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Stanford: How Immersive Technology Enhances Education

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Episode Summary

Stanford has been at the frontline of immersive technology for decades, and VR is no exception. Virtual reality gives a new dimension to learning where you can take abstract principles and bring them to life – students can virtually experience what human hearts look like during exercise, when unhealthy, and as they age. Students can create virtual spaces for collaboration, working together remotely or touring departments across the nation. And with VR empathy training, students experience what most marginalized minorities experience daily, getting a small glimpse of what life would look like from a different perspective.

However, implementing XR in education requires both a creative vision and technical understanding. Erik discusses the need to have a team that works together to create XR content and scalable systems. The balanced focus on creativity and technical implementation makes VR successful and takes education at Stanford to a whole new level.

Key Moments

  • XR at Stanford and the Healthy Heart As We Age (03:42)
  • Remote Student Experience & Equality (06:38)
  • New Developments & Challenges with VR (08:56)
  • XR Becoming More Inclusive and Accessible (12:35)
  • Implementing XR with University (21:28)
  • Content & Device Management Challenges (26:28)
  • The Future of XR in Education & Training (31:06)
"In an academic setting, immersive technology adds real value when you can transmit information, transport a learner or transform a concept."
Erik Brown
Associate Creative Director Stanford Digital Education

About the Guest

Erik Brown is the Associate Creative Director at Stanford University’s digital media and equity unit, Stanford Digital Education. As an academic media creative who has been developing online courseware for universities such as MIT, Boston University, and Wellesley for the past decade, Erik is always looking for thoughtful and creative ways to leverage various technologies to increase engagement, access, and equity within the higher ed space.

Episode Transcript

Brad Scoggin: Hey there, welcome to “XR Industry Leaders” with ArborXR. My name is Brad Scoggin, and I am the CEO and one of three co-founders of ArborXR. And we’ve had the opportunity of working with thousands of companies since 2016, and we’ve learned a ton about what it takes for XR to be successful in your organization.

Will Stackable: And I’m Will Stackable, co-founder and CMO. This podcast is all about interviewing the leaders who are on the ground making XR happen today. True pioneers in the space from Amazon, Walmart, and UPS to Koch, Pfizer, and beyond to uncover the pitfalls, lessons learned, and secrets that you can use to help grow XR in your organization.

Brad Scoggin: All right. Well, today, we are sitting down with Erik Brown. Erik is the Associate Creative Director for Stanford Digital Ed. Thanks so much for joining us today, Erik.

Erik Brown: Yeah, truly my pleasure. Thank you for having me.

Brad Scoggin: Absolutely. Well, I guess to kind of kick us off here, maybe tell us a little bit about your role within Stanford Digital Ed.

Erik Brown: As Associate Creative Director at Sanford Digital Ed, my primary function is to figure out how to leverage various technologies to increase access and equity within the higher ed space. So SDE, which is what I’m gonna call it going forward just to make it a little bit easier, it was a unit that was created during the pandemic and there’s a lot of sort of social unrest going on at the time, people were working remotely, learners were learning remotely. And so there’s a lot of questions that got plumbed up around like, how do we increase access to the students that we currently have, but even more so like how does higher ed make itself more accessible across all the different constraints that we were witnessing during the pandemic. And so as a result of that, this team was formed, and I was brought on because I was a filmmaker by trade and I’d been doing online education for the last 10 years at various universities. And so that sort of primed me to be a really good candidate to figure out exactly how we could leverage digital education and create an equitable space for Stanford, and hopefully, higher ed in general.

Brad Scoggin: Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. And maybe tell us a little bit more about your background pre-Stanford.

Erik Brown: Yeah, sure. So I got my master’s in filmmaking from Kingston University in London. After I got my master’s, moved back to the States and I was filmmaking in New York for about four years as an independent director and producer. I realized that, you know, it was a great experience but the sustainability element wasn’t quite there. And if I wanted to have a family, I wanted to scale up, then I needed something a little more stable, and I got an opportunity to work at MIT. It was during sort of this MOOC era time, which is basically Massive Open Online Courseware where a lot of schools are just sort of putting their content online through EdX or Coursera or whatever the case may be. But MIT specifically, they were looking for filmmakers who could sort of bridge the gap and make sure that there was sort of like a higher quality content. It wasn’t just like a camera in the back of a classroom. And so I had the luxury of doing that, and I got to work with some amazing universities, Harvard, Boston University, Wellesley. But as a result of that work, I got invited to come out to California. So I relocated and I’m working at Stanford, and I was doing that work for Stanford for about five years as well. But SDE came along, like I said, during the pandemic and one of the things that really moves me, which is why I had gone to MIT was this idea of equity and education and leveraging these tools. And so SDE, again, provided me an opportunity to do just that, like fulfill my passion as a filmmaker, but then simultaneously sort of create with a mission in mind. So it was really, really valuable for me.

