17 February 2017

Fieldscapes in Space!

We built a big star box for our Comet 67P visualisation a while back, and ever since we've wanted to put the whole solar system in it. So we've finally got around to creating a planets inventory which has a prop for each planet in the solar system, plus the sun and moon. In fact several planets have two models, so you can have one set where the planets are to true scale (with Earth at 1m Jupiter is huge!), and another where they just show as being a bit bigger or smaller (so Jupiter is only 2 x Earth).

You can set the planets spinning about their own axis by using the Auto-Rotate widget, and set different, realistic, speeds for each planet. You can't yet set them in orbit about the sun, but perhaps we'll work on that (most likely another set of props which include an invisible "radius stick" that you can set rotating - although it means a fixed size for the orrery.

Of course if you want different planets (or moons) you can just use the SetImage function to paste a whole globe image (real or imagined) onto any of these spheres to make you own planets or moons up!

We'll hopefully also add in the major planetary moons to a later release.

Do let us know how you use it - for instance we want to set up a solar system model along Carding Mill valley!

And of course you can see all this in VR too with Oculus Rift.

16 February 2017

VR in Education - Tech Edvocate on the NMC Horizon Report

Nice piece from The Tech Edvocate web site on 3 technologies making their way into education: VR, Robotics and Wearables, presenting the findings of the New Media Consortium Horizon Report released recently.

On VR it says:

"2016 was the year that educators began to focus on virtual reality for application in schools. Overall, the market for virtual reality is booming. It’s estimated that revenue from entertainment-related virtual reality will hit $3.2 billion by 2025, with the education arena attracting a whopping 15 million users.

With the recent launch of devices from Sony, Oculus, and HTC, 2016 revenue from equipment sales were estimated to reach $895 million for the year. The vast majority of sales were due to the release of premium devices from these brands. The stage has been set for the education sector to incorporate virtual reality into K-12 curriculum easily.

Serving in educational environments, virtual reality is positioned to begin being used to produce engaging field trip settings. Incorporation of stimulating student-led research, instruction and activities is what educators are interested in with VR, for the coming year. Virtual reality appears to be a promising tool enabling students to become the master of their learning by way of experimental, collaborative experiences."

Couldn't agree more!

15 February 2017

Datascape in AltSpaceVR

For my last DadenU day exercise just before Christmas I decided to take a look at how to get Datascape data visualisations into the AltSpaceVR social virtual reality (SocialVR) virtual world. AltSpaceVR has always looked an interesting space as it has "enclosures" - spaces within their designed spaces that you can assign a URL to, and if that URL leads to a WebGL or AFrame (see an earlier DadenU project) page then that 3D scene is rendered inside the AltSpaceVR space. Neat!

With Datascape v2.1 we have the ability to publish visualisations to the web, and then view then either in 2D in a browser using WebGL, or switch into split-screen mode to view in Google Cardboard. So since we can do that getting something to work in AltSpaceVR should be relatively trivial, and it was.

To keep the file simple I decided to write a small Perl script to take the Datascape export/publishing format (just a list of points) and convert it into AFrame. A bit of playing around to get sizes right but I soon had some DNS data in AltSpaceVR - and being able to walk around and through it with Oculus Rift was pretty neat and very immersive.

The next challenge was to see if we could get scenery items in, so we brought in some USGS earthquake data against the globe.

Being on your own in AltSpaceVR is not what its all about so we later met up with a colleague in Spain, so there two of us were able to walk around the data, and talk on voice in a true collaborative 3D VR data analysis session.

We'll continue to mature the export to AltSpaceVR and hopefully incorporate it as a feature in v2.2, and possibly an unsupported add-on for v2.1 at some point before that.

We are also looking at having some sort of a a VR Data Viz/Analytics meet in AltSpaceVR to discuss what we are doing, and anyone else who is playing in this space - details to follow.

Fieldscapes at 35,000ft

Just to prove that you can use Fieldscapes anywhere I fired up the Introduction to Cardingmill Valley exercise up at 35,000ft in a Boeing 787 Dreamliner somewhere over the Persian Gulf (see the flight tracker map in the seat-back for evidence!)