2014 In Review

Apologies for more of an introspective post. This year has been a hectic one from the viewpoint of my PhD progress, let alone anything else.

The biggest milestone was successfully completing my ‘first year’ proposal review. This involved standing up in front of my supervisors, the Head of Postgraduate Studies (HPS) and any other academics and peers who may chose to attend (which a number kindly did). It can be a stressful event, but some decent preparation and a very supportive supervision team and HPS turned it into a great learning experience that has widened my view considerably of the approach I can take to my research. So very happy on this count.

IMG_3196Another key achievement was presenting my work to date (which is essentially a review of the literature in relation to virtual worlds/environments and clinical simulation) at the SimGHOSTS conference at the University of the Sunshine Coast. I was surprised at how many people attended for the concurrent session and I also really enjoyed talking to a number of people afterwards who had some great insights. The other big moment for me here was seeing the astounding simulation facilities USC has, now managed to a large extent by one of my excellent supervisors.

On the thesis front, my literature review is shaping up well and I’ve finally decided on a platform to write the full thesis. I’ve chosen Scrivener, which I’ve used for a while for fiction work but I’ve now realised it’s well set up for a thesis and even has some EndNote integration. It also eliminates a key area of procrastination, so I’m pretty excited to be nailing lot more words in 2015.

Finally, I’ve also (thanks to a great supervisor) been given the opportunity to tutor a 3rd year nursing subject for 13 weeks.I started the PhD because I wanted to work in the teaching / education area more and this is a first step I’m very pumped about.

Here’s to a 2015 where the Oculus Rift is finally released (please!!) and a big thank you to those of you still following this blog. I’d love to hear about your goings-on in the comments if you had the time.

Link Between Violence and Games Refuted

kingsmouth2The evidence has been there in dribs and drabs for years, but a recently published study puts the hole issue to bed in a commanding way:

This article presents 2 studies of the association of media violence rates with societal violence rates. In the first study, movie violence and homicide rates are examined across the 20th century and into the 21st (1920–2005). Throughout the mid-20th century small-to-moderate correlational relationships can be observed between movie violence and homicide rates in the United States. This trend reversed in the early and latter 20th century, with movie violence rates inversely related to homicide rates. In the second study, videogame violence consumption is examined against youth violence rates in the previous 2 decades. Videogame consumption is associated with a decline in youth violence rates. Results suggest that societal consumption of media violence is not predictive of increased societal violence rates.

So there you have it. Those who have worked in the field aren’t likely to be surprised, but the general public will have their preconceptions pretty heavily challenged by this. What’s your take?

Virtual Worlds and Learning Presentation

Second_LifeWith thanks to Sarah Jones via the SL Health group, this should be a great session. It looks like the time zones may actually allow me to be at this one which is great:

The University of Texas at Arlington College of Nursing will present a program with Dr. Dee McGonigle (SL: Houstonccn) speaking on the topic “Use of the Virtual Environment for Learning”.

Date: Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Time: 2:00-3:15 pm SLT

Location: The UT Arlington Conference Center in Second Life, UTArlington III, SLURL: http://bit.ly/UTASLConferenceCenter

More information: http://www.uta.edu/secondlife/nursingce/

Dr. Dee McGonigle, PhD, RN, CNE, FAAN, ANEF, is a Professor and Chair of the Virtual Learning Environments (VLEs) at Chamberlain College of Nursing. She is a Fellow in the American Academy of Nursing and the NLN Academy of Nursing Education.

She co-founded the Online Journal of Nursing Informatics (OJNI) and was Editor in Chief from 1996 through 2013. She is an active researcher and through her grant writing, has received over $870,000 in funding. She is an active researcher, presents internationally and nationally, and co-authored two textbooks: Nursing Informatics and The Foundation of Knowledge, one of Jones & Bartlett’s best sellers and AJN’s 2010 Technology Book of the Year, Integrating Technology in Nursing Education: Tools for the Knowledge Era.

Dr. McGonigle has written more than 100 publications including work books, book chapters, and articles. She is a member of both the Informatics and Technology Expert Panel for the American Academy of Nursing and the Serious Gaming and Virtual Environments special interest group for the Society for Simulation in Healthcare. She is searching for a way to facilitate translation by helping those who know (researchers) and those who do (clinicians) communicate and share. Her current areas of interest are in the nursing informatics competencies and diffusion of innovative technologies, especially those impacting learning.