Brad Scoggin: Yeah, that’s very cool. And yeah, I’m excited to hear more about, kind of the applications that you’re seeing in education. I think, maybe most people don’t know this, but Stanford is really, I mean, they’ve been in XR from the very beginning with Jeremy Bailenson and the Virtual Human Interaction Lab. And so, even for us as a company, we’ve been in education for some time over the last few years. So I’m very curious though, with that kind of background at Stanford, you come on board, COVID hits, access equity, talk about kind of what it’s like deploying an XR program under that umbrella of Stanford, of Jeremy, and how COVID kind of played into that.

Erik Brown: Yeah, absolutely. So as you mentioned, Stanford’s been doing this kind of work using XR technologies since 2003, so sort of like very much at the beginning. Jeremy set a lot of the groundwork that we utilize and leverage today. When I first joined Stanford, they had a huge studio in the basement of the building that I’m in currently. And one of the faculty came to us and they’re like, they’re doing a course on exercise and aging, and they wanted to literally show the transformation of the heart. What does that look like as you get older? What does it look like when you don’t exercise? What does it look like when you do exercise? And so we decided to create a whole infrastructure where the faculty could walk through the heart and we could get to see all the different phases. And as a filmmaker, especially in an academic setting, one of the best practices is like, you only use a video when you can transmit information, transport a learner, and transform a concept. So if you can’t do those things, there’s no value add to doing video. You could probably just do that in a text-based situation. And so we thought, in this case, what would be nice is to create this immersive experience. It would have a greater impact, a greater reach for various learners who are like, “I understand that when I don’t exercise, my body goes through a set of stages.” But it’s a whole different experience when you get to see it. And so the faculty’s literally there and she’s like, “Yeah, this is the heart of a runner.” And you get to see how sort of pink all the different parts of the heart are. She’s walking through different arteries, and it’s like these arteries are blocked to this extent, but this is what it looks like when you don’t exercise. And then you get to sort of see the plaque build in and things like that. So I think it’s super immersive experiences like that, do exactly the three things I was saying. We were able to transmit a set of information to the learner. We transported them directly into a heart, and then we transformed the learning experience because again, we all sort of have this conceptual understanding of like, “This is what it looks like when I do or don’t do something.” But when you get to really witness it, it does change the dynamic. So that’s one sort of way that we were leveraging VR in the space. Now, in the current role that I’m in and sort of talking again about equity and sort of post-pandemic, one of the things we are appreciating is that the Supreme Court is sort of grappling with ideas around affirmative action. And within the next few years, that may be a metric that colleges can’t use anymore to determine who they’re admitting, who they’re not admitting. And so that opens up a lot of challenges for universities. And so one of the things I’m doing now is I’m working with a student-led group here at Stanford in partnership with Jeremy’s unit, they’re called the Stanford XR, is what they’re called. And they’re creating student stories, which in a virtual space. And the idea there is, again, if you know, again, assuming that people are remote and they can’t necessarily fly in with ease, all the things we’ve seen with the pandemic, students who live on the East Coast for instance, would be able to access the campus still in this semi more tangible way. We’d get to transport them in. Then simultaneously, rather than sort of doing a generic tour of like, “Look at the Spanish tiles on this building.” Or, “This is where this faculty member that you are super excited about working with, this is the building they’re in.” We were like, “How about we transport the students directly into a space where they can meet with other students, other Stanford students?” And so they come into this sort of virtual space, and the idea is that they’re engaging with current Stanford students who are sharing their stories. We think it’s important just because, A, there’s a ton of diversity, especially in the undergraduate level, and we want students again, who are a little bit further away who can’t come in to appreciate that despite sort of the elite name of Stanford and the privilege and all of those things, there’s a lot of great things going on and there’s a lot of access that they could benefit from. And so that’s just one of the examples of how we’re leveraging this technology, sort of as a reaction to COVID, but then simultaneously, other social things that are taking place at the same time.

