Interview: Karl M. Kapp with Danny Stefanic of LearnBrite
The other day I had a great conversation with Danny Stefanic. Danny is an educational entrepreneur. His current company is LearnBrite which has virtual characters, adaptive learning and all other types of really interesting learning elements including some great work with avatars and text-to-speech.
Kapp: You’ve been around in the technology industry for some time, can you provide a little of your background?
Stefanic: I recall a passion for 3D immersive environments as far back as 1985 playing Mercenary Escape from Targ on the nostalgic Commodore 64 where “the player must explore a world rendered in realtime 3D graphics, completing a number of non-linear tasks in order to achieve a single main objective”.
Whilst studying computer science and software engineering at university, my specialisations were those which would best equip me to create 3D environments. It may have been reading Howard Rheingold’s ‘Virtual Reality’ book in 1992, it may have been the potential of what could be done with a timetable provided by Moore’s law, but in the early nineties I decided that my life’s work would be devoted to virtual reality.
It was 1994 when I formed the Virtual Reality Association, I knew VR was coming and I knew it would not happen overnight. For over twenty years I have been working with every technical development and contributed my own developments to the creation of avatars and worlds. Since then, I’ve built, exited, bought and transformed businesses in the 3D and 360 immersive markets.
Kapp: Tell us a little about LearnBrite.
Stefanic: LearnBrite is created from a belief that by combining the best and latest technologies with proven eLearning techniques, we can provide the most effective learning experience and outcome. To achieve the best learning outcomes possible we are aiming for increased levels of engagement, involvement and motivation, facilitating ”self-paced” learning and memorable learning experiences.
LearnBrite are first in the World to meet the need for immersive browser-based 3D eLearning systems, compatible with learning management systems, such as Moodle and xAPI, or in a standalone environment that can be easily integrated deployed and updated without the need for software installation, plugins or IT security issues.
We have created Kira our HTML5 Avatar to explain the eight latest eLearning tools to benefit learners, clients and authors; when you have 5 minutes, enjoy.
You can experiment with your own avatar messages at BringTo Life (beta site).[Editor’s Note: Check this out, it’s fun!]
BringToLife Screen for creating your own avatar.
BringToLife Screen for creating your own avatar.
Kapp: What is the future of learning in 3D both on screen and through augmented or virtual reality.
Stefanic: This has for so long been my favorite subject; since my schooldays I instinctively knew that the development of the computer could enhance the experience. Teachers won’t be replaced by computers, they will become guides to them, those who understand that are doing it now.
An interesting sci fi book called ‘Ready Player One’ is said to be among the factors influencing the major I.T. players to follow the VR trend, including FaceBook with their 2 billion dollar bet on the Oculus Rift. For more context on the ‘Virtual Reality Race’ check our LinkedIn , FaceBook and Twitter pages which are buzzing with activity and opinion.
The future of all learning is about ‘fun and engagement with strong testing and evaluation’.
Enhanced perception through digital means can increase the level of engagement and thus effectiveness in a process of story, game and lesson. People forge an emotional connection to characters and decisions in a storyline, so are more likely to remember them.
Game procedure in non-game contexts engages users in solving problems and increasing their contributions. And of course, people learn from their mistakes. In a 3D virtual world, ill-structured problems can be solved under the principles of constructivism whereby humans generate knowledge and meaning from an interaction between their experiences and ideas.
Learning methods have been proven and improved by the revolution in neuroscience, with MRI measuring activity in the brain during different levels of engagement. Psychological techniques used in problem-based learning inspires and motivates users to engage and take action. This is all available now. The future learning experience is all of the above plus immersive scenarios with engaging lifelike virtual actors in replicated 3D environments of games and instructional strategies.
Kapp: What is ‘groundbreaking’ about your recently announced VR student training and assessment program.
Stefanic: The LearnBrite Platform is where our many features come together. An example of this, is the recently announced project in which we created a full interactive eLearning demo in HTML5, using avatars, environments, text to speech, branching dialogues, decision trees, tracking and assessment.
It provides, in combination with subject matter expertise provided by universities, tailor-made virtual reality training programs that enable students and professionals to gain practical experience across multiple disciplines. Our collaboration with educators and students from Curtin University and other institutions of higher education has yielded this particular version of the platform’s training program.
