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The VictoryXR Show: Behind the Scenes with the VXR Staff

Steve Grubbs: Welcome back to the VictoryXR Show. I am your host and the CEO of VictoryXR. Today, we have a very interesting show because instead of introducing you to people who are contributing to the world of immersive learning as teachers and educators and clients today, you are going to meet the people at VictoryXR, the cooks in the kitchen who are actually building all this out and making it happen. 

And so, I am going to introduce you to four members of our team, and we’re going to start with Danny Coyle. Danny is our lead developer. Danny has been with us from the beginning in 2017, I think. And so many of the worlds that you enter into in VictoryXR are worlds that have been created by Danny, so we’ll come back to him.

Second is Tyler Goodman. Tyler has played a lot of roles, and when you experience our dissection labs, Tyler led the effort on many of those— if not all of those. And now he develops VXR Web. This is our immersive learning world that is deployed and accessible through Chromebooks or PCs, or MacBooks, that type of thing.

Then comes our director of education, our curriculum specialist, Melissa Brent. And Melissa drives a lot of things more than just education. She drives product and projects and so much more, and an extremely valuable asset to the team.

And then the newest of our group, Sam Locicero. Sam’s been with us for about a year, and Sam is the person who is in charge of building out VXR Labs. 

And VXR Labs is the most advanced immersive learning platform in the world, combining simulators and AI instructors within a synchronous world that you can travel from space to space, biology to chemistry to history to literature, and so many more.

So, this is our team— just a small fraction of our team. We have 40+ employees that are currently making all of this happened. So, Danny, talk to us about your role and specifically tell us your theory, your view of building immersive learning, because you’ve had a very specific view since the day we brought you in.

Danny Coyle: Sure. Thanks, Steven. Hey, everybody, I’m Danny Coyle. I’m the lead technologist, I suppose you could say here at VictoryXR. And one of my primary roles with the Labs project is firstly, to ensure that things are running smoothly, make sure that all of the devs are both productive and using their skills to their maximum potential. Making sure that their unique skill sets are being maximized to their fullest potential. 

I personally, what I’m working on right now is our VXR Labs creator space, which is a unique space within the platform, which will allow teachers and students to bring in 3D objects from our extensive 3D object library over 7,000 objects that we’ve accumulated over our years at VictoryXR. You’ll be able to bring those in and create entire learning environments, all your own. 

So, teachers can create environments for students to run simulations and activities in, and students can create these larger-than-life dioramas to submit as assignments.

Steve Grubbs: I love it. And that’s all good, but really what I’m more interested in is one of the things I ask in an interview, because it always tells me about the type of person that that I’m visiting with, but what was your main pursuit, your main thing in high school? 

And I was hiring a coder, and Danny surprised me and he said, “Oh, I was a thespian. I loved being in drama production,” et cetera, that type of thing. And I thought, “Huh, that’s different.” I don’t think I’ve ever interviewed a coder who gave me that answer. 

But then on top of that, I thought, “Wow, that actually a guy who is familiar with building sets and is a gamer and a coder, that might be the right person to lead the development in our company.” So, talk to us a little bit, Danny, about your philosophy of building immersive learning spaces that will interest children.

Danny Coyle: Yeah. So, being that most kids these days have grown up with the internet, they’ve grown up with these immersive technologies, they’ve grown up with gaming. They’re not unfamiliar with fully immersive 3D worlds. So, in order to ensure that students can connect with what they’re learning, we want to make sure that things are really hands-on. 

Things aren’t as passive. We want to make sure that students are grabbing things, building things collaborating and making the lesson feel like it’s theirs, feel like they have agency in what they’re doing instead of just following instructions. We want them to be able to drive what they’re doing, won’t be able to pick things up and hold it in their hands and toss it on the floor if they want to. 

So, my philosophy is making sure that students want to go to the next step, want to have that agency to drive themselves to learn something unfamiliar instead of it being an assignment. We want them to love it, we want them to want to learn, and that’s one of the most difficult things that teachers have to face, is how do you make students want to learn? You make it into something that they can reach out and grab and play around with.

