Virtually there…Experiments with Thinglink’s beta VR editor

nature-laptop-outside-macbook-medium

I signed up to the beta version of Thinglink 360 a few weeks back and hadn’t had time to really get stuck in. The testers Facebook Group has a real buzz about it; so when a window freed up my diary today, it seemed like the perfect time to find out what everyone was talking about. I’ve used Thinglink previously for the Exploring our Oceans course in FutureLearn, but features and functionality have changed since I created those resources. You can upload a static image or video to the platform and then annotate it with rich media such as images, text, sound, videos, maps and more. As with many online services these days there’s basic functionality for free and the more interesting features come at a price. Good news though; they do offer Educator accounts. Thinglink made its debut at number 89 in the ‘Top 100 tools for Learning‘ in 2015 and will be one to watch in my book; especially with the release of the beta 360 version.

What is Thinglink 360? 

As the name suggests, Thinglink 360 allows you to create interactive images that are more immersive than before. The editor will be part of the Premium and Corporate packages (around $1,500/year) which my institution currently doesn’t have a subscription for.

Can I see some examples?  

Yes you can; take a look at #thinglink360 on Twitter where beta testers are encouraged to share their experiments before the end of May. One of my favourites is the Yosemite tour by John Patten.

How easy is it to use? 

Today has been my first foray into creating VR directly by myself. Previously I have worked with a media developer to create a virtual fieldtrip using Articulate. When I work with academics to adopt technology in their teaching, my background is far more similar tot he academics in question. I am not a programmer and I am not from IT services. My reassurances include “If I can learn how to…then you can too“. I made my first piece of 360 interactive media today in less than 2 hours, using an iPad, a £1.49 app, Photoshop and a desktop computer. Most of the glitches that are apparent in the final output I can put down to the first time using the app and a (very) basic knowledge of Photoshop. I was really pleased with the results; a virtual version of the University gardens.

https://www.thinglink.com/mediacard/789814177437843457

The process:

  1. I used an IOS App to take 360 panoramic photos. It struggled when I experimented inside, but outdoors the process was pretty seamless; ‘scan’ the surrounding environment with your device and the app stitches all the images together for you in real time. Images can be saved (and emailed as urls) as both flat and 360.
  2. I adjusted the aspect ratio and pixel size of 4 separate images in Photoshop (this is a bit tricky; other users have differing suggestions as to what figures work best).
  3. I uploaded each image to the Thinglink platform as separate creations.
  4. I added rich media to each of the 4 images.
  5. I linked the 4 images together using a ‘Transition tag’ so that it is possible to move from one area of the gardens to another.

I still haven’t experimented with using video instead of panoramic images. I’ll also have to find some strong educational applications; but preparing/orienting undergraduates for field trips is an immediate area of interest. I can say I’m hooked though…

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2 thoughts on “Virtually there…Experiments with Thinglink’s beta VR editor

  1. Thank you so much for the review, and for sharing the great example you created! A quick comment on pricing: for schools, the Premium package starts at $500/year, for businesses it is $1,500/year. The school subscription also includes ready-made VR Lessons that teachers and students can edit together.

    1. Thanks Ulla; it was great fun to put together! Thanks also for further info on pricing. Would a University be classed as a school or a business? I’ll take a look at the ready-made Lessons for a future blog post.

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