"Design your dream professional development..."

“…anywhere in the world, develop yourself as a teacher. Don’t focus on the students, focus on yourself as a professional.”

Those are the paraphrased instructions of the Fund For Teachers grant I received in January 2019.It’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

The Application

I learned of FFT through a friend of mine, Grant Knowles. He received the grant the year before. For the 2019 cohort, 490 grants were awarded including my own, and I hope to help some of my colleagues here at Elida High School apply for the 2020 cohort!

My application focused on developing my understanding of:

  • What are the driving factors of adoption for VR training and sims?
  • What processes and technologies (such as Unity) do developers use to create meaningful experiences that aren’t games?
  • How do the managers of small startups create a culture of innovation and grit that is still inviting to the employees?

To answer these questions, I attended a virtual reality conference in London, followed by meetups with four virtual reality company startups in Paris.

The Trip

AR/VR World Summit - London (June 2019)

I first travelled to the AR/VR World Summit conference in London to see what the rest of the world was doing with these technologies, and was not disappointed.

One speaker, Rich Rabbitz from Lockheed Martin Aeronautics described how he hires Unity developers (they hire NO designers!) to make prototypes of control board consoles for battleships and helicopters.

Demo of a VR prototype used by Lockheed Martin

Fire Investigation simulator used by UK firefighters. This was built in Unity using the VRTK plugin (Virtual Reality Toolkit, the same one my students and I use!)

The AR/VR World Summit answered some key questions on what types of organizations are interested in VR development to solve problems, and how they are solving those problems.

Primarily, companies incur enormous expense developing physical prototypes (Like Lockheed Martin’s control boards) as well as repeatable training excersizes (Like the UK firefighters having to prepare a fresh fire damaged house scene by burning a new one every time.) Creating these things in VR is relatively inexpensive in comparison. 

The early research shown at the conference indicates that what the user experiences in VR DOES in fact transfer to the real world, even if the graphics are not photo-realistic, a testament to muscle memory and kinesthetic learning.

Station F, a startup haven in Paris

Originally, I had reached out to over 30 developers, and connected with one in Belgium to receive some training. However, a long-shot email I had sent paid dividends when Craig Vezina, Executive Director of the Z School in Paris, and the AR/VR Association President responded and offered to take me on personalized meet and greets with AR and VR developers around Paris!

Uptale.io interactive 360 video provides a heatmap of where the trainees eyes were looking.

Brief conversation with Uptale.io that allows users to create interactive elements to 360 video for training purposes. My students are going to try this!

Message to my students – live from Station F!

Geeking out, testing out a sound proof booth at Station F.

Discussing with Naker.io how users can make websites using a browser-based VR experience that guides the user on simulated rails like a rollercoaster track around a virtual object to show features of a product.

Conversation with Craig at Station F on innovation in education

Visiting other AR/VR startup companies in PAris

Elise at Realcast explains how she is using Unity to create a Hololens 2 on-site experience for visitors to the Paris Catacombs. An historically accurate guide walks you through the real catacombs.

What a great friendly team, even though they were under an extremely tight deadline!

I loved that these startups were so agile and efficient, hacking together solutions like this duct taped camera holder. See students? Even the pros use duct tape to fix things.

A sign of a culture that emphasizes “go fast and break things” – a messy dry erase board. Love it!

Next Steps

My Post Report on FFT website.

Action Steps:

  • Follow up with all the contacts I made, seeking guest speakers, collaboration
  • Test out trials of the various AR/VR software
  • Connect with local companies to produce training sim prototypes for them, free of charge in exchange for critical feedback
  • Help other teachers apply. My Notes/Application.
Mark Suter
Author: Mark Suter

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