Steve Grubbs: Yeah. I always describe it, and I get this really from your work, is that students are learning through adventure. Yeah, what a great way to learn. So, Tyler Goodman, let’s talk to you next. Tyler is also a computer science major, and Tyler has taken the task of really democratizing our immersive learning. 

And by that, I mean we love our learning that’s in virtual reality headsets. It’s just such a superior way to experience these learning environments, but we also recognize that while only a small portion of students have access to a VR headset today, all of them have access to a Chromebook or a PC or a MacBook, that type of thing. 

So, Tyler Goodman has been tasked with taking what we’ve built and giving people access to it in a 2D manner. So, Tyler, talk about what you’re doing, how people can access to it and, where you’re taking us from here.

Tyler Goodman: Yeah. So, to bring stuff to more people, we’ve created VXRWeb, and that is our browser-based platform that houses a lot of the immersive content that we’ve in the past created for VR, but bringing it to a 2D form factor. So, you’d control it with your mouse and keyboard and they’re highly accessible. 

You just have to go to our domain https://vxrweb.victoryxr.com/dashboard, and there’s a bunch of free content. And then we also have quite a few applications as part of our license.

Steve Grubbs: Our subscription level. What are some of those that you’ve built and deployed on VXR Web that are fun and interesting?

Tyler Goodman: One of the earlier ones that I had a blast making, and I find it to be pretty fun to explore is the solar system. We had an AR application with all these assets—3D assets—about space. 

And so, we wanted to bring that to the VXR W platform. And so, we created the solar system, and it is a recreation of our galaxy with all the planets, the sun, and information about each one, that’s one of my personal favourites.

Steve Grubbs: You know, one of those that you created that I was surprised that you were able to do it as well as you did was our dissection with Carolina biological frog dissection, etc. Talk a little bit, describe how students will dissect a frog on their Chromebook or their PC.

Tyler Goodman: Yeah. So, if you access the frog dissection, it’s first person, so you control everything with your mouse for the most part. There’s a few keylines on your keyboard for the selection of the tools that you’re going to be using— so the scalpel, sometimes scissors, the probe— and yeah, you’ll fall along with Wendy, our science teacher, and go throughout each step, the external features of the frog, the internal features, and yeah, like I said, you just use your keyboard or mouse to point and click on things and you’re learning as you go.

Steve Grubbs: And so this is really a good moment to talk about the difference between a Chromebook and a PC because Wendy guides the instruction on both of those, but it’s a little different between the two. Can you tell us what the difference is and why there’s a difference?

Tyler Goodman: Yeah. So, we have a level of settings since on the web you can access it with a vast amount of devices that vary in their processing power. And so, one of the things we did with the sort of lower spec devices like Chromebooks is we removed, for the dissection specifically, the Wendy Holograms. 

So, the video just to kind of free up some resources, but you’ll still hear her audio clips to be able to follow along as you go. And that’s something we kind of do across the catalog of content is we look for ways of optimizing for different devices.

Steve Grubbs: And the Chromebook just has a smaller chip—a less robust chipset.

Tyler Goodman: Yeah. It just has slightly less memory processing power, so those are things that we have to think about when we’re building for each platform.

Steve Grubbs: Yeah. Thank you, Tyler. Melissa, you are a former classroom teacher, is that right?

Melissa Brent: Well, that is right.

Steve Grubbs: Tell us a bit about that.

Melissa Brent: Sure. So, my experience is in the younger grades, which I have found that in ed tech is invaluable because play is the priority, and that doesn’t change. As you age, play will pretty much always be the best method to get information to stay put. 

So, taking all of my knowledge on that level of development and just understanding how our brain reacts to that type of stimulus has been super helpful in designing and planning experiences that are just as fun without losing any educational value.

Steve Grubbs: Yeah. And so, talk to us a little bit about your role in building out VXR Labs. You work very closely with Sam and others, talk to us about that.

Melissa Brent: Yes. 