The tailor-made version of the LearnBrite platform is a simulator that places the students and caregivers of elderly patients in unexpected, realistic situations, where just as in real life, students learn how to react quickly, properly, make prompt but correct assessments, ultimately learning how to manage risks and save lives.
With LearnBrite‘s technology the teacher can go even deeper in the student’s assessment. They can assess the students character, personality and levels of empathy. This facilitates better placement and guidance of the student with positions and jobs that suit them.
The platform’s training and assessment capabilities eliminate the ‘one size-fits all’ traditional online courses where students click the ‘Next’ button to view slides of information followed by a quiz. By doing this it saves universities and companies tens of thousands of dollars, every year in on-the-spot training, achieving better results.
Kapp: What are you working on in terms of “text to speech” innovations?
Stefanic: This is actually an interesting area, we are focussed on tools that can allow rapid and easy authoring of content for immersive experiences, giving avatars a voice is fantastic, but we’ve found the technology has excellent application in existing elearning authoring also.
We have created a great solution that uses zero bandwidth to deliver consistent high quality text to speech voices across browsers and devices.
It is called ‘Responsive Voice’ (beta site). It’s an essential addition to the eLearning toolkit, all text and questions can be spoken and if you are using Articulate Storyline, or Adobe Captivate and other authoring tools you can instantly add spoken voice. Check this example of a sample Articulate StoryLine course. This means that you can add the value of voice to your course, program or presentation saving time and cost of voice overs and audio file editing or professionally narrated audio files.
Kapp: Any advice for graduate students going into the field?
Stefanic: I’d say the most worthwhile advice is to have empathy for your learners and to think broadly about their possible profiles. Don’t expect users to have the same mindset or experience as yourself. Be as curious about the human aspects as the technology and never stop developing your character and skills.
LearnBrite Acquire Virtual Reality Storetelling App: Chat Mapper
LearnBrite announced on June 8th the acquisition of California based company Chat Mapper; the world’s leading creators of non-linear branching scenario software. Chat Mapper allows users to create flexible branching conversations that imitate real life scenarios in a story, game or lesson.
Founded in 2009, Chat Mapper was used by video game authors, scriptwriters and later by educators to produce non-linear branching dialogue, to create and view the ‘bigger picture’ and change it as they go. Since then the customer base has grown to include industries such as e-learning, emergency response agencies, healthcare, sales, customer service, playwrights, strategic and military planning.
Ben McIntosh founder of Chat Mapper said that “After many years of development Chat Mapper is more fun, more engaging, and overall more effective than anything else available in this space. That is proven and attested to by the professionals that seek out Chat Mapper for their games, scripts and classes”
The agreement to acquire Chat Mapper and all associated IP was signed during the first quarter of 2015. The acquisition is expected to further strengthen LearnBrite’s position in the global digital education and gamification market.
This acquisition helps LearnBrite to expand a footprint in the components needed to bring the eLearning industry into the new world of cross platform virtual reality. Parent company ExitReality has a range of virtual reality worlds including Twinity and v-Side and have delivered millions of gamification experiences.
With Chat Mapper’s ability to deliver non-linear scenarios, branching conversations, branching audio, branching video and 360 degree experiences, LearnBrite says it will now be able to better serve the elearning market by integrating with its recently announced HTML 5 platform.
Inline with the acquisition, a series of exciting breakthroughs have been released in Chat Mapper 1.9. Chat Mapper scenarios can now be embedded into applications and web pages (similar to a YouTube video).
Voices are spoken by multi lingual ‘text to speech’, or recorded audio, by photo characters/cutout people, with backgrounds. The output can be viewed in any HTML5 compatible browser or device and does not need plugins. The responsive web design fits any screen size and orientation.
Ben McIntosh commented, “During the last year we have assisted LearnBrite in delivering dialogues using text to speech for their avatars, including what I believe is the world’s first HTML5 VR eLearning simulation, the landmark Curtin University project. Joining with LearnBrite is really exciting because our vision and culture aligns so precisely. They have a highly skilled team with all of the skills to take Chat Mapper into the VR age, Danny is a legend in the VR world. Together we have a bright future.”
Complex branching scenarios are a key part of the eLearning VR/AR revolution. Combining Chat Mapper with the LearnBrite platform offers the ability for anyone to author scenarios along with the virtual actors and the environments that they live in.