Oculus_Rift_Development_Kit_2_-_YouTube

Oculus Rift Dev Kit 2: More Simulation Promise

There’s no shortage of people eagerly following the development of the Oculus Rift, and I’m definitely one of them given I see the Oculus as central to my PhD research. In case you hadn’t heard, the second version of the Oculus Developer Kit is slated for a July 2014 release. It contains a bunch of improvements, not least of which is a much nicer looking unit.

Have a look for yourself:

The position tracking improvements are particularly exciting from a clinical simulation viewpoint, as it the improved quality of what you’re seeing. To now be able to lean forward / backward / sideways and have it reflected fully means that a lot of body language cues can now be recreated virtually. Add in significant body language options and you have a huge improvement to reality of the scenario.

Now that the Oculus crew are owned by Facebook, they’re thinking pretty big, claiming they hope to create a billion-user VR MMO. There’s been some big claims in this space before, but this one’s up there.

Diving In

maze-smhIt’s been a positive 12 months in regard to my research – although none of the actual data collection has started and it’s probably a while off yet before it does.  That said, I made some serious inroads into understand the body of literature surrounding virtual environments and clinical simulation.

I’ve also submitted my first journal article on the topic – it’s a ‘state of play’ article with a focus on what needs to occur to convince educators that virtual environments can be a key component in their simulation arsenal. The article reviewers have given some great feedback and the final version should be submitted in the next week. Then it’s on to getting the first draft of my lit review structured and written.

It’s been a rewarding year on two other fronts. First, I have three great supervisors who are very committed to the research area and have been a huge help so far. Second, I’ve had some great chats with the developer who’ll be helping me build the simulation. We’re actually setting up a site to record our journey, which I’ll obviously flag here when it’s ready to go.

For those of you still beavering away in the field – I hope it’s a rewarding year for you!

[Image via smh.com.au]

 

Space Glasses: Merging Physical and Virtual

Sorry for the lack of updates, but my studies have been moving along fairly well and I’m getting closer to building the simulation I’ve been thinking about. One aspect of it may involve technology like SpaceGlasses. Have a look at the video and you’ll see pretty immediately what it’s application may be to a virtual world-based simulation:

I have no doubt the examples shown there are buffed up for the video, but I’m hopeful the SpaceGlasses will deliver a further tool in the consumer-priced virtual reality arsenal.

Release date is scheduled for January 2014 so we’ll soon see.

The Omni: Another Piece In The Consumer VR Puzzle

I have to say, it doesn’t get much more exciting in this field than what’s occurring from an equipment viewpoint over the next year. I’ve talked about the touchless Leap Motion interface already (it’s due to be released pretty soon) and then there’s the Oculus Rift as arguably the first high quality consumer VR headset. Both of these are likely to form part of my PhD research, but there’s a third piece of the puzzle that while unlikely to be used in my research, will fulfil a long term desire in regards to gaming.

It’s called the Omni and it looks like it’s going to bring an affordable human movement option. I’ve always loved the idea of being able to get fit from gaming, and the Omni may just pull that off if it achieves what it’s planning to.

 

Have a look for yourself and note that the headset is the Oculus Rift, not a component of the Omni:

The team are still currently raising funds – they were seeking 150K and close to 900K has been pledged, so there’s no shortage of interest. Check out the full details including some further videos here.

Latency and Virtual Reality – The Deeper Stuff

John Carmack created this, and set me on the road to gaming obsession

John Carmack created this, and set me on the road to gaming obsession

John Carmack is a bit of an icon in gaming circles, and he’s also one of the people that’s supporting the Oculus VR consumer headset that’s on the near horizon. I’d very stupidly assumed (having not read any biographical details on him until today) that he wasn’t that deep into the coding / science of things like this.

He’s just posted a nice piece of work on the challenges of latency in virtual reality. If you’re from a computer science background you’ll get a lot more out of it than I did, and even I could appreciate just how critical latency is in this sphere.

Latency is of course an important consideration anywhere but Carmack shows just how far we probably have to go to make VR headsets that give an accurate perception of real-time movement in physical space. It’ll happen of course – and I still want an Oculus now.