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5 Teams Changing Career Education: Meet Embodied Labs

This post is the second of a special “5 Teams Changing Career Education” series, featuring Q&A with the EdSim Challenge finalists. These solutions demonstrate the exciting potential for an ecosystem of next-generation simulations to strengthen in-demand career skills. 

Our second post features a Q&A with Carrie Shaw, CEO & Medical Illustrator at Embodied Labs. Embodied Labs is an embodied patient experience lab that uses virtual reality to train students to become better caregivers of aging populations.

What inspired you to create this educational VR/AR experience?                                           

Ten years ago, I was a freshman in college when my mom was diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s disease. For her decade-long journey of cognitive decline and the caregiving that followed, I always wished that I could step into her world. I felt that if this were possible, I would be able to better understand my mom’s disease and become a more effective care provider for her. Five years into her journey with the disease, I was living at home and tasked with hiring her first in-home caregivers. My mom happened to have a left visual field impairment. I struggled to explain to her caregivers that it wasn’t that she couldn’t see out of her left eye, but that she couldn’t see out of the left visual fields in both eyes. I wound up making a pair of training goggles where I blocked the left halves of each side by tapping them up with masking tape. By putting these goggles on, her caregivers could immediately understand what she was experiencing, which empowered them to better care for her. They could immediately see why they should always walk on the left side of her body and the reason for her always eating exactly half of her plate of food at meal time. These goggles however, had a flaw – they could only simulate one aspect of what was a much more complex condition.

After teaching health education for about 5 years, I returned to graduate school to pursue a master’s degree in Biomedical Visualization. My thesis research focused on this now nearly decade old question: If healthcare providers in training could step into their patient’s worlds, would this make them more effective care providers? As I was working on this research, I met the three people that would later become my cofounders: Tom, the developer, Ryan, the VR filmmaker, and Erin, the curriculum designer. We found a common interest in the potential of emerging technologies to create better communication between people, ultimately leading to meaningful change. While we were prototyping solutions to my thesis research question, we stumbled across the medium of virtual reality and realized it had the unique potential to accurately simulate the patient experience from a first-person perspective. Together we created The Alfred Lab.

How will your concept help students prepare for future careers?                               

Until VR, there has not been a tool that could as effectively place a person into someone else’s world nor a medium that is as able to accurately simulate the first-person patient perspective. The platform and VR modules that we are creating for this Challenge will situate the abstract, complex concept of understanding another person’s perception of the world in a way that will connect the students to concrete, real-world applications and uncover new insight.

The modules we are creating for this Challenge focus on educating students about the aging experience. Through embodying the first person perspective of a patient with vision, hearing, and cognitive impairments as well as observing patients through immersive, interactive 360-degree documentaries, students will learn how to deconstruct stereotypes of aging by taking the perspective of older adult patients with common age-related health conditions.

These experiences will help students understand the basic concepts around disease pathology and comorbidities of an aging patient as well as the challenges of spoken and written communication for an aging patient. These experiences will also give students exposure to a wide range of health sciences careers, including professions such as being a geriatrician, nurse, art therapist, social worker, optometrist, or vision rehabilitation therapist, to name a few. Through this exposure, students will be able to evaluate whether a career in healthcare is the right fit for them.

These modules will also teach students about several CCTC career ready practices. By embodying another person, the student will better be able to understand the life of someone different than themselves. This will give students the ability to think about decisions that are best for the community at large, rather than for only themselves. This experience will also give students the ability to learn communication skills that will help them engage with the aging population. Within the VR modules, students will experience that way the patient, the patient’s family, and the patient’s caregivers made up of doctors, nurses, and home health aides all work together the provide effective, team-based care.

5 Teams Changing Career Education: Meet the Case Western Reserve University Team

This post is part of a special series, “5 Teams Changing Career Education”, which features Q&A with the EdSim Challenge finalists. These solutions demonstrate the exciting potential for an ecosystem of next-generation simulations to strengthen in-demand career skills. 

Our first post features Q&A with Erin Henninger, Executive Director of Interactive Commons at Case Western Reserve University. Her team developed Holographic Applications to Transform Learning, an AR experience which uses holographic display technology, such as the Microsoft HoloLens, with multiple students to advance medical educational experiences and outcomes.

Describe your first experience with VR or AR. What aspect of it did you find most compelling?

Most of our team would say their first AR experience in HoloLens was life-altering. The idea that we can walk around with holograms in our world completely naturally—in our lifetime—still amazes us. But, the social aspects of AR are what we find most compelling. We love that you can have a shared experience and communication in the device—the fact that you can point to a holographic object and say to the person next to you, “Oh, see how this part intersects here?” You can explore and have a dialogue together, just like you do in the real world. So, not only do we gain this new 3D perspective, but we have a technology that makes us feel more connected to the people around us.

How will your concept help students prepare for future careers?

