Category Archives: Video
Adventure via Oculus
My mind has moved into 2021 as I start to plan my next adventures. But my body had been struggling with 2020 pandemic workout options.
That is until I discovered the Oculus Quest 2 Virtual Reality Headset. My son-in-law introduced me to it and I knew immediately that I needed to have this technology. The opportunity to immerse yourself is another place such as a good backpacking trek totally justified the purchase. Then I explored some exercise oriented apps and decided to buy a 1 year subscription to SuperNatural.
So this is my short post about how the Oculus 2 Headset has allowed my Adventures to Continue. The YouTube VR Library is growing with some really great 360 videos. Plus there is Oculus TV which gives you many options to travel around the world. But then I explored the exercise option and realized that this VR thing could be the answer to the exercise motivation needed to keep my old body ready for the live adventures. I have never participated in any organized exercise program. I don’t do yoga and I have never joined a health club for exercise. But this SuperNatural App made exercise enjoyable and I have selected a few coaches who I like and my body is truly starting to experience the rewards. The concept of hitting black and white balls coming at you with virtual bats along with squatting under triangle barriers also coming at you is good. I decided to write a post after ending a session where I worked out on the surface of the moon as well as at my favorite backpacking location of Tom, Dick & Henry Mountain. The technique of placing you in a beautiful setting hitting balls and squeezing under virtual tunnels gives your body a complete workout. You can work up a sweat with a good 15 minute session and you definitely have to push yourself to finish the longer sessions. Here is the SuperNatural Promo Video:
This Virtual Reality tech is not entirely new to me. As a CIO in Higher Education I have watched the progression of the VR Technology. In the early days a team of many developers would spend months to develop an immersive experience on the high priced Oculus headset of the day. But now VR’s time has arrived and Facebook’s purchase of Oculus is a part of it. The Headset is relatively affordable now because the money is going to be made off the apps. This is just the next Playstation or XBox. BTW – my right arm is a bit sore from playing so much Table Tennis on the Eleven app.
Update 6 weeks later – still very positive. I have been meeting my goal of working out 4 times a week and I am seeing amazing improvements with strength and flexibility. I don’t worry to much about points, I realize that just doing the workout is a victory. The thing that bugs me the most is when I hit a ball with the wrong colored bat. I think the mental exercise aspect of the workout is as important as the physical. I think the combination of exercising and then getting in the Hot Tub is great for the body. I have always had low back concerns and now I feel so much more confident. I can’t wait to hit the ski slopes or the backpacking trail to enjoy what this old body can do.
Update 12 weeks – still going strong. This article from CNN captures my experience accurately. Tomorrow I head out for a 4 or 5 day trek on the Lost Coast Trail which will be my first opportunity to gauge my fitness progress from Supernatural with the demands of backpacking. Overall my Supernatural journey has been all that I could have imaged from an exercise program, but most of all it provided the motivation to “Just Do It”. I have progressed steadily to harder sessions but have also realized that I need to pace myself. My streak of 11 weeks meeting my goal will end this week.
IT Facilitating Teaching and Research
Reprint of IT Facilitating Teaching and Research: this article of mine that was recently published in CIO Review Magazine’s Education Edition offers my observations about how IT needs to take a more deliberate role in not just supporting academics and research but also to stimulate it. I used our example of investing in a SAP HANA Appliance and committing staff resources to support the use of it for teaching and research. This has proven to be beneficial even without the opportunity for our Business ERP students to get hands on experience or the Autism Spectrum Identification research project now using it. It has been successful by just expanding our staff expertise in this area.
Now we have a few more of our investments showing potential and all of these solutions have been developed by our student employees. We built a 8×10 ft 3×3 video wall that our students named Nonavitra that we have located in the library so that everyone can use it. Here is the Library Guide describing what it is and the procedure for access. We are seeing use range from the ERP business students presenting their SAP Dashboards, examination of gigapan photos from geology, Electromagnetic Compatibility display from ECE, students exploring NASA Eyes to the Rugby Club using it to watch a video of an upcoming opponent.
We are also looking at mounting a LiDAR camera on our new helicopter drone. Again another example where IT provides a tool that can stimulate research, but IT also owns maintenance and operator expertise that is critical for taking advantage of the drone. We have built a digital signage solution that we call MinerBytes based on the Raspberry Pi computer that is being deployed throughout campus. We are also close to finishing our production version Segway. I will save the Segway story for another post, but again another project which provides incredible experience for students that just might translate into something that can benefit our university.
Research Support and Student Experiential Learning
The pursuit of a STEM degree has gained significant attention in recent years as we evaluate the ROI for a college degree. A recent article in NerdScholar by Yesenia Rascon, “Top 5 Reasons to Apply to a Research University” highlights the importance of experiential learning, access to research facilities and hands on career development quantifies many of the reasons we allow our IT student workers the opportunity to participate in exploratory projects. This all relates back to a culture that we promote for our very successful IT Research Support Services, RSS, group here at Missouri S&T. I have been fortunate to be in a position to carve out some IT budget to dedicate to research support. However, because some of my funding comes from student tech fees I make sure that the students benefit from our efforts. This translates via the hiring of student workers, but extends beyond tradition tech support jobs. We hire students in RSS who seek out that opportunity and we benefit from important support services that they are able to provide to our university. However, we also reward them with the opportunity to own their own research projects. Our staff does offer advice and support but we also let the students fail.
Our students also earn the right to attend national research conferences such as the annual SuperComputing and Great Plains Network. These opportunities provide them excellent presentation experience which we utilized this summer by having our students conduct a workshop for the CyberMiner camp for high school students. We asked them to present their current projects to about 50 high school juniors and seniors. We designed the workshop to encourage the campers to engage with our students and it was truly an inspiration Geekfest showcasing our future technology leaders.
