HOUSEKEEPING NOTICE: Be Careful What You Wish For…Because You Just Might Get it!

Be careful what you wish for
‘Cause you just might get it
You just might get it
You just might get it

—When I Grow Up, by The Pussycat Dolls

Last week, I met with the head of my university library system, and I was asked to draw up a proposal for a virtual reality lab, which will be set up in one of the libraries on our university campus. Within the next month, I have to spec out hardware and software, plus any other supporting equipment, as well as work out staffing and training implications, etc. I’ve also been tasked with building a initial collection of platforms, programs, and apps for use by faculty, staff, and students using those VR headsets for teaching, learning, and research purposes.

*Ryan does the happy librarian dance*

I am reminded of the familiar saying: Be careful what you wish for, you may just get it. I am simultaneously flabbergasted, elated, and panic-stricken (the latter is due to the rather tight deadline to submit a proposal with a budget to my boss!).

What this means is that the RyanSchultz.com blog and the Metaverse Newscast show are going to have to be put on hold, at least temporarily, while I beaver away at my brand new project! I hope to be back within the next month, folks, but right now, I have to put my head down and WORK.

Wish me luck! I am about to get a crash course in dealing with the corporate sales departments of virtual reality hardware and software vendors, as an educational institution! This is going to be a very interesting, and certainly very different, perspective on the business of virtual reality.

Housekeeping Notice: I’m Juggling

Between the ongoing pandemic, the recently-concluded five-week faculty strike at my university, and now the unexpected war in Ukraine, things have been a little crazy around here these past 3 months (did you know that 14.5% of Manitobans are of Ukrainian ancestry?). Like many of you, I have been glued to the news lately.

Throw in a broken Valve Index VR headset (my unit, of course, died a couple of months after its one-year warranty expired, and Steam has asked me to ship back my headset and cables to be replaced with a refurbished, non-warrantied, headset.) Also, Carlos and I have also—finally!—started working on Episode 1 of Season 2 of the Metaverse Newscast, about which I will be sharing more news soon.

I forgot to mention that after 23 months of working from home for my university, this week I finally returned to my office in the library full-time. (The University of Manitoba has a firm vaccine mandate and a KN95 facemask mandate. Faculty, staff, and students were required to upload proof of vaccination to a special, secure website, and students who did not do so were deregistered from their courses this term. U of M is following the science and absolutely not messing around, which makes me feel much more comfortable coming in to work every day!)

I’m juggling a lot of balls at the moment
(photo by alexey turenkov on Unsplash)

I’m juggling a lot at the moment. All of this is my very long-winded way of saying: don’t expect a whole lot of blogposts from me over the next few weeks. I’ll do my level best to stay on top of all the news and events happening in the metaverse, but no promises 😉

Thanks to my readers and followers for your continued support and engagement! And you are welcome to join the RyanSchulz.com Discord server, with 650 passionate members, representing every social VR platform and virtual world! We discuss, debate and argue about the ever-evolving metaverse and all the companies building it, and we’d love to have you participate (or, if you prefer, just lurk and learn!).

Pandemic Diary, September 13th, 2021: Back to School—Welcome to the New Normal

Today, for the first time in several weeks, I am working from my office in the science library. Our library opened September 7th, 2021 to students, faculty, staff, and the public, offering individual study space only (no access to the print collection on the upper floors). Everybody still has to wear a 3-ply facemask and comply with social distancing regulations, although I can take off my facemask when I am in my own office with the door closed.

On August 19th, 2021 the University of Manitoba announced that all faculty, staff, students, and even visitors to campus will be required to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19. Individuals aged 12 and over are required to have their first dose by September 22nd, 2021 and their second dose by the end of October 2021. It’s not clear what penalties those who refuse to get vaccinated will face; they might be required to undergo weekly testing, or they may be barred from classes (in Manitoba we have implemented a proof of vaccine immunization system, both a cellphone app and a plastic card). Access to restaurants and other public spaces has been restricted to vaccinated people only.

Over the next few weeks, instead of standing in front of a classroom of students to give presentations on how to use the University of Manitoba Libraries effectively and efficiently, I will once again be delivering my slides online and remotely, via Microsoft Teams, Cisco WebEx, or Zoom, either from home or my office. (I am going to have to schlepp my portable webcam and my microphone headset between locations.)

I spent an EXTREMELY frustrating hour and half this morning trying—in vain—to get the microphone on my work computer to work, going through two different webcams (my own and a colleague’s) plus my microphone headset. Nothing worked. Finally in desperation I rebooted my computer, and finally it worked! If it hadn’t, I would have had to drive back home and do today’s training session for some food science students from home instead of the office.

Welcome to the new normal, folks.

The good news is that nearly 80% off Manitobans are fully vaccinated:

The bad news is that there are pockets (mostly within Manitoba’s Mennonite Bible belt) where vaccine uptake remains stubbornly low. Some Low German Mennonites have even moved from Canada back to Mexico and Central America, just to avoid vaccination! (Winnipeg Free Press; the website has a paywall, so here is an archived version of the article).

Even worse, anti-vaccine protestors at hospitals in Winnipeg and across Canada are impeding access to healthcare services. I have completely lost all patience with these people, and I sincerely hope that the Winnipeg Police Service arrests and charges these COVIDiots. ENOUGH ALREADY. I am so angry.

Because I am so busy with training requests this September, my pace of blogging will slow a little bit this month (I will try to blog in the evenings and on weekends, but no promises!). Stay safe, stay healthy, and GET VACCINATED if you have not already done so.

person getting vaccinated
Photo by Gustavo Fring on Pexels.com

My Presentation on Social VR in Higher Education

My half-hour presentation on virtual reality in higher education (with an emphasis on social VR), which I gave to my university’s Senate Committee on Academic Computing, was well received. As promised, here is a copy of my PowerPoint slides from yesterday’s presentation (60 slides, 191MB in size; it’s so large because I included a number of animated GIFs). I would have liked to embed my slides into this blogpost, but the various ways I tried unfortunately failed to work. You will have to download the slides and run them on your own computer!

Some of the examples I used in this presentation (and, in particular, the Barriers and Challenges section) I took from a new report by the Immersive Learning Research Network (iLRN), their State of XR and Immersive Learning Outlook Report 2021. I’d like to thank the writers of this 90-page report for their work! They made my job much easier.

I had been sorely tempted to set this so that you had to join my Patreon in order to get it, which would have cost you at least $1.00, but in the end I decided that it would be seen by more people if I made it free to download. However, I do reserve the right at a future point to start doing this for some of my content! From the bottom of my heart, I would like to thank my Patreon patrons; their support means the world to me! I am going to rack my brains to see if I can come up with new perks for you!