We think our concept will enhance students’ mastery of skills as well as their confidence in their abilities, in part, by simply helping them to visualize complex concepts in 3D. We can also help students build awareness and aptitude for working on the teams they are likely to be part of in their future careers through the social experience of augmented reality.  We can apply visuals and audio to create realistic scenarios to better prepare students for the conditions they will face in the field, as well as provide meaning and context for the skills they’re learning.

What’s the biggest insight you’ve uncovered through the Challenge so far?

One of the biggest insights we’ve gained is thinking about the scalability of technology. It would be great if we could equip every student in every school with the latest and greatest gadgets and tech tomorrow, but this isn’t realistic or sustainable—there’s always something new coming around the bend. When you think on this big picture level, you have to get more creative and clever with your solutions, but solutions are possible.

VR, AR & education experts to know: Meet the review panel

As our five finalists work to refine their simulations in preparation for Demo Day, we want to extend a big thank you to our review panel. These experts in VR/AR, ed tech, and education gave their time to review the outstanding 249 simulation concepts received during open submissions.

The review panel scored the full set of submissions against the Challenge criteria to determine which concepts advanced to the judges. Their expertise is pivotal to the Challenge’s success, and will propel forward the next-generation of simulations that strengthen career and technical skills.

Meet our EdSim Challenge review panel:

Inside the Innovator’s Boot Camp

On June 1-2 we welcomed the five finalists to New York City for the Innovator’s Boot Camp. The program sought to spark new thinking about CTE student needs and ed tech market fit as the finalists iterate their solutions to compete for the $430,000 grand prize. From user archetyping to interviews with educators to working sessions with VR and AR experts, the participants went deep on insights that will inform their product design.

Our Challenge sponsors and mentors made Boot Camp an invaluable experience, and we extend a big thank you to them.

Here are some highlights from the two-day event:

1.  Understanding the Career & Technical Education (CTE) Opportunity

Albert Palacios (Education Program Specialist at the Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education) gave the finalists a crash course in everything CTE, from how students navigate CTE pathways to the biggest challenges they face. As the finalists evolve their solutions to serve CTE students, understanding this audience will enable them to digital resources that can best meet their needs.

2.  Getting User Input: Our Visit to the Urban Assembly Maker Academy

To help the finalists understand CTE user needs, we took them to meet teachers and students at New York’s Urban Assembly Maker Academy. In preparation for this visit, the Luminary Labs team walked the finalists through a user archetyping exercise, challenging them to brainstorm everything impacting the teacher and student experience —from their goals and values to the devices and technologies they have at hand.

Our hosts Madelaine Hackett and Ben Hoser at the Urban Assembly Maker Academy made the school visit a pivotal moment in the finalists’ Boot Camp experience. The teachers and students gave them insightful feedback on their solutions, and sparked thinking on considerations such as how to keep students engaged in a VR experience and how to ease the burden on teachers and students alike of integrating new technology in the classroom.

“My biggest takeaway from meeting the students & teachers at UA Maker Academy was how willing they are to include new technology in the classroom—and how candid they are about past experiences, both good and bad. They really drove home that partnering with schools and working directly with the people who will be using our software is paramount to our success as an educational technology company.”

– Adrienne Hunter, Osso VR Inc.

3.  Reading the Tea Leaves: What the Future Holds for VR/AR in Learning

Day 2 of Boot Camp kicked off with a panel discussion with Ted Brodheim (Vice President, Samsung), Dario Laverde (Senior Developer Evangelist, HTC), Susanna Pollack (President, Games for Change), and Aldis Sipolins (Head of Virtual Reality and Game Design, IBM Research). Kate Machtiger from Luminary Labs moderated the panel, asking the panelists for their point of view on where the VR market is headed and their top tips for the finalists. The panelists stressed testing with users early and often and offered several VR predictions—including their bet on the technology becoming more interoperable and that there will be less distinction between game and educational content.

4.  Meeting the Mentors

To wrap up day 2, finalists participated in a “round robin” session, rotating through working meetings with five experts in VR technology, gaming, and curriculum design. Teams were able to dig into their questions for the mentors, considering implications such as ensuring simulations are on par with school technology capabilities and how they can build CTE curriculum into their experiences.

Thank you to our Boot Camp mentors:

Nick DiCarlo, Samsung
Dalton Gray, Institute of Play
Zach Pomerantz, High Fidelity
Leah Potter, Hats and Ladders
Aldis Sipolins, IBM Research

What’s Next
Over the next few months, the finalists will continue to iterate their solutions in preparation for Demo Day in Washington D.C., where they will present their playable prototypes to the panel of judges. The judges will recommend the grand prize winner(s) to receive the remaining $430,000 of the $680,000 cash prize and additional in-kind prizes from IBM and Microsoft.

Follow along to see what’s next for the finalists’ solutions.