Through the looking glass: Adventures with the Hololens

This blogpost has been a long time coming. I have meant to write about our ongoing Hololens developments for some time. I wanted to start by saying, even after over a year with the Hololens, it still really excites me over all of the other VR/AR technology currently available. Since I last posted we have purchased three more Hololens. This expansion was to enable multi-user experiences, something which I think makes the Hololens and AR stand out from VR in a classroom environment. These extra Hololens have helped me to work on two fascinating projects; Spectator-view and Share Reality view, both utilizing multiple units.

Spectator-View

We have had the Hololens for over a year now and only have one video demonstrating it. This is due to how difficult it is to record the AR via the Hololens. Microsoft thought of this and created Spectator-View. The spectator-view allows you to plug in a digital camera and Hololens into a computer and stitch together the images from both. This means you can record the Hololens at much higher resolution. But to do this, you need a second Hololens and a mount to hold it onto the digital camera. So second Hololens, check, Hololens mount, check (see the picture, I 3D printed one over the summer). Now came the hard part. Although Microsoft has created the software for Spectator-View, they don’t package it up in a nice easy application. You have to build it yourself via the source code. After a few hours of debugging, I finally got all of the required applications working. This is our current setup.

top view of Hololens on plastic mount
Hololens sitting on 3d printed mount

I am looking forward to making some new Hololens videos.

Share Reality view

The second package I have been working on is a shared reality experience where the users get to explore an archaeology site, Bryn Celli Ddu, and its associated data. Similar to the spectator view, Share Reality allows each Hololens user to see the same hologram within the same space. This will enable us to create shared experiences, for teaching this is a vital tool. Being able to all see and interact with the same object within in the same space. This adds a whole new level to AR allowing for more social interaction, not isolating the user in their own `realities’ like VR or single user experiences.

This share reality experience was demoed at GIS day.

Recap: Day of DH 2018

3 scholars seated on high chairs with microphones smiling and laughing during discussion.

Image caption: (l-r) Thabiti Willis, Jack Gieseking, Adriana Estill in conversation. Photo by Briannon Carlsen.

 

Guest Post: Arduino Water Depth Monitor

Author: Nathan Mannes, ’19

With supplies from the Geology Department and with the advising of Andrew Wilson, we have created an Arduino-based water-depth monitor. The grey cone you see at the bottom of the photo is a sonar-device that measures how far the closest solid object in front of it is. That could mean a wall, but we intend to put it over a body of water, like Lyman Lakes, to measure its depth over a long period of time with little maintenance. Because it is solar powered, we can leave it outside and let it send readings on its own.

On the right side you see a 3G shield module (with the antennae) mounted on an Arduino. It uses mobile data to send readings over the internet. But it has to send data to somewhere, right? We are setting up a public-facing webserver so that we can keep track of this data long-term. Then, much like the water tower, we will always be able to check what the depth of the Lyman Lakes are. In the future, we intend to expand this to conduct other readings on the water, like its pH or temperature, or volume of flow.

Academic Technology at OLC Innovate 2018!

Andrew, Dann, and Janet presented at the Online Learning Consortium Innovate! Conference in Nashville.  Their talks were (respectively):

Dann’s notes from sessions he attended are summarized below:

Andrew’s Spring 2018 Update

Fall and winter terms were an exciting time for me, with the arrival of our new 3D printer and the in-class trial of one of my Augmented Reality (AR) applications. Spring term will be just as exciting but a bit more virtual for me, as I will be spending time developing virtual experiences for Psychology and making virtual proteins a reality.

Spring term will also see more development and another full trial of our Biochemistry AR application. Working together with Rou-Jia Sung, we will be developing additional modules for use within the Intro to Biochemistry course this term. On this front, we will also be applying for a NSF grant to fund further research into the use of AR within a classroom setting. Excitingly, the AR application will be presented twice this term at the Online Learning Consortium (OLC) in Nashville and at the Society for the Advancement of Biology Education Research (SABER).

Spring will also be an exciting time for me personally. Now I am settled in Carleton, and having worked with the wonderful librarians, I am about to embark on writing my third book Visualizations in Cultural Heritage. The book will look at the history and development of the multitude of visualizations employed within the Cultural Heritage field.

