sony’s product will be in the market sometime in 2017.

I had been meaning to write about this for a few days now, however, with the global uproar over the Panama Leaks, it seems to be kismet!

The Panama Papers are an unprecedented leak of 11.5m files from the database of the world’s fourth biggest offshore law firm, Mossack Fonseca….The documents show the myriad ways in which the rich can exploit secretive offshore tax regimes. Twelve national leaders are among 143 politicians, their families and close associates from around the world known to have been using offshore tax havens.

The scandal lines up nicely with the topic at-hand; with such wide-scale corruption, a decentralized, distributed model of public record-keeping applied to the purchase and transfer of assets seems to be a scheme worth trying.

data_transferIs the growing enthusiasm for uber-transparency in all services up for consumption a symptom of the decaying global economies?

Are we abandoning the bogeymans enforced on us in the era of Capitalism and trumped up banking charges to embrace the glaring authenticity of a public record-keeping system for all transactions  – all to avoid a dystopian future where no markets exist except for under totalitarian rule? (Think of any post-apocolyptical society represented in popular Hollywood cinema)

Is this the continuation of the global equality movement underpinned by technology – such as open source softwares or free online college courses?

Or is this forced declaration of one’s records (financial, academic, professional, etc) exploiting technology and millennial zeal for transparency to satisfy the need of habitual whistle-blowers and conspiracy theorists?

Tell me what you think. Leave a comment below. Tweet at @marsonearth or @catalystwoman

 

What I’m reading today: Tech & Edu

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  • Mattel’s $300 3D printer lets you design and create your own toys

  • It’s no Silicon Valley, but Pakistan is building it’s own Startup Scene

  • For gifted children, being intelligent can have dark implications

  • Inside a Saudi Arabian Oil Giant’s American Oasis

  • Is majoring in liberal arts a mistake for students? (NOOO!)

Love is in the Air! Love for Books!

happy20books
Freshly Printed Books + Flowers = Springtime 

All the books listed below are on my wishlist for Spring 2016. Seriously.

Education & Leadership 

Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead – Brene Brown

Digital Leadership: Changing Paradigms for Changing Times– Eric C. Sheninger

Teach Like a Pirate: Increase Student Engagement, Boost Your Creativity, and Transform Your Life as an Educator  – Dave Burgess

Leverage Leadership: A Practical Guide to Building Exceptional Schools – Paul Bambrick-Santoyo

best-management-and-productivity-booksEducation & Technology

The Relevant Educator: How Connectedness Empowers Learning – Tom D. Whitby, Steven W. Anderson

The Tech-Savvy Administrator: How do I use technology to be a better school leader? – Steven W. Anderson

Invent to Learn: Making, Tinkering, and Engineering in the Classroom – Sylvia Libow Martinez, Gary S. Stager

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Education & Psychology 

Flip Your Classroom: Reach Every Student in Every Class Every Day – Jonathan Bergmann, Aaron Sams

Make It Stick: The Science of Successful Learning – Peter C. Brown

The Way of Mindful Education: Cultivating Well-being in Teachers & Students – Daniel Rechtschaffen

 

 

 

 

 

Thinking about systems and design

Good clients always express intent, never instruction. Good designers ask about the intent even when handed instruction.

‘Notes on Design Process: Intent, not Instruction’ 

I’m enjoying digging into idiologie.com, full of insightful musings on the intersection between data and design.  I highly recommend that you check the blog out, as well.

#1 One Reason for Millennial Women to be Financially Literate

Blog Series: 10 Reasons For Millennial Women To Be Financially Literate

Are you Financially Literate?

Being financially literate goes beyond knowing how much savings one has in the bank; it means possessing the ability for informed financial decision-making.  I will be sharing the top ten reasons why Millennials Women MUST dominate their finances and what that looks like – beyond the jargon.

The Number One Reason for Millennial Women to be Financially Literate

#1 – FOMO is a Trap

FOMO.  Fear of Missing Out.  According to the dictionary :

FO·MO  ˈfōmō/   noun informal     noun: FOMO

  1. anxiety that an exciting or interesting event may currently be happening elsewhere, often aroused by posts seen on a social media website.”I realized I was a lifelong sufferer of FOMO”

The important words in the definition are “social media” and “anxiety”. Social Media posts by other people, especially acquaintances or the random troll,  can be annoying, but Anxiety-Causing?   Turns out this is a real issue – we can literally feel disconnected and dissatisfied with life due to the perceived success and contentment of our peers and idols.

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There is nothing wrong with staying up-to-date with our friends’ lives, but when FOMO sets in, we start comparing and evaluating our lived experiences – unconsciously. That is damaging behaviour.
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If you have ever felt the need to constantly check your Instagram or Facebook Timeline while out with friends, that is what FOMO looks like. The theory is that social media, with its sheer speed and glossy selfies, overwhelms users with imagery that is picture-perfect. In-fact, that is exactly what it is – Too Good To Be True.

