All posts by Colin MacArthur

Virtual and Mixed Reality for Active Learning

Jeff Jacobson
  • Jeff Jacobson, CEO, ConstructionVR
  • Tuesday, November 14 2017 at 6:30 PM
  • At IBM Watson Health, 75 Binney Street, Cambridge, MA 02142. Different location than last IBM-hosted talk.

Please register. It helps us and our hosts plan.


Virtual reality (VR) and mixed reality (MR) can support powerful learning activities not otherwise possible, as we will see in three case studies. Learning is an adaptive response to a challenge, and a virtual environment can adapt to the student as s/he learns. Since the flight simulators of the 1970’s, this approach has long proven to be effective for learning procedures and processes.

The first study looks at a one-person “cave” used to diagnose and treat people with balance disorders. For example, patients with a damaged inner ear navigate a virtual grocery store, learning visual and physical strategies to stay safely on their feet. This facility is still in use, today, at the Medical Virtual Reality Center at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.

However, VR and MR can also support active learning in some of the concept-heavy topics one learns in school.

The second study looks at a reenactment of an ancient Egyptian public ceremony, performed in mixed-reality (MR) with audience participation. The start of the show a projection of an Egyptian priest controlled in real-time by a live human puppeteer.

In the third study, children played a game based on an ancient Egyptian temple. Some played the game on a regular computer, but the ones who played it in VR demonstrated a more coherent and integrated knowledge of the temple’s features and their meaning.

Dr. Jacobson will use these examples of his work to show how the particular affordances of VR and MR support the learning process. He will then provide a broader look at how all immersive media (VR, AR, MR, MUVEs) are used today and near term trends.


Jeffrey Jacobson, Ph.D. has worked in Virtual Reality and Mixed Reality for more than 25 years, mastering each new wave of the technology as they have emerged. His doctorate is in Information Science, grounded in earlier work in Computer Science, giving him a strong background in systems integration and workflow analysis. His published research is based on the psychology of active learning in museums, immersive educational games, and immersive educational theater. His early technical work in affordable free software is widely cited in the scientific literature. His experimental trials on VR verses desktop displays were one of the few successful media comparison studies ever conducted. His later work (NSF and NEH funded) is highly regarded among scholars of cultural history and heritage. In the last few years, Dr. Jacobson offered consulting, training, and project management in virtual and augmented reality to the Architecture, Engineering and Construction (AEC) sector. He has had a significant impact on the architectural design community, helping the early adopters take advantage of newly available immersive technologies. Dr. Jacobson is also a founding member and longtime co-leader of BostonVR, the fifth largest VR meetup in the world. The organization has had a profound impact on the adoption of immersive technologies in the Boston area. For more information see his publication list and resume.

Evening schedule

6:30 – 7:00  Networking over pizza and beverages
7:00 – 8:30  Meeting
8:30 – 9:00  CHI Dessert and more networking


Thank you to our generous sponsors. Interested in sponsoring BostonCHI? Let us know!

IBM Watson Research is hosting us and sponsoring pizza.

Logo for IBM Research, Cambridge

VitaminT is sponsoring dessert.

Getting there

IBM is located at 75 Binney Street, Cambridge, MA 02142. (Entrance on Binney Street.)

Can a Free Wearable Activity Tracker Change Behavior?

Lisa Gualtieri, PhD, ScM
  • Lisa Gualtieri, PhD, ScM, Assistant Professor, Tufts University School of Medicine
  • Tuesday, September 12 at 6:30 PM
  • At Constant Contact, 1601 Trapelo Rd, Waltham, MA 02451

Please register. It helps us and our hosts plan.


Innovations in digital health have led to expensive toys, but have they improved health outcomes? Lisa Gualtieri will discuss the current landscape of wearable digital technology, and report on a series of studies on wearable activity tracker use in older adult populations; most notably, what was learned about acceptance and use of trackers that were provided free with training, and their impact on behavior change. She will also present on future directions her research is taking to potentially expand the usefulness of these devices as part of clinical care, to lower the prevalence of chronic disease within the US. Finally, she will showcase her non-profit, RecycleHealth, which she founded two years ago to collect trackers for underserved populations who need help improving on health behaviors. One such population includes veterans, a group of which will receive trackers as part of a wellness program through HutsForVets, with the aim to increase physical activity and improve mental health outcomes.

Read MoreCan a Free Wearable Activity Tracker Change Behavior?

Soft interactive surfaces for tangible and wearable user interfaces

Unfortunately, “Soft interactive surfaces for tangible and wearable user interfaces” has been canceled. Stay tuned for an announcement about our September talk.

Hugh Beyer
  • Jürgen Steimle, Professor, Saarland University and Researcher, Max Planck Institute for Informatics
  • Monday, June 19 at 6:30 PM
  • At IBM Thomas J Watson Research Center, 1 Rogers Street, Cambridge, MA 02142

Please register. It helps us and our hosts plan.


Central aspects of Mark Weiser’s vision of Ubiquitous Computing have become reality. However, the rigid nature of today’s interactive surfaces is limiting in several ways: it not only restricts the embedding of user interfaces in the physical environment, but also limits mobile use, interaction, and customization. These problems can be addressed through a research focus on future forms of interactive surfaces which are deformable, stretchable, and support multi-modal interactions.

This talk will give an overview of recent work on deformable sensor and output surfaces. Starting from sensors and displays on paper-like surfaces, it will introduce techniques for realizing interactive temporary tattoos. These conform to fine wrinkles and highly curved body locations, and turn the human skin into an input and output surface. Lastly, the talk will present approaches for making 3D printed objects interactive, by embedding conductive structures.

Together, these approaches demonstrate the potential of digital fabrication and printed electronics for realizing sensors and output in new form factors, which are compatible with highly individual geometries and custom user preferences.

Read MoreSoft interactive surfaces for tangible and wearable user interfaces