So, our education team oversees every single build. We have vetted all of it. We’re a major part of the pre-production and production checking throughout just to confirm that all objectives that we’ve determined at the front, whether that be standardized objective or an objective asked of us, or whatever other educational content we want integrated, we make sure that it’s integrated efficiently. 

We make sure that it is integrated in a way that will prove that the learner has learned because that’s the most important part. And then we also confirm that it is still really fun. We don’t want to lose any of that either.

Steve Grubbs: Yeah. And so how many are on your education team?

Melissa Brent: There are three of us at the moment.

Steve Grubbs: The three, all former classroom teachers?

Melissa Brent: Mm-hmm.

Steve Grubbs: And I think all three have degrees or some certification in curriculum.

Melissa Brent: Yes, we are all licensed educators and we all have curriculum experience.

Steve Grubbs: Yeah. One of the, I think, secrets to our success is that we intersect gamers with educators.

Melissa Brent: Yep.

Steve Grubbs: That’s a pretty awesome place to be if you are trying to create something that students want to learn. So, Melissa, what would you say differentiates VXR Labs from all the other platforms out there?

Melissa Brent: Yes. So, the biggest thing that we have is the fact that our simulations are done in a creative way that emphasizes the educational value. So, it’s not quite the same as just putting on a headset and flying a drone, and now you’re flying a drone. We’ve made sure that whatever experience we have built improves the real-world version. So, we take what exists and is fine and we basically just improve upon it. 

And we do it in a clever gamified way, so if you dropped your beaker in chemistry, you pop over to our fabricator, press the button and a new beaker appears. If we need to do something that requires time. So, we have several biology lessons that things need to boil, or you’re supposed to be studying an effect of something that happens over a course of a week. 

We have a time-lapse feature that expedites it without losing any of the educational value. So, you’re getting the entire experience, you’re meeting every single educational objective, but it’s improved upon and it’s safer and it’s less expensive, so we really can’t lose.

Steve Grubbs: How about the integration of AI?

Melissa Brent: This is my most favourite thing. What we want out of our AI is to provide a learning experience that’s different every time you play and allows you to improve those skills through practice. 

So, nothing we have right now is a one-stop shop, you can always kind of simulate your educational experience slightly different than the previous time you’ve played, but the conversational AI aspect drives it all the way home. 

And something that we’re doing that isn’t available really anywhere else at the moment is the fact that all users in the space can speak to the AI together. That synchronicity is not a feature in any other educational technology at the moment.

Steve Grubbs: Give me a specific example. What are you talking about?

Melissa Brent: Well so we have a patient, for example, healthcare is going to benefit from this the most. 

And we have a patient named Jack, and he is a six-year-old AI. And you interview Jack, ask him his questions about how he’s feeling and he’s there for an ear infection. The user doesn’t know that. The user just has a patient and a little chart with some basic information and has to conduct an interview with this AI. 

So, every time they ask Jack a question, if they ask it slightly different than the previous time, they’re going to get a slightly different answer. They’re never going to have the same conversation twice, which is the case with any six-year-old. 

And every once in a while, you’re going to run in two a little roadblock there, just like you would with any other six-year-old. So, we’ve basically written these brains in a way that locks down content so it’s as realistic as possible but still allows them to experience a different dialogue every time. 

So, it’s a really good use case for patients’ healthcare. It’s a really good use case for practising customer service skills and interviewing interviewees. These are all the types of things that we’re going to use this for.

Steve Grubbs: Awesome. And Sam, you’ve been in charge of building out VXR Labs. And talk to us a little bit about the structure, how it works and how you find the types of experiences that you might want to find if you’ve got a class or a student who needs it.

Sam Locicero: Yeah, so our structure of VXR Labs is set up in a way where you only have to really download one simple little application that’ll just have a menu. 

And then once you do download that application, we have a full library of anything and everything that we need subject-wise that a user might want to take their class into or even go into on a personal level. So, you have the multiplayer aspect where a teacher or an instructor can go through our library of everything that we offer and be like, “Today I want to go into a math class and take my entire class in there and open up a multiplayer room.” 