Will Stackable: I love that, hearing about that impact. And you talked about one specific mechanism, the ability to transport somebody, and we’ve all had that in VR. If you put on a headset, you’ve been immersed in another world and it does feel real. What else are you experimenting with? What’s kind of on your radar? And maybe, are there any other experiences that you’re excited about right now?

Erik Brown: Yeah, so one of the things that everyone’s obviously talking about right now is this push for AI, this big craze around AI. I think a lot of people don’t appreciate that AI paired with things like VR, is really valuable, the implications there are massive. Some of the big challenges with VR obviously is access, when it comes to the different hardware. So that’s an issue. Then simultaneously, because it is just costly. Then simultaneously, it’s like how do you develop and create content fast enough? When we first started, we would be working with a program and that program would probably get sunset before our project was finished using it, and then there wasn’t enough sort of support around that. And so like, slowly but surely though, we’re getting to a place where, A, things are becoming more accessible, more affordable, more sort of consumer-based, and that’s both in the consumer side of things but then simultaneously in the developer side of things. And so I think we’re really excited to see where the field is going and how we can leverage it, especially for students that we’re working with who historically have been left out of those kinds of technologies and access to those kinds of experiences. Again, doing things with VR glasses is an option. I think when we think of XR, that’s kind of the default, where sort of like, oh, you know, you get a meta quests situation. But the reality is is like AR is super valuable, super accessible. I think a lot of people are more prone to having a phone than they are even to having a computer for instance. Then those same demographics probably have Snapchat or Instagram or something along those lines, and those platforms are already leveraging AR. And so it’s been socialized and in a very familiar way. And I think for learners, there’s a way where you can create, and there’s a ton of research out there about this where it’s overlaying when you’re doing trainings, this idea of, “Now, I need you to do this.” And you can literally have a visual that’s sort of indicating like, you need to move your hand to this location, and that muscle memory gets developed. So I think there’s something there. I think the other thing that we sometimes fail to appreciate about VR and what it’s capable of is like, there’s an emotional strength that can be sort of created, afforded to towards. And so Jeremy’s unit has created a ton of research around empathy training, and I think more of that is probably valuable. And this is, again, sort of in response to all the different things that are taking place socially, especially here in the US. Now, during the pandemic, pre-pandemic, if you can expose people to different experiences and help them sort of have a modality shift in how they’re engaging with their reality. So I remember when I was growing up, there’s this idea that VR was going to make people stay in their homes and just live in glasses and VR world. And the truth is, virtual reality is an opportunity to train people to actually go out into the real world and do better work and to just process better. Part of the reason why I was able to join you guys today is I had met one of your colleagues, David, at an immersive week out in Rotterdam. And one of the things I really, really appreciated about that experience, there’s a group who was making content with people who had autism in mind. So it was very specifically created to adjust for some of the constraints that they had. And it just reminded me why do this work. There are always these demographics who are often just not thought about when it comes to creating accessible educational experiences. And the reality is they have just as much to contribute to all of our worlds and our economies and all of those things, but if they don’t have the tools because we’ve sort of designed without them in mind, we’re doing ourselves as a species collectively a disservice. And so again, this idea of how do we leverage these technologies to capture those demographics and hopefully improve the world in some ways.

Will Stackable: Well said. Man, I don’t normally do this, but you know, so our why here at Arbor is all about using this immersive technology as a tool, not as an escape, to help us have our, give our time back, and to help resources so that we can have richer real-world relationships and to have flourishing communities. And I think that’s something that really resonates deeply with both Brad and I. I’m curious if you’re willing to share it all. You have a filmmaker background. What’s your personal why? What drives you? When you wake up in the morning, why do you do what you do?

