Thursday, May 4, 2017

Rain or Shine

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Switching on my daydream the other day, one of the featured items was a 360-video calledRain or Shine’. An animated tale of Ella and her new pair of sunglasses. As the short film unfolds we are introduced to the animated world around her home while watching her suffer from an unfortunate side effect of her putting on the glasses.
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The video is a true delight being both funny and cleverly making use of the both rain and the sun shine in its denouement. After watching it I discovered it was one of a series videos produced as part ofgoogle spotlight stories’.

Google spotlight stories is a project which in their own words is, ‘storytelling telling for VR’. It showcases immersive stories made especially for the VR and 360 mobile environments. You can either play the videos through the app of the same name or watch them on a 360-compatible browser

Currently, the app has 12 other stories including one with the Simpsons and one by Jan Pinkava, the director of one of my all-time favorite short animations, Geris game.  Apart from being a wonderful animation, Geri's game has filled many hours of my ELT classroom through exploiting the storyline.

However, aside from ‘Rain or Shine’ the one I have  enjoyed the most is ‘Special delivery’, which features Santa, presents and a lot of pigeons.

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On the YouTube page for 'Rain or Shine' someone has commented as to why the videos need to be 360, implying the stories would be just as good if told as ‘normal’ animation but this is missing the point, especially if you watch them in immersive VR.  Watching them with my daydream headset on you literally get a whole new world.  Usually films are told from the point of view of the director, they show you what they want to see but with films like 'Rain or Shine' and 'Special delivery' you can turn your head and move away from the ‘main story’.  The word moves around you. So, in ‘Rain or Shine’, while the main story unfolded you could choose to watch the man go to laundry instead. In ‘Special Delivery’  you can eschew watching Santa being chased to watch the build-up of pigeons behind and turn around to find they’ve gone. 

From a language learning point of view, neither of the videos have dialogue so they lend themselves to typical video exploration activities of dialogue building and retelling the story.  On top of that since students are likely to see different things as they watch, post viewing discussions are likely to create the motivation for them to watch again to see what they missed. 

The google story app is available from in your device's app store.

Rain or shine 360 can be found here
Special delivery here

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Gruffalo Spotting

The recent public holidays gave me a chance to do some Gruffalo spotting. Yes that’s right, searching for the Gruffalo in the Chiltern Hills. To be exact in Wendover Woods, one of 26forests in which, with the right app, you can go searching for the purpled prickled monster.  After a two kilometre leisurely walk, the knobbly kneed beast was duly found.

The forestry commission, as a way of encouraging it families to visit its forests, has added augmented reality to some of its forests. In a specially laid out trail, the commission has found a lovely balance of traditional, paper and augmented activities to help the trail follower become part of the story and meet the creatures of the book. 

As you wander round the trail, signs reveal parts of the next creature to be found and when you find it there is an augmented reality trigger that brings the creature to ‘life’ within the wood.  Using your phone on the trigger starts an animated clip in which the found creature then appears.

Cleverly the trigger is large enough to allow you to appear in any photos you might want to take.

For me the set up shows how seamlessly augmented reality can add value to something. The fact that it mixes traditional signs and puzzles with the augmented reward of the creature shows how AR can be used effortlessly and not at the expense of other media and the real world. Judging by the number of families on the trail it is a winning mix.

There is so much that can be done with this from an educational point of view.  Ok you need to be based in the UK to do the trails and of course the Gruffalo appeals to the more younger age group but the trail would make an excellent field trip for EAL classes, Summer schools classes or even MFL students.  Aside from the language around the trail itself (for a small price you can buy fact sheets about the animals) there is plenty of scope for follow up language work.  From students creating their own fact sheets, using their photos to create their own story books (or books recounting the trip) through to creating their own AR trails.