UC Berkeley XR Community of Practice

[Note: In this site, we use the term Extended Reality (XR) as a convenient shorthand referring collectively to the different modalities of Augmented Reality (AR), Virtual Reality (VR), and Mixed Reality (MR). ]

With sponsorship from Chief Technology Officer,  Research, Teaching, and Learning (RTL) has created a community of practice supporting campus community members who are interested in or use Extended Reality (XR) technologies, especially in the realms of research and instruction. Starting with the XR project launches by several awardees of the 2020 Berkeley Changemaker Technology Innovation & Connected Campus Grants, the community of practice will grow to welcome and nurture the broadest possible range of works-in-progress while also promoting emerging practices around accessibility, design, content curation, as well as security and privacy.

As campus departments take up augmented, virtual, and mixed reality tools and applications, important choices and challenges arise in deciding how to approach the planning and design of infrastructure, spaces, and the services to be offered. Another goal of this community of practice is to share best practices based upon early experiences of setting up and growing XR spaces and support. The emerging services, space designs, and choice of technology and training offered are informed both by consideration of the varied XR  environments being explored in the curriculum as well as a general interest in supporting XR use by individuals and groups in non-curricular settings. The goals of this community of practice include: 

  • Highlighting commonalities and differences of augmented, virtual, and mixed reality as they’re being applied to research,  teaching, and learning
  • Considering service design approaches and decision points around XR technologies
  • Noting challenges and solutions for developing accessible and sustainable approaches to XR deployments

With XR’s rich set of enablements, researchers, teachers, and learners have available to them a broad range of new experiential languages and modalities for exploring and visualizing. As campus groups consider how best to deploy XR, opportunities and challenges arise when it comes to planning the training, infrastructure, facilities, hardware, software, content, and staff resources needed. Examining current features of the XR landscape, this community of practice looks at key topic areas including emerging interoperability standards, accessibility, the curation of content, as well as security and privacy.

Accessibility

The tenets of Universal Design for Learning (UDL) offer one helpful framework for thinking about XR in a manner that considers not simply accessibility but also XR’s potential for providing multiple means of representation, expression, and engagement. Along the way, design or re-design based on UDL concepts takes an integrative approach towards generating accessibility affordances, alternate media representations, and assistive technology integration so that learners with disabilities are able to participate fully in both creating and consuming the XR content. For more information about this approach, please visit the XR Accessibility(link is external) section of RTL’s Universal Design for Learning site.

Curation

At many institutions, the initial enthusiasm about developing XR content has been chilled somewhat by the real-world experience of having to curate the content over time. As the technology environments proliferate and evolve, updating and adapting the existing content so that it will continue to work on the latest XR software and hardware platforms can be a significant burden. These difficulties, of course, are not unprecedented for the academic computing and library communities. Maintaining expensive investments in digital assets over time and managing infoglut are familiar concerns of the digital age.

Interoperability

At many institutions, the initial enthusiasm about developing XR content has been chilled somewhat by the real-world experience of having to curate the content over time. As the technology environments proliferate and evolve, updating and adapting the existing content so that it will continue to work on the latest XR software and hardware platforms can be a significant burden. These difficulties, of course, are not unprecedented for the academic computing and library communities. Maintaining expensive investments in digital assets over time and managing infoglut are familiar concerns of the digital age.

Security and Privacy

XR hardware and software systems typically involve a wide spectrum of technology components on the way to delivering augmented and virtual experiences: cloud-based remote rendering, Internet-based multi-user environments, wifi or cellular networking, personal computers, smartphones, head-mounted displays, and a variety of haptic input devices. Singularly and together, the various components in these chains all pose potential security and privacy risk that need to be understood and considered carefully. Responsibility for analyzing and tracking these risks is, of course, dispersed across device manufacturers, content creators, service providers as well as the local institution.  As a fast-growing and innovative field, XR brings with it new questions and challenges for security and privacy. Fortunately, there are organized efforts already underway trying to map out the landscape of needs for XR policy and standards.  The Electronic Frontier Foundation(link is external) has been tracking XR for over a decade with a particular focus on privacy concerns(link is external). The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) coordinates an Extended Reality (XR) Community of Interest(link is external).  In addition, the relatively new XR Safety Initiative (XRSI) (link is external)facilitates research, promotes the development of security standards, and encourages the development of policy agendas for user data privacy.

Contacts

The UC Berkeley XR Community of Practice is coordinated by Chris Hoffman and Owen McGrath of Research Teaching & Learning.