Erik Brown: Yeah, I mean, I think I’ve touched on it a little bit, but for me, I always ask myself like, again, collectively as a species, how much, further along, would we have been or could we be if, again, there’s just like this democratization of education. If everybody had access, some of the issues that we face on a normal everyday basis, if we had more voices in the room, right? Oftentimes, especially being in these sort of like really elite higher ed spaces, you fail to appreciate that the answers don’t always come from a noble laureate. They don’t often come from the CEO of some tech industry, tech company. It’s more, those people who are literally on the ground experiencing these really challenging situations, and they’re constantly, their minds are for staff to figure out solutions. And so if we’re able to give tools a way to all the different people who we should be reaching and who are not, we kind of increase our odds of having better solutions. So I think that’s really, really important for one. I think for two, I’ve had the privilege of working in New York, but I was living in New Jersey at the time, and I was living just sort of like on the outskirts of Newark, and I got to see every single day commuting into work sort of this world of like the haves and then the have-nots. And just experiencing that, realizing like, potentially some of those gaps between those two different demographics, it’s just access to resources and education. And so as a filmmaker, I feel like I have this really amazing opportunity to tell stories that are super dynamic and engaging while simultaneously having a thorough line around access and accessibility, privilege, and appreciating that privilege shouldn’t be something that prevents the collective from benefiting. And that’s where we are now where it’s like we’re hoarding things and people just aren’t able to do what they need to do to help the species along.

Will Stackable: Thanks for sharing. I really appreciate it. Yeah, I think we’ve all had experiences, most people listening, putting on a headset and kind of stepping into somebody else’s shoes in a way that I think you, a good film, you sit in a movie theater and you can be transported, but I’m always amazed by, we’ve seen some really interesting even, there’s one experience where you’re in a, you step into the body of a Latina woman who just got a raise, a promotion, and you kind of realize as her that she maybe, the conversation with the coworkers, she starts having this realization that, “Oh wow, I was promoted because I’m Latina, not because maybe,” and it’s just, it’s interesting how different that is when you’re in her body and you’re, you look down and you see her hands versus maybe watching a film. I’m curious, have there been any of VR experiences? We actually did, also just did an interview with a fantastic ISV, Bodyswaps, and they do some of the same really good work. Have you tried any experiences where you had that kind of aha moment where you were transported into somebody else’s world and you had sort of a transformative experience that you could share about, or maybe if your students or your team has one that is a favorite?

Erik Brown: Yeah, so it’s awesome that you bring that up. So again, Jeremy’s lab, the Virtual Human Interaction Lab at Stanford, they do a lot of empathy training. And two of the experiences that I’ve had the privilege of doing at the lab, one is you’re transported into the body of a homeless person for a day, and you just get to experience all the different ways that they’re treated. Living in the Bay Area, homelessness is definitely something that we face regularly, and it’s a very complex issue and not an easy-to-resolve one, but there’s often this word disconnect where it’s like, there’s a little liberality that runs through where like they’re humans, that we need to treat people who are homeless like humans. But then when those same homeless people are sort of like, parked out in front of your office space or your home, your relationship to that experience changes. And I think being transported into a homeless person through a virtual means, it’s an awesome way to build empathy, right? You start to realize like, I’m sitting on a bus and everybody is moving away from me slowly and that’s not something that if I wasn’t homeless, that I’m familiar or comfortable with, that’s not as like, it’s very nuanced experience. That same lab that they transport you into a homeless person, they also do it into a black male. And he’s walking around and he has an incursion with the police. And so having that experience, I think the aha moment for me is I’m part of a team of about 11 or 13 people with part-time hires and I’m the only black person on the team. And so when you’re in a room full of white people predominantly, a few Asians and Hispanics, and they get to have this experience, and then you get just to watch sort of, again, that sort of epiphany happen for them, it’s really, really moving to realize like, in the beginning, they’re walking around and they feel that they have a sense of what reality is, and then ironically, they go into a virtual reality to get a better handle on what reality actually is. And I think similar to what you just referenced, Will, it’s this idea of like, even sometimes the micro elements of our realities have really large impact. So if you’re a Latina woman and you discover that you’ve been hired or promoted as a result of your race, that’s not usually done in a hammer-over-the-head kind of way. Those are like these micro-interaction, microaggressions, subtle things that are taking place. And so when you’re not her, it’s easy to look past those micro-moments. Yeah, you’re like, “You should just be happy you got promoted. Why are you worried about that?” But when you are her, you realize you have to be aware of that, and that’s a really integral part of our experience. It’s not easy to live in a place where you realize that you’ve sort of been broken down to these little parts. But again, it’s sort of ironic that you have to go through a virtual experience, and actually understand it to some extent what reality has to offer for somebody.

