Here is where we get to have the most fun. Geeks and curious by nature, our team is constantly exploring and experimenting with new technologies, tools, formats, and methods to enhance the effectiveness of our projects.
These are some of the technologies we are currently implementing / experimenting with:
Photogrammetry and LiDAR
As most in the industry will know, Photogrammetry is the science of making measurements from photographs. It’s often used to produce 3D geo-referenced surveys, where control points between several photos are calculated to build a 3D model by identifying the same elements of the objects photographed in different angles to model it in real space.
On the other hand, a LiDAR scanner determines the distance between itself and an object by monitoring how long it takes a pulse of light (often a laser) to bounce back. It’s like radar, except instead of radio waves, it uses infrared light. This data can then be used to construct 3D models, which is one of the main uses for LiDAR in construction and engineering projects. LiDAR maps can be also used to give positional accuracy.
Engineers and earth scientists use LiDaR to accurately and precisely map and measure natural and constructed features on the earth’s surface, within buildings, underground, and in shallow water. Archaeologists also use it to prepare dig sites; autonomous vehicles rely on it to construct real-time 3D maps of their surroundings, and video game companies use it to scan highways, stadiums, buildings, etc.
For our purposes we’ve been using both photogrammetry and LiDAR a bit differently. It’s the same basic principle but on a smaller scale, and mostly focused on close-range to create 3D models and to improve augmented reality (AR) implementation.
It’s been already useful in Explora for the 3D modeling of objects and areas to recreate world assets used in several traditional media projects; but also in immersive AR/VR experiences where users are empowered to not only observe, but interact in an immersive experience.
Many in the education, content, and media industry might not be overexcited about photogrammetry and LiDAR right now, but we are convinced that the technology will continue to be adopted to improve the overall user/learner experience in the coming years.
This is particularly exciting, and already part of our day to day processes.
At its core, virtual production relates to the use and incorporation of visual effects (VFX) and real-time 3D technology throughout the production life cycle to enhance the way content is created. The process isn’t exactly new, but there are trends accelerating the interest and adoption of the process.
Big names in film and episodic TV (for example Disney’s The Mandalorian) have shown that virtual production can yield incredible outputs. There are different methods and levels of virtuality, but the mindset and toolset of virtual production can support not only better creative results, but also significant time and cost savings.
Visualization, motion capture, hybrid camera, and other digitally-enhanced live-action methods are some of the virtual production techniques we have adopted Explora, and are perfectly fitting and complementary to our expanding toolset for content creation.
When the entertainment, corporate and education industries were forced to rethink production strategies due to COVID-19 closures, Explora quickly adopted virtual production, and it’s been one of the best decisions we’ve made as it put us on a path to innovate the way stories are told and consumed.
Virtual + Augmented Reality
Virtual reality and augmented reality technology has existed in various forms for over two decades. However, high cost proved to be one of the main barriers to its widespread adoption in entertainment, corporate and education. But the recent availability of lower-cost virtual+augmented reality devices (consumer-oriented headsets, smart phones, tablets, etc) has made virtual reality technology available to the common person, and a viable medium to consider investing time and resources into it.
Over the past two years, we’ve been doing numerous experimentsand client implementations that have shown the strengths of virtual and augmented reality use in education and training.
One of the most significant strengths is that they change the role of the teacher/instructor from the deliverer of knowledge into a facilitator who helps clients/students explore and learn through experience. Users are empowered and engaged because they have control over the learning experience. It’s a great method for experiential learning as users can proceed at their own pace since they are exploring a virtual environment, preventing situations where students are left behind during the lecture and spend the rest of the class trying to catch up.
Simulation & Digital Twins
The value of 3D as a learning medium has its base in its parallels to reality. Our world is three dimensional – we move, think and experience in 3D. Compared to traditional media, the spatial context that virtual environments replicate bring numerous benefits, including enhanced problem solving, better knowledge retention, higher levels of engagement and understanding, and much more.
Today, digital graphics’ technology let us generate content faster than human perception, creating experiences that are both:
- Immersive, where the digital representation of reality approaches the authenticity of our analog experience of reality, and
- Interactive, giving users have precise control over their experience and vantage point.
Also called Digital Twins, these can be experienced on mobile devices, computers, or virtual reality (VR) headsets, goggles, and other platforms.
That’s the idea behind this lab research and experimentation: to conceptualize a platform where users / students could access immersive experiences and interactive 3D objects to learn with, and engage with learning in an experiential way.
The rise of internet based streaming services fundamentally changed the way content is being produced, sold, distributed and consumed. But as technology moves forward, production companies and content authors tend not to find a compelling revenue model for their work, and users find themselves committed to services that may not satisfy their demand for content.
Back in 2020 we worked with experts from Blockchain@UBC providing production services for their online Micro-Certificate in Blockchain Innovation and Implementation. The work turned out to be, not just interesting, but an eye opener as we got hooked on the possibilities of Blockchain as the backbone for a decentralized network for the distribution of XR and simulation content, particularly for the learning and training market.
It’s very early still to share or say more, but the hypothetical scenario it’s exciting.