Ready or not, virtual reality, augmented reality, 360-degree video, and other new tech has been coming to the learning field, and it’s coming fast. Like every other new technology in the past, it is up to us to decide when these newer methods will help us reach our learners to help them grasp and retain the new skills they are trying to learn.
Most learning professionals are not computer programmers. Until recently, creating virtual reality elements in our learning meant we needed to know how to code. However, there are now tools that let us create virtual reality in much the same way that we have been using traditional authoring tools: no coding required.
One of the better tools I’ve seen for creating virtual reality scenarios is the subject of this month’s review: Modest3D Xplorer (Figure 1). Modest3D Xplorer is part of the Modest3D suite of tools and is meant for nontechnical folks and, while powerful, it also isn’t too difficult to pick up and start using. There are many features in the tool that allow for more flexible and immersive learning experiences, but you don’t have to know it all to quickly start building some nice interactive virtual reality scenarios that you can drop into more traditional learning when they make sense.
Figure 1: Modest3D Xplorer
Where can you use the virtual reality examples you create? While you can certainly use created scenarios with headsets like HTC Vive and Oculus RIFT, how would you use them in more traditional eLearning courses?
There are really two ways to publish from Modest3D Xplorer:
- As true virtual reality, in which your learners are using a headset, such as HTC Vive, so that they can navigate freely and interact in virtual reality with the environment. This would be akin to any VR interactive experience that they may be already running on their headsets.
- As a desktop application that you can embed directly in your eLearning. This gives learners the flexibility of experiencing a 3-D scenario, using their mouse or touchscreen, without the use off a headset.
The Modest3D Suite
The Modest3D suite is set up so that you can rapidly create 3-D and virtual-reality training solutions. There are four applications that make up the Modest 3D Suite, each of which can be downloaded as a desktop application:
- Portal: Download and install this small application to allow quick access to the Modest 3D content development tools, Xplorer and Editor. The Portal software manages all of the assets that users have created or imported into Modest3D.
- Designer: Use this to set up your scene. For instance, I may load an FBX 3-D model and Designer will let me make light changes to my model, such as the position, rotation, and scale of objects. You can even set up new cameras and lights or change existing ones.
- Xplorer: Create full virtual reality scenarios and publish them. My full discussion appears below.
- Editor: Create the branching and logic for scenarios using a visual storyboard, create libraries of interactive sequences and save templates, complete with logic, to share with others on your team, without the need to be a programmer.
I could write a full review of each of the above tools. This month I’ll focus on Xplorer. In next month’s review, I’ll discuss the Editor, which goes further in allowing you to make multi-path scenarios and implement detailed user tracking.
When you create a project in Modest 3D, the Xplorer product is somewhat reminiscent of PowerPoint because on the left you’ll see a familiar filmstrip of slides. In Figure 2, you can see the Xplorer interface.
Figure 2: The Xplorer Interface
Another term for slides in Xplorer is states. Each state represents a point in time, and you can have a state change under several different circumstances, including, of course, when the learner performs an interaction, such as clicking or touching an element you provide.
When you create a new slide, you’ll see a teleport spot (see Figure 3). This indicates the point where the learner will start when viewing the scenario in virtual reality. You can move the teleport spot to whichever viewing point you think is most appropriate.
Figure 3: The Teleport Spot
Within each slide a user can tailor the scene view to customize the experience, including:
After tailoring the view within your scene, you can add and edit within each slide.
- Change the color of objects or elements in the scene.
- Play background audio, with the option of looping it.
- Make an object visible or invisible.
- X-ray an object (Figure 4 shows an example).
- Expand the model to visualize components.
- Highlight components.
- Add 2-D or 3-D labels.
Figure 4: The X-Ray Effect
Adding Actions to a Slide
When learners interact with a slide or designated object within a slide, you can perform one or more actions. For instance, you can play an animation when a user interacts with a slide, such as the car door opening in Figure 5. The list of action choices include:
- Display Text, or a JPG or PNG Image
- Play OGG Audio or MP4 Video
- Play an Animation
- VrInpsect, which lets learners pick up an object in a scene. You can let the user move the object or have it return to its original position.
- Display a Question from a CSV file
- Change Material Color
Figure 5: An Xplorer lesson—desktop application
Remember that you can publish to both a desktop application and a true VR experience ready to be viewed through a headset. Figure 5 shows a lesson saved as a desktop application while Figure 6 shows the same lesson as a VR experience.
Figure 6: An Xplorer lesson—virtual reality application
See a video that demonstrates what it’s like to go through the experience at https://vimeo.com/279701290.
Modest3D Xplorer is $950 a year for an individual and it includes Portal and Designer. Volume discounts exist for organizations.
To Learn More
I think Xplorer is a really nice tool for nontechnical users to develop virtual reality scenarios. The interface is reminiscent of PowerPoint and I found the layout of options intuitive and easy to find. The name of this product is a bit misleading. The Modest 3D Xplorer tool and the rest of the Suite are, in my view, a lot more powerful than the term modest would imply!
Ready to jump in? Download the trial versions at https://app.modest3d.com. Let us know what you think in the comments section below.