Will Stackable: Yeah, it’s so true. It brings me back to a lot of corporate training, is so boring. And I remember my first job at a restaurant, I was 14 1/2, and they put on some video about sexual harassment, and it was so bad I couldn’t even watch it. So I was just doodling on the pad and I was just thinking, “Man, it’s so much more effective.” Some of the stuff that’s coming out in VR where you really can kind of, yeah, I mean, they say walk a mile in somebody’s shoes if you wanna understand them. And I think that’s huge. Well, I kind of wanna zoom out a little bit. I think we kind of focus in on the personal and these really unique experiences that can be transformative. I wanna talk about what does it take to actually implement a VR program at a university. And maybe we could start with content, how you guys think about sourcing content? There’s the big question of do we build it internally. Do we source it externally? So maybe we start there. How has your team thought about that? And when you think about scaling to other universities even, what would you suggest or what would you recommend?

Erik Brown: Yeah, so you know, Stanford is a unique case just because we do have access to quite a bit. But I think there’s some universal truths that run through, right? So one thing that all universities sort of have the privilege of, a workforce, right? And a lot of this VR work really demands a lot of collaboration and a lot of different, various skill sets. So even when I was referencing the sort of like Stanford XR project that we’re working on, we have students who are building the different universities but we’re bringing in students from all the various schools to share their stories, right? And so everybody’s involved, and I think there’s a world where if we can bring students, as a university anyway, we can bring students into this process, number one, it helps build their portfolios. It gives them this amazing experience. But then number two, it’s one of those things where, you know, usually when you have to outsource these labors, they can become rather expensive and costly, not to say that the students are cheap labor, but at the same time, you don’t have to pay them quite as much as you would like an agency who’s developing something for you. Now, especially more than ever because the software’s more accessible and more affordable, this is a great time. Bring in as many people as you can. I think the second part is that brain trust. So again, you’re on a college campus, you have access to all types of really well-trained people. And again, don’t feel limited to just the virtual reality component, right? Bring in all types of different users to experience and give feedback, but then also as you’re developing, I think it’s really important. One of the things that the students here are doing is they’re bringing ethicists into the development process. So they’re thinking through like, “If we decide to make this decision, what are the implications? Who benefits? Who’s harmed?” And that shapes that process. So I think there’s something to that, again, especially within the university space is like leveraging the brain trust. That’s the value add of accomplished space. I think when you’re thinking about things like cost ’cause that always comes up when you’re having these conversations, we’re now in a world where it’s a lot more feasible to scale. Maybe you’re not gonna have glasses for everybody, and that’s okay. But again, leveraging phones or even doing it as a web-based experience, the limitations are far less than there were before. A lot of times, the process is probably not entirely dissimilar to industry where it’s like, you know, we’re sitting down collectively and we’re thinking about what we want the end to look like, but then we start story-boarding and all the different narratives. When you do virtual experiences, it comes with the additional challenge and layering of, you’re not just having this very linear experience, you’re making decisions as a user. And so what are all the ways, and what’s fantastic there, at least for me especially is there’s equity within that, right? All the different experiences that you could possibly have within a space, how do you allow and afford your user that opportunity and still build it within a really robust experience? And so I think there’s something to that as well, like as you’re building out, I couldn’t stress enough just having all the people in, but again, all the normal issues that come up with the development of virtual content, those things can be really fun to sort of get through, especially as a group. But yeah, I’m just thinking again when you’re doing research, there’s another additional layer to all of that because a lot of times you’re like, “What are the end goals of this?” And what are you hoping to do with that research? And I think, when it comes to bringing these technologies into a classroom, if they don’t align with a learner goal, it probably means you shouldn’t be using the tool, right? You should only use this tool if the outcome means a better learning experience for your student, and so even that’s a process. I feel like I’m attacking your question from all these different angles, but it’s only because as I’m looking at it in my head, there’s all these ways to sort of look at.

Will Stackable: Yeah, no, it’s complex. So you talked about content, you talked a little bit about people. So we’re working with universities all over the world like Stanford that, it seems like one of the topics that keeps coming up is you have these consumer headsets. We figure out how to get content on them whether it’s creating it internally with students or teams or externally with vendors, but then there’s all these other systems and processes you have to think about putting in place, especially as you scale. Have you guys come across any pain points, and even when it comes to getting content updated or making sure headsets don’t walk off and leave the campus, what are some of the things that you’ve come across that you think other educators probably will also face?