Carly’s Spring 2018 Update

This term I’m looking forward to more sunshine and outdoor running! But I’m also looking forward to the data collection phase for a few of my research projects. I’ve got quite a busy term ahead of me!

I’m working with Asuka Sango (Religion) on implementing some gamification techniques into her Zen Buddhism course. The goals of this project are to provide students with a positive reinforcement model for participation in good study behaviors and optional components in her course. While research suggests that gamification works well, it will be interesting to see what we can learn about the efficacy of gamification in a small humanities course.

I’m also stepping up my work with Language Lesson, a software that I designed as a practice tool for foreign language speaking exercises. This year I’m delving deep into the field of acoustic phonetics and digital signal processing to try to introduce intelligent features based on second language acquisition research. I will be presenting on the development of Language Lesson and the implementation of pitch graph display at the next CALICO conference in late May.

On this project, I’m collaborating with Andrew Wilson, who is helping to manage a team of student developers to realize this project. I’m excited that these students are getting some practice with software development and experience with tools used in industry.

Amongst all of this, I’m also traveling to Japan in April to participate in the International Kyudo Federation’s International Kyudo Seminar and Shinsa (rank examination). I’ll be learning, taking a rank examination and volunteering as an interpreter. It’s going to be an exhausting trip, but I appreciate the opportunity to visit Japan and make use of my language skills to help others learn.

Above us only digital sky: Augmenting Real Life

Time for my second post. This post is a lot later than expected; I still haven’t got this blogging down yet.

As part of the fun new tech we have been purchasing at Carleton, we managed to get a hold of a Hololens. Unlike the HTC Vive, which is VR, the Hololens is AR (Augmented Reality). The Hololens is an impressive piece of kit and one I am the most excited about. According to Microsoft (its developer), the Hololens is “the first self-contained, holographic computer, enabling you to engage with your digital content and interact with holograms in the world around you.” In normal terms, it is a tiny computer attached to a set of glass lenses, which look like a very futuristic headset.

These lenses are where the magic happens. The Hololens has three layered screens for Red, Green and Blue channels, which are combined to render full-color objects. The onboard computer uses an inertial measurement unit to calculate the location of you and the “holographic” object within your surrounds. This technology work in a similar way to AR on your cell phone with games like Pokemon Go and Ingress.

The Hololens opens up some fascinating teaching possibilities. Unlike the Vive and VR, which is very isolating and a single users experience, the Hololens and AR can be developed to be a multi-user experience. This multi-user experience enables to each Hololens to view the same 3D, providing some exciting possibilities within the class.

One of the first projects we worked on was to develop an AR model of the Piper J3 Cub used to train Carleton students in the 1940-50s. This was a part of a museum display for Sesquicentennial celebrations. The original idea of this project was to utilize the VR and HTC Vive, but I felt the Hololens would be more fun for visitors and would still allow them to be present within the space. Thank you to PEPS for editing one of my favorite videos using the Hololens.

Video from Piper Cub J3 (https://vimeo.com/189338455). Watch this space for more fun videos!

 

dh2017 Recap

Sarah and Celeste give thumbs up next to their poster for dh2017

This month, Sarah Calhoun and I attended dh2017 in Montreal to present a prototype augmented reality app co-developed with Andrew Wilson and Adam Kral. Our poster and additional resources are linked here, but here’s the synopsis:

Our goal was to create an augmented reality app that could better visualize complex and multiple temporalities AND be an easy reusable resource for classroom use. We chose a mural painted in a Thai Buddhist temple in the UK as our case study because of its layered iconography: the mural depicts the Buddha’s defeat of Mara, but the painter chose to include anachronistic elements including machine guns, Vincent Van Gogh, and a rocket ship. We wanted a way to highlight both the historical references, which could be plotted along a traditional chronological timeline, and the temporality of Buddha’s history which could not.

We got useful and positive feedback from the poster session at dh, as well as additional ideas for refining and extending the app from attending several sessions. Our next steps are to clean up some of the identified bugs and do several rounds of user testing with faculty, staff, and students to clarify how we proceed.  

Kral, a rising sophomore, did the bulk of the development work over the summer: learning Unity and building it out in AR Toolkit. His account of what he built is posted here, and we plan to continue building on Adam’s work and thank him for his efforts!