But at the same time, you also have an individual user that feels like “I need to get more practice done on my welding before I take my in-person welding class. So, I’m going to put on my headset and go into an asynchronous welding experience.” 

So, we have our library of all of our subjects and all of our different modules— is what we call them— available for anybody to use. We have a bunch for free and a bunch also available for subscription.

Steve Grubbs: So, all right, I’m going to put you on the hot seat here. I’m an English teacher right now, give me just one experience you would recommend that I check out.

Sam Locicero: One experience that we check out for an English teacher that may be teaching literature is we have an entire basically recreation of the courthouse from To Kill a Mockingbird

And inside of that courthouse, you have not only the synopsis of the entire story of To Kill a Mockingbird, where you can walk around and learn more about the story itself, but we’re also going to have a Harper Lee AI sitting in there where you can have a one-on-one interview. 

I say one-on-one also multiplayer available for anybody to come and listen to what she has to say, but an interview with an AI version, with an AI brain of the author of To Kill a Mockingbird herself.

Steve Grubbs: Okay, now I am a science teacher. And I know there’s just so many you could, but just point out one that you think would be fun to check out.

Sam Locicero: I mean, just off the top of my head, I could think of eight or nine different chemistry classes, not even to mention the biology ones that we have for science, but one that’s really sticking out to me right now is a magnesium oxide experiment where there’s actual buns and burners sitting on the table, where you can actually take a crucible and hold it over the Bunsen burner and see the experiment reaction happening in real-time inside of virtual reality.

Steve Grubbs: Cool, okay. Now I am a career and technology educator worried about students who may not be going to a 4-year college, but they are interested in a successful career as well. What are your thoughts? Give us one example for that.

Sam Locicero: We actually offer a lot for CTE. They are all currently separate subscriptions— not subscriptions, they’re separate premiums— that are add-ons to our subscriptions. 

But we have, I mentioned welding earlier, we have carpentry, we have drones, robotics, and one really cool one, we have agriculture where you’re actually on a farm working as an agricultural technician and being able to learn how to deal with the animals, how to deal with the tractors and other stuff like that.

Steve Grubbs: Well, since Tyler Goodman and I are from Iowa, we would call those farm hands, but I suppose that’s not formal enough for a CTE program. Your certificate to become a farm hand. Okay, I want to become a police officer, what do you recommend?

Sam Locicero: Police officer – we have a crime scene area where you can actually go into a crime scene investigation neighbourhood where you can search around the suburbs, find different houses with different victims and learn about evidence collection, learn about fingerprinting, or even going to have an interrogation room, which I think will be really cool once we have that fully realized inside of our experience as well.

Steve Grubbs: All right. Last one, I’m a math teacher now.

Sam Locicero: Okay. Well, one of the coolest things about labs that I can currently think of is on-paper algebra is kind of boring. You just have one letter and a number next to each other and you can’t really visualize it. 

But so, the way that we wanted to gamify algebra is that you can visualize by putting actual objects, animals, other like big, small anything on scales and create an algebra-like equation visually out in front of you. You can put different objects on one side of a scale compared to different objects on the other side of the scale and see the algebraic equation spread out in front of you.

Steve Grubbs: Awesome. Okay, if somebody wanted to download the free version of this how would they go about doing that?

Sam Locicero: So, VXR Labs is available for the Meta Quest 2 Pro and Meta Quest 3. It’s available on the Quest store through App Lab. And all you have to do is download it and open it up and you have access to all of the free stuff. If you want access any of our paid content, that’s when you’ll need to create an account through us, but all of the free stuff is available without even making an account.

Steve Grubbs: And so you just go, you got the headset on, you type in VXR Labs, it pops up and you download.

Sam Locicero: And there it is!

Steve Grubbs: There it is. We would highly encourage people to do that. So, hey, that’s our VictoryXR show this week. These are the people who make it all happen, literally the single most advanced immersive learning platform learning lab in the world. And so, we’d love to have you check it out. It’s free, there’s no downside. So, do that and reach out to us if you have questions at www.victoryxr.com