Here is a quick glimpse of the projects they presented and a sense of the workshop.
MinerBytes which is a digital signage project based on using the Raspberry PI computer connected to any monitor with access control given to designated administrators. This was a project conceived by a biology student last summer and this summer we are preparing it for version 1 production deployment on campus and in our community. Somewhat of a surprise to us was that this project generated the most interest by the high school students as they were intrigued by the coding behind MinerBytes.
The Helicopter Drone Project is in its infancy which was good to be able to show the campers how a project gets birthed. We don’t know where this project will go but we believe we should be on top of the explosion in use of drones. We have ideas for using it in creating virtual tours.
The Segway project started out last summer and has proven to be the perfect multi-discipline opportunity for our students. With a heavy electrical, mechanical and software development component we have had many students involved with this one. Our students presenting the Segway gave the campers some excellent advice based on their experience in designing the controller boards which they fried more then once. They told the campers what they appreciate most about their opportunity to work on these projects is that they are allowed to fail, and that has been their greatest learning experience.
The Segway prototype moved to a production design this summer which offered an excellent opportunity to display how they used SolidWorks design software on the new Video Wall that RSS built this summer. The Video Wall currently named MinerView is built on solid computer video display principles but was built from scratch with special attention given to the structure to mount the 9 55 inch high resolution monitors. The students had just a few hours to assemble the video wall in the classroom used for the workshop.
The Video Wall will be used in the upcoming Research and Technology Development Conference, #RTDatSandT on September 15-16 where representatives from Indiana University and the University of Texas will show off the latest in visualization techniques. RTD2014 is another great opportunity for students at S&T.
Of course the Video Wall has many uses and will be an important addition to our Library where it will be made available to the entire campus for visualization. We already know that it will be instrumental as a foundation for our Business and Information Technology department’s ERP Center.
Hopefully this gives you an idea of what is possible if your Information Technology department combines the needs of the university with an opportunity for experiential learning.
This New RSS website presents the students projects very well.
New Era of Data Visualization is Upon Us
Big Data is a term being thrown around a lot lately, probably because it is so easy to acquire or generate huge datasets for just about everything. And when I hear scientists discuss this trend the conversation always seems to end up with the need for better tools to interpret or visualize the data. As the new CIO of Missouri S&T I inherited a data visualization project that was started by my Research Support Services group to help one of our geophysicist’s interpret his data. At first it was help with running ParaView, an open-source, multi-platform data analysis and visualization application. Projection solutions were setup and a front end data filtering and a loading tool was created. Enough work to show real potential and earn the team of students nice recognition at last year’s SuperComputing 2012 Conference.
Last May as a new team of students was coming on board for summer work we took the data visualization system to the Great Plains Network Conference where it was again highly acclaimed. The system, now called
Visualizing Four Dimensions in Rolla or V4DiR is now anchored by the front end software referred to as Transformer. This front end, as explained by Nick Eggleston, a junior computer science major from Maysville, Mo., who leads the project is a computer program to allow the software to show how data progresses over time. The program will also allow users to manipulate the format of their data and combine similar sets of data. The recent article reprinted in Science Today on V4DiR explains more.
I throw out all of this buildup about V4DiR to announce that I believe we are ready for a new era of data visualization. One that might actually justify all of those expensive video display monuments that have primarily been used for marketing. Maybe the concept of the virtual immersion CAVEs are truly ready for prime time. My investment has been minimal up till now but I am ready to invest heavily when I validate the most effective technology for this new era. We hope to explore this in more detail at our upcoming Research Technology Day at S&T. Join us, registration is free.
Good Look at our iGFU Mobile Portal
Our student News team wanted to do a story on our iGFU Mobile Portal. They tried to video record a demo off of an iPAD which was not going to work so iGFU author, Brian McLaughlin, made them a simple tutorial that we now use on our website. Checkout the tutorial if you have any interest in what a university mobile portal needs to be. Remember, our mobile portal is basically a skunk works project that leverages the flexibility and performance of HTML5 using Java and PHP to access useful data from general data feeds, Moodle and our PeopleSoft ERP.
The tutorial also highlights a couple of other useful tools. Brian made the video by using an App called AirServer that allows him to mirror an IOS device to his MacBook. He then records it with Quicktime and with a little editing on iMovie you get a very real view of a mobile app. Then we upload the video to our new ShareStream video distribution system which gives us total flexiblity to manage and distribute video (especially if we want to manage copyright). We are investigating if AirServer might offer a better path for iPad mirroring to projector in the classroom.
Streaming Your Athletic Events is a Win
I happen to be a CIO who is also a sports fan and supporting my university’s athletic programs is a benefit of the job. IT’s involvement with Athletics in recent years has been based on the technology needed for broadcasting our sporting events. A good partnership as IT needed to perfect video streaming techniques and Athletics was looking for any exposure they could get. Early on we had excess bandwidth to offer up for video streaming of events. Last year we learned a lot about streaming and video production, etc. Some success and failures, but it was a lot of fun and with parents of the athletes the primary benefactors.
Well we got some exposure mostly with having a NCAA Women’s Basketball Championship, so there was increased demand for improved digital presence for Athletics. We solved a big need by outsourcing our Athletics website, but improving the video streaming was the big problem. The issue for streaming had to due with my lack of excess bandwidth (read my last blog post). We outsourced our athletics website to Presto so I inquired about their involvement with video streaming. They pointed me to Stretch Internet, which has provided us with a very acceptable and improved solution. Now we are having more fun improving our video production quality. We’re granting internships to students in our Cinema and Media Communications program, selling sponsorships to pay for the broadcasts and seeing early viewer numbers that are telling us this is good for exposure. Something tells me we have again set the bar up a notch and I think this will provide positive support for our university.