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While our rational mind is well-aware of the fact, the subconscious gets triggered by these posts and creates a nervous energy – a nervous energy that is often channeled, at a HUGE disadvantage to your wallet, by going shopping.

choices

See enough pictures of your ex-boss’s new Ferrari and chances are you are gonna want to a) Buy a Ferrari  or b) Realize you can’t afford a Ferrari  and eat a tub of Chocolate Ice Cream or c) Go shopping and buy yourself another scented candle set to gloss over the feeling of overwhelm.  If this happens enough times, you will be making decisions triggered by outside influences – including how you spend your money- rather than by rational thinking and planning for what suits you best.

Still not convinced that FOMO is dangerous to your financial health?  According to Yahoo Finance, the need to keep up with friends has resulted in 56% of Canadians aged 18 to 30 to live beyond their means.  Their purchasing decisions are the result of social pressure from Instagrammed selfies and Snapchat clips, often with luxury brands popping up.

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So, the number one reason that Millennial Women should be Financially Literate is that FOMO or Fear of Missing Out is a trap.  It is an anxiety-ridden behaviour that often results in overspending that ruins your budget and fills nothing but your closet.
Coming Up Next –>   Cut It Out!  The Expenses! Stick to a Budget! 
Like what you read? Want to ask me a question about personal finance? Drop me an email at talktocatalystwoman @ gmail.com or visit my Facebook page

Selecting the Perfect University: Online Virtual Tours or Education Expos? (The University Bazaar Blog Series)

Selecting the Perfect University

Does selecting a university ever get easier? I remember being overwhelmed by all the decisions to make when the process began.  Where can I find a scholarship? How far away from home do I want to go? Can I afford this university? I can afford this one, but what to do if it does not have the degree program I want?

So.Many.Questions.

I have just made it back from The News Education Expo in Lahore and have more than a couple of observations to share. The crowds, mostly teenagers and twenty-somethings with their families, were busy browsing the stalls for the Perfect University. Theoretically, this sounds like a straight-forward affair; you walk up to the university representative, get all your questions answered and receive a complimentary pen, as well.

In reality, it was absolute chaos in the basement of Pearl Continental (PC) Hotel. If you haven’t been to the PC Hotel, the basement consists of a series of banquet halls opening into a narrow main hall.  Various universities and colleges had set up shop throughout and were closely packed together; differentiating between the representatives became a chore!  Trying to start a conversation or ask a question was challenging as the overworked representatives tried their hardest to answer serious queries from the impatient crowd.

What I witnessed today is a University Bazaar where competing educational institutions hawk degrees and dreams to uninformed students and their loved ones. There is little to be gained but a handful of shiny brochures.

Q. Is there any value in attending such Educational Expos? 

A.  Only if you know what kind of educational experience you are shopping for and are prepared to be patient. 

The truth is that these events are nothing more than easy revenue-makers for the organisers.  Once the stalls are booked, little else is taken care of; this is evident by the sloppy arrangements and the criss-cross of exposed wiring over the carpets.  Not only do the students suffer from the poor organisation,but so do the educational institutions who regularly spend their marketing budgets on them.

Online Virtual Tours or Education Expos?

So, if we strike off education expos from our list when searching for the perfect university, what is the next best option?

With social media platforms getting easier to navigate by the day, it makes sense to turn to the internet when conducting any kind of serious research. I would strongly suggest opting for online virtual tours of the universities and colleges you are considering at the moment.

Pre-recorded tours, complete with audio, guide website visitors through the campus; this is extremely important when the colleges you are considering are in far-off locations, like the United States or  the United Kingdom.   Rather than chatting it up with a disinterested staff member at an overcrowded expo, try your hand at a informational webinar. These web-based seminars allow prospective students from across the globe to log-on and take part in question-and-answer sessions with the university’s administration and admissions team – for free! What better way to understand the culture but by having a conversation?

Take my word – set aside some time for an old-fashioned Google search and a list of questions. You are bound to narrow down the options to find your Perfect University, with the help of simple technology at your fingertips! 

This is the first post in the The University Bazaar Blog Series by Catalyst Woman.

‘Read Later’ tabs: Google Glass, the Secretary Effect & Big Data

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Looking to purchase a Google Glass of your own? Better hurry, you only have until January 19th! Google is sending the wearable project underground, in the capable hands of Tony Fadell (former Apple guy + current head of Nest Labs) and will be selling to companies/developers only for app development.   Bought it? If not, guess you will have to wait it out with me for Glass version 2 to roll out later this year.

Continue reading “‘Read Later’ tabs: Google Glass, the Secretary Effect & Big Data”