Erik Brown: Yeah, so, you know, there’s a lot of hardware sort of challenges that you just have to sort of think about going in. So when we did the heart, we’re working in a studio that’s working through hundreds of gigabytes of information all the time, and we still needed to sort of like upscale our systems to accommodate for the even larger amount of information. So anyone who’s developing and they’re thinking to themselves like, “Oh, we can just throw this on a hard drive.” You know, no. We have a rate system and we still need it. And a rate system just, is like a whole bunch of really massive hard drives and we still needed to go back and rethink like, “How do we do this to scale?” We had the luxury in that moment that we’re only creating this one experience. But to your point if this is something that you want to do regularly and you want to continue to build off of, you have to think about those things in advance, then to the point that you made around sort of like headsets, the team that we’re working with, we’ve given them all headsets. But to your point, we’re using ArborXR specifically so that we can track those headsets. The students go away on winter break and then you discover that they’re like, “Oh, I’m in Singapore right now visiting my family, I brought the headset with me.” And you’re like, “Oh my goodness, how do I account for that?” But those are the kinds of things again that you’re sort of thinking about, like how exactly are your developers sort of being, you know, just kept up to speed? How do we know where things are? How do using them? Again, because we’re working with students, I get it. Like sometimes you go visit your family in Singapore, and then you’re like, “Oh, I forgot to pack it when I came back.” And it’s like, that’s a problem, but at least we know where it is. You left it on thankfully. And so, something like ArborXR is fantastic for those kinds of tracking elements. But again, even deploying things as well. So there’s a hardware side, then there’s a software side, and you have a lot of people working on a singular project. You wanna make sure that everyone, it’s sort of with a Google document that’s live and everyone’s in there making edits. You need it to almost feel as close to real-time as possible just so then that way people aren’t overriding each other or duplicating efforts. And so again, having those softwares in place that allow multiple people to work on a singular project is really, really important. And so those are things, again, that in the very beginning stages are worth thinking about. I think as a creative, it’s always a challenge because either you’re a gearhead and you’re super excited by the tech or you’re sort of the storyteller and you’re really more excited about the storytelling. And I think with virtual reality especially, you need to bring those two acumen together. If you don’t have one of those acumen, find someone who does. So if you have someone who is tech-oriented who can think through that process, bring them in as early as possible because, without them, the creative vision may not be able to actualize because you don’t have the hardware for it, you don’t have the software for it. That’s really, really integral. You can’t do these two things separate and sort of in a silo and then hope it all just shakes out in the end. It’s not that easy at all.

Brad Scoggin: Well, it’s funny when we transition from kind of being in entertainment space with tethered headsets to the standalone devices, so many of our early kind of exploratory customer calls with universities or enterprise, the processes they were using, they were shipping headsets back and forth, they were mailing content. I mean, literally, big companies were putting content on a flash drive and mailing it in the mail, right? We’re just like, “Oh my goodness.” It’s like, you talk about this, the future, the most futuristic hardware on one hand and then the most archaic process on the other. This is kind of this weird mismatch. Okay, we’re almost out of time and we typically end with a hot take. But I still have a question that I wanna ask you. I think with your perspective, I want something more meaningful. So like Will said, we work with a lot of universities, we work with a lot of high schools. You said so many things that really resonate with me. I think the access is just, man, like, I used to work in a non-profit that was an education non-profit that served developing nations, and you think about just the potential that’s there if there was more access, right? And then you touched on the importance of the XR initiative aligning with the learner goals in the classroom. So there’s a lot there when you think about, okay, you know, even philosophically, like what is the future of XR education look like? We’ve got groups we talk to that, “It’s okay. It’s gotta get to where it’s a one-to-one. Every student has their own device.” Others say, “No, it’s gonna be a shared scenario.” Then you’ve got this type of empathy content which is super powerful, and then you’ve got very practical math content. How do you see that all playing out over the coming, I don’t know, decade, as we close.

Will Stackable: In 30 seconds?

Erik Brown: Yeah, absolutely.