Danny Stefanic, CEO of LearnBrite said “When Oculus Rift, Microsoft Hololens, Samsung VR, Google’s Magic Leap, HTC Vive and Apple, all hit the world market in 2016 with their amazing VR hardware, people will say, ‘this would be great for education, has anyone done anything about it?’ LearnBrite has; we have integrated Chat Mapper to create the platform to interact in the long awaited virtual classrooms, workplaces and worlds on today’s devices and in tomorrow’s virtual and augmented reality.
The acquisition has advanced our plans significantly. As of today any content produced in Chat Mapper is now ‘VR Ready’; this is a game changer in terms of education and training.”
Terms of the acquisition were not disclosed.
LearnBrite are aiming to build more online training platforms in HTML5 and are inviting enterprises, universities and eLearning companies to create pilot projects with their unique blend of technology. Any interested organizations should email email@example.com
VR Training & eLearning Platform Based On HTML5
LearnBrite is an eLearning platform, a division of 3D entertainment and e-learning company ExitReality Inc. Led by long term VR veteran and entrepreneur, Danny Stefanic, LearnBrite’s platform and virtual environment developed based on HTML 5 can be accessed from VR headsets, PC and mobile devices. LearnBrite’s mission is to provide a solution for different industries, such as education, medical, healthcare, and job training.
The Virtual Home Visit is a collaborated effort between LearnBrite and Curtin University in Australia, to train and assess physiotherapy professionals. Medical Students would visit a patient’s home environment, check, discuss and talk with them to identify potential risks or conditions that requires immediate attention.
The ultimate goal is to save lives, by combining expert medical know-how with virtual training experiences focused on patient communication and falls-risk management.
During May 1-May 4, “The Virtual Home Visit” was presented at the World Confederation for Physical Therapy (WCPT) congress in Singapore by Curtin University Director of Teaching & Learning Anne Furness.
Dr. Ah-Cheng Goh, keynote for the world congress and founding president of the International Society for Electrophysical Agents in Physical Therapy stated “The concept of using virtual reality to teach and assess a student’s ability to examine a patient and arrive at a diagnosis or problem list has great potential as a teaching tool at the early stages of their education since interaction with a live patient may not always be possible.”
LearnBrite’s platform provides, in combination with subject matter expertise provided by universities, tailor-made virtual reality training programs that enable students and professionals to gain practical experience across multiple disciplines.
The developer’s collaboration with educators and students from Curtin University and other institutions of higher education has yielded this particular version of the platform’s training program.
The tailor-made version of LearnBrite platform is a simulator that places the students and caregivers of elderly patients in unexpected, realistic situations, where just as in real life, students learn how to react quickly, properly, make prompt but correct assessments, ultimately learning how to manage risks and save lives.
With LearnBrite‘s technology the teacher can go even deeper in the student’s assessment. They can assess the students character, personality, and levels of empathy. This facilitates better placement and guidance of the student with positions and jobs that suit them. The platform’s training and assessment capabilities eliminate the ‘one size-fits all’ traditional classes and online courses.
Curtin and LearnBrite have built the software to deliver and track educational experiences. Playing with Oculus Rift’s cutting edge headset technology, enabling physiotherapy students to virtually enter the homes of virtual high-risk ‘Falls’ patients.
Danny Stefanic, the CEO of ExitReality Inc. told us, on June 1, LearnBrite will announce their VR solution for healthcare training and opening applications for pilot projects with enterprises and other universities. The solution is fundamentally different to anything on the market in many ways, here are the top 3:
1. Speaking animated avatars, 3D environments and gamification are entirely achieved using HTML5 (no plugins, no games engines)
2. The user experience is designed to work across smartphone, tablet, desktop with or without a virtual reality headset, we call this “Responsive Design for VR”.
3. The scenarios can be simply deployed as courses within thousands of learning managements systems such as Moodle and Blackboard already used in enterprise and education.
Can you imagine, in the future, students and professionals around the globe could be receiving hands-on, realistic training with virtual patients through the LearnBrite platform using hardware like Oculus Rift, or other VR HMD.
The future of care for aged and other patients requiring round-the-clock attention may lie in virtual reality itself. As the technology is developing at a long-awaited but rapid pace, LearnBrite and Curtin University are following in stride and using existing technology on all sides to create a usable, practical system to better patient care and modern medical practice.
Image & Content Source: LearnBrite