The Ready Player One #CPDinVR event

Updated: Dec 10, 2019


Last night saw the return of #CPDinVR with one of the biggest groups yet in attendance. The session had a Ready Player One theme and explored the way education in the future is portrayed in the book. With the film version due this month, there was great interest from the educational VR community to discuss this theme.

We started with an abridged version of the keynote presentation on this theme that I had delivered earlier in the week at the Education Experts Conference in Dubai and then moved onto a panel discussion with some great guests - Chris Madsen (Head of VR/AR for Morph 3D), Rupert Rawnsley (Technical Director at Avantis and co-creator of Class VR) and Chris Long (lecturer and innovation lead at Langley College.)

The event began with a viewing of a key trailer from the film's marketing campaign. I chose the following clip as it takes the unique approach of mixing footage from the film with audio about the project by director Steven Spielberg. Take a look:

Now I had a lot of people asking if we would be recording the event as they could not attend live. I said that I would and indeed I did record the session directly within Engage. The only problem was that we had so many people in the same virtual space that my connection was pushed to new limits. The outcome was that the PPT slidedeck I used in the session was not playing in sync for everyone which affected the flow somewhat. I have to expect to deal with these type of issues from time to time as we are really exploring new ground with the use of this type of tech. So we rolled with the punches and I ended up moving through my deck but having to assume that not everyone could see the slides in sync with me.

As such I have decided to only screencast the panel section of the event (which you will find below) as that was less reliant on the slides. Instead I will outline some of the key elements of the presentation here directly.

Science fiction has been predicting the future for more than a hundred years and we are increasingly see the ideas of sci-fi become sci-fact as technology has been developing at such a rapid pace since the turn of the century. Everything from hoverboards to Minority Report style control panels are completely feasible in 2018 and Ready Player One's vision of the future - one where a shared VR universe is where people spend the bulk of their time - is no different. In fact when I put the presentation together and decided to frame it around RP1 (since the movie releases this month), I delved back into the book to explore how education is portrayed in this future.

In the story, most students are educated inside the VR platform known as The Oasis. Here they visit a planet called Ludus (the Latin word for school) where hundreds of identical public schools are found. Within this virtual education system, a vision of experiential learning is painted as the lead character Wade Watts describes a typical day at school. What struck me was not only how possible the type of learning experiences he described were, but how I had essentially already facilitated each one of them! Let's take a look -

There are multiple ways to explore the pyramids in VR. Three great examples can be found in this article here. Crucially there's one app - King Tut VR 2 by eon Reality - which actually embodies the exact experience described in the book. This mobile app allows users to step into the shoes of Howard Carter and uncover the tomb of Tutankhamun.

Our Year 3 students loved it!

I love using VR for time travel experiences and any regular readers of the site will know it's something I've highlighted many times. Other key apps for this type of experience that I mentioned during the presentation were the Inspyro range and the wonderful Timelooper which we recently used again to allow Year 10 students to experience the Wall Street Crash event:

The next part describes an experience in Biology class -

In a truly fortuitous piece of synchronicity, I have literally just done this exact thing with some of our Year 12 Sports Science students. They were learning about the heart and the way it is affected by exercise. We used the amazing YOU app by Sharecare on the HTC Vive - which I recently spotlighted in this article. The app literally allowed me to let students do just what Wade describes - they stood inside the human heart and watched it pumping.

This clip shows the experience in action (the student enters the heart at the 60 second mark.)

Wade's description of his school day continues:

Some of our Sixth Form Art History students have explored the amazing VR Museum of Fine Art as a part of their studies. Whilst not The Louvre (which incidentally can be visited virtually using YouVisit) this virtual gallery provides an impossible experience in that it gathers some of the most famous works of art in one space. Marvel at the Statue of David then wander across to see the Mona Lisa before taking a trip up to the second floor to explore the work of Monet. Here's a clip recorded inside the experience:

Both this and the YouVisit tour were included in my piece on VR museum tours which you can find here.

This chunk of the text also refers to a trip to Jupiter's moons. Whilst I must admit to not having ventured to Jupiter in VR, I did recently work with our Astronomy Club for a session exploring Mars. We used a range of apps for this including the webVR experience Access Mars, Mars Walk VR on mobile headsets and a couple of 360 videos from YouTube. Most popular was the Curiosity experience inside Engage though which saw students travel to Mars and explore the Curiosity Rover. Oh and take a lot of selfies!

Which leads me to the final piece of the text:

For this I simply offer a favourite snapshot from a #CPDinVR event from late last year -

What this image represents is actually the closest to Wade's description for the simple reason that it depicts a shared experience. Multi-user, social VR experiences have yet to truly permeate classrooms but when VR technology becomes more accessible and affordable this will definitely change. It will be interesting to see how quickly the shared experiences of Ready Player One start to be harnessed in schools across the world.

On a similar note, Last night's session ended on a particularly special moment as we congregated on Mars to watch various Ready Player One trailers:

So the future of Ready Player One is clearly much closer than people might think. Is this a good thing though for education? How will students socially adapt to embodying avatars and could VR really be the next super-drug as Spielberg states in the trailer? We explored these themes and more as a part of the panel discussion that followed the presentation and you can watch a recording of this below:

Huge thanks to Chris, Chris and Rupert for joining me for the session and a special shout out too for former guest Steven Sato who took over on photographer duties for the event! Here's a small selection of images from the event:

#VR #CPDinVR #CPD #ReadyPlayerOne

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