Erik Brown: Yeah, that’s a great question, and it is something that I’m often thinking about. A lot of the work I do really is future-focused, like what’s the world we want to wake up to tomorrow and how do we get there once we figure that out? I think the space for VR, one of the things that we have to appreciate VR within itself is not a silver bullet. So it’s never going to really be the be-all or end-all answer for anything. But I think that there is a world as I see it where, again, these sort of like augmented experiences will constantly sort of creep into our existences and they’ll help shape and inform things potentially for the better. When I think about how that looks, I’m thinking about things like even glasses, right? I know Snap had tried to do it at one point, Google, Facebook, all these different big tech companies are trying to figure out how to integrate AR and XR a normal everyday basis. I think number one, the future AR and XR will be more consumable for sure without question. Yeah. So there’s gonna be that access, which is nice, and it’s not gonna be pro-consumer, it’s going to be consumer. I think when it comes to education and the deployment of it, I would love to see a world where, again, we’re having more immersive experiences and they don’t need to have a headset, they don’t need to be in a classroom, they don’t always need to be collaborative. I think it’s great if they are, especially if there’s a way to have people all around the world sort of having this virtual experience collectively. That just opens up the doors for exchange of information in a way that we just don’t see or have currently, not really well, not robustly. And so I think there’s a world where that works out. And I think between making it sort of more globally accessible and making it more accessible by the consumer, that increases equity. And then deployment, which we’ve talked about, I think using the technologies, for instance, that AR, XR has, where you can literally just send groups of people these different drops at any given time. I think that’s amazing. The implications of that, especially within an academic space are really large once the technology sort of meets up with it a little bit more. I don’t think that the higher ed space is going to be the, sort of the sole arbiter of education because of VR. I think there’s gonna be a lot of training opportunities. VR is amazing for training. And so to your point, Brad, you had sort of said like you have this kind of educational content and then you have this other kind of educational content. I think where VR shines, at least right now, is in the training. And I think slowly but surely, vocational schools would be an amazing place for this kind of technology. And we have to appreciate that even though we don’t view it as traditionally vocational, med school, very vocational. Yeah, if you have a med school, you could do surgeries virtually. That would be amazing. Yeah. So that’s like really, really valuable. I think there’s a world to school of education. You’re teaching students. There’s no better way to train teachers than to literally drop them into a space, give them all types of scenarios, and help them sort of shape their muscle memory through that experience, vocational school. I’ve heard of law schools creating virtual courts where you can go in and go through that process and having those different sort of control mechanisms to change the outcomes so that you have to adapt really quickly. Vocational school, valuable. So again, there’s like this world where all these different schools need training, and I think that’s where you’re gonna see the future really, really shine with this technology. That said, kind of as a closing point, the reality is, is that until these technologies are more accessible, we won’t know just the limits, like how far out could this go? But once they do become, I won’t lie to you, I think even whatever I can imagine right now and tell you, it’s a drop in the bucket. Once more people are able to bring their experiences to sort of like the creation process around VR and XR in general, the limits are kind of endless because everyone is just gonna have a very unique use case. But once you have a a million use cases, you just start experiencing this tech in a very different way. So I think that’s what the future is, make it accessible. Once it’s accessible, let’s see where it goes. It could go everywhere, anywhere, all the time.

Brad Scoggin: Yeah, that’s great. And honestly, at that point, it starts feeding itself, right? I think you opened up with film saying that, your film doesn’t make sense or video doesn’t make sense if it doesn’t transmit, transport, or transform. When we think about VR, we think about things that are difficult, dangerous, or expensive, right? And when you think of what, yeah, to be honest, I quote. And so yeah, I mean, you gave a lot of great use cases there. And what we consistently see and use training very loosely, right? So from a standard education setting all the way to industry, when people are learning faster, when they’re learning quicker, and goodness, I just wanna hit it again, the accessibility piece, to me, it’s just super, super exciting. So, Erik, really appreciate your time today. I appreciate, of course, hearing about all the practical, but really, you shared your heart with us, and I think that was great. And it really just speaks to even Stanford as an institution, just how you all look at XR and kind of the thoughtfulness with how this thing rolls out. So thank you so much, and we’re excited to see what else comes from the Stanford Digital Ed in the future.

Erik Brown: Awesome. Thank you guys so much.

Brad Scoggin: Man, it’s such a great interview. I really appreciate how thoughtful Erik is and his approach to rolling out XR at Stanford and kind of all the different initiatives that they’re working on.

Will Stackable: I know. It was great to hear from a true pioneer in the space, actually brought me back to when we got to visit Stanford and tour the lab, Dr. Bailenson’s lab, which really was the origin of the original research for virtual reality.

Brad Scoggin: Yeah, that was an awesome experience. Well, thank you all so much for joining us. Make sure you subscribe wherever you consume podcasts, and we look forward to seeing you next time.

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