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3D multimedia storytelling with Story Spheres

I’ve been head over heels for virtual and augmented reality for the last year or so.

There just seems like there is so many different ways to use VR to connect students with content. There are emotional connections, the ability to build empathy, a chance to immerse kids into specific places, to connect past and present, to link geography with events.

This ability to build connections make the use of virtual reality tools such as Google Cardboard or Samsung Gear a no-brainer for social studies teachers. I posted a ton of VR and AR resources a few months ago that highlights some basic steps, resources, and tools that you can use to get started.

But one of the things several of us have been hashing around is that much of the VR and AR tools are consume only. The end user of most tools simply looks at or experiences something. The app does all the work.

A perfect example is the very cool Google Expeditions app. I love the tool and its ability to take your kids to lots of places. But it is very teacher driven and the content is pushed out to and consumed by the students.

The good news is that more tools are being developed that allow students to not just consume VR content but to create it as well. The Google StreetView mobile app has always had the capacity to capture 360 degree images but few educators knew about the feature and fewer took advantage of that option. And the Google Cardboard Camera app is designed to easily create 360 photospheres.

But one of my new favorite tools that encourage kids to create rather than just consume is a website called StorySpheres.

Created by some folks at Google, the idea is to add stories to panoramic photospheres.

It’s a simple concept that combines the storytelling tools of words and pictures with a little digital magic. First upload a Photosphere, a 360-degree photo you can take on your phone using Google’s Photo App or similar program.

Then you can add dialogue, sound effects and even a music track. Whoever opens the scene will get a panoramic photo with sound and stories baked in. Better still, on a mobile device with a VR viewer the photo wraps right around the viewer . . . so now you can tell stories that truly revolve around your audience.

Get a sense of the possibilities by viewing a StorySphere of the gundeck of 18th century French warship. As you rotate your view, the ambient background noises rotate with you. Clicking on the musical note icons will play a variety of different narratives.

Start the process by logging into the site with your Google account. Then use the handy FAQs and the step by step instructions to create your first StorySphere.

There are three basic parts to creation:

Upload a 360 degree photo. One of the easiest ways to do this is to use the Google Cardboard Camera app to capture panoramic photos. Once the photo is in your device’s Camera Roll, you can share to your desktop. The Google StreetView app also can capture 360 photos with the photos available in your Google account. Record background noise and narration using an audio recording app such as Voice Recorder or your phone’s default audio recorder. You can also use a Chromebook or laptop to capture audio. Upload your audio files.

Once you’ve uploaded your photo and audio, use the Studio controls to place your audio clips in the appropriate spots on your photo. Your audio can play automatically or require a click to activate them.

The last step is to Share your finished product. You have the option to share it in a variety of ways including getting an embed code. All StorySpheres are private by default unless you choose to upload to the public gallery.

Possible uses?

  • Historical accounts
  • Recording field trips
  • Collaborative fiction

And I’m sure you’ll develop some of your own ideas. You might also try a tool called RoundMe – a similar type of site but one that seems a bit more commercial.

How might you use this type of VR creation tool?


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