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VR Education Boost & Cultural Insights in North Dakota w/ Lura, Isern

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CareerViewXR, in collaboration with HTC VIVE, has donated 300 VR headsets to North Dakota's secondary schools for CTE Month, aiming to revolutionize education through workforce development and immersive technology. ~~ Additionally, this year's Black History Month theme focuses on African Americans and the Arts, with Pasteur Mudende showcasing African art at his new coffee shop, Chai Moto. ~~ Tom Isern's essay explores a unique agricultural and environmental history event from March 1916 involving a "sham battle" against jackrabbits, reported by the Valley City Record. ~~ Meanwhile, Chuck Lura's "Natural North Dakota" discusses the active breeding season of wildlife during winter, emphasizing nature's preparation for spring and the survival of the next generation.


Matt Chaussee Interview: VR Headsets Donated for Job Tours in ND Schools

Main Street

Welcome to Main Street on Prairie Public. I'm Craig Blumenshine with Matthew Shosey. He's with Be More Colorful.

It's a VR tool that is now being distributed, 300 of them, at no cost to North Dakota students. Pleasure to have you on Main Street with me, Matthew.

Highlights of interview with Matt Chaussee, Be More Colorful

  1. Donation and Distribution of VR Headsets: Be More Colorful, in partnership with HTC Vive, has donated 300 VR headsets to North Dakota schools to enhance career awareness among students by providing immersive job tour experiences through the CareerViewXR program.
  2. CareerViewXR Program: This flagship product offers immersive field trip and job shadow experiences, accessible on all standard devices and VR headsets, aiming to bridge the career awareness gap by showcasing a wide range of occupations to students.
  3. Content Creation and Selection: The content for CareerViewXR is chosen based on demand and the North Dakota In-Demand Occupations list, focusing on critical careers needed in the state while also considering student and teacher interests. The production involves using 360-degree cameras to create immersive video spheres of various careers.
  4. Educational Impact and Future Vision: The initiative aims to make CareerViewXR accessible to every student in every state within ten years through industry and employer partnerships, thereby ensuring that students have the opportunity to explore and understand various career paths without limitations.

Matt Chaussee, Be More Colorful Transcript

Yeah, thanks, Craig. Really appreciate being here.

Main Street

Very, very interested in this technology. It is absolutely high tech. First though, tell me what the technology is.

Matt Chaussee, Be More Colorful

Yeah, so Be More Colorful is our production company. We're a virtual reality and immersive media production studio. My wife actually founded the company in 2016, brought me on as CEO a couple of months after we started.

Since then, we tried a lot of different approaches to how do we use immersive media to help solve problems. First, we tried real estate, then we were in travel and tourism. And then in 2019, an opportunity opened for us to create immersive career experiences.

When you say immersive, what should that mean to our listeners? Immersive means you feel like you're in the space. An immersive experience, think about a home virtual tour where you can spin the images around, you can navigate through.

That'd be kind of layer one of an immersive experience. But now imagine you're not looking at a 2D screen of that image, but you're inside the image where you can look around and it feels like you're there. That's what we're talking about.

We're talking about immersive. You feel like you're teleported to a new location.

Main Street

So you've been looking now at different industries where this can really be applied and different approaches.

Matt Chaussee, Be More Colorful

The big problem we've been working to solve over the last four years is there is a huge career awareness gap. Students can only choose a career that they've been made aware of. There's a lack of opportunity to show the full depth and breadth of all of the opportunities that are out there.

So we've created a product that has quickly become our flagship, CareerView XR, which is a immersive field trip and job shadow experiences that can be viewed on all standard devices, plus virtual reality headsets.

Main Street

There's the production of these videos and then the experience of these videos. Production first. How do you shoot these?

Matt Chaussee, Be More Colorful

We use 360 degree cameras. So if you imagine like a really extreme fisheye lens, it actually looks like a hemisphere, half of a sphere of glass. We use cameras that have two of those.

So it captures 190 degrees on both sides, which allows us to stitch that imagery together. And it's actually called a photo sphere or a video sphere. It is a ball, a sphere of imagery that we capture.

Main Street

When you shoot then and need to edit those videos, I'm guessing the way that editing was done two, three years ago is already drastically different than it is today. Tell me about that bridge.

Matt Chaussee, Be More Colorful

There are definitely new tools out there, but it's interesting because this concept of spherical images has been around for 25 plus years. The editing tools have been getting better and better. The cameras have been getting better and better.

So the efficiency with the post-production is a lot easier now. It used to be that we needed a beast of a machine just to stitch a single image, let alone 30 frames per second of a video. But now that post-production process through the software tools that are available, a lot of it is pretty seamless.

And then that allows us to break out the little clips that we use for showing what the different aspects of each career is like.

Main Street

How do you choose then which careers to showcase, if you will?

Matt Chaussee, Be More Colorful

So when we're looking at choosing careers, we start with the North Dakota In-Demand Occupations list because there's been a lot of hard work that's gone into identifying what are those most critical careers that North Dakota needs filled that also mirrors what the National In-Demand Occupations list looks like. So we use that as kind of a guidepost. But then we're also always asking students and teachers, what do you want to see?

Because while we need to show here are the missing gaps in the workforce, we also want to make sure that students are excited about the platform and it has things that they want to learn about. We'll get the occasional NASCAR driver, NBA player, but those are really few and far between. By and large, students want to see things like pilot, truck driver.

We've gotten multiple requests for agronomist, things that you wouldn't think that they're asking for, but that we have here available in North Dakota. So it's demand, it's demand driven, but then it's also based on who is available and willing, what employers, what industry partners are available and willing to open up their space to be filmed.

Main Street

So there's this tool called a viewing device that looks high-tech. Tell me exactly what it is.

Matt Chaussee, Be More Colorful

Any of the imagery we can create can be viewed on any standard device. A standard two-dimensional laptop. Yep, laptop or tablet or mobile phone.

But when we're talking about like a wearable device and a fully immersive device, then we're starting to talk about either a virtual or augmented reality or mixed reality headset. It's a piece of hardware that you wear that allows you to be consumed or be entirely within that space. There are a wide variety of different types of headsets that are out there and available, all the way from the Oculus Go, which you can probably find on eBay or Craigslist for 50 bucks, all the way up to the Apple Vision Pro that just released for $3,500.

Those are all immersive media devices. Headset, head-mounted displays would be the generic term for those.

Main Street

So you have decided as a company to donate $300 to North Dakota Public and Private Schools. Tell me about that decision and then the execution of that decision.

Matt Chaussee, Be More Colorful

Yep, absolutely. So we were very fortunate, well all North Dakota schools were actually very fortunate to receive access to the CareerView platform through funding that the North Dakota legislature made available to the Department of Career and Technical Education. Since fall of last year, they've had the opportunity to access all the content on standard devices and some schools have invested in headsets, but others have not because of a variety of reasons.

Funding, lack of awareness or knowledge of which headset do I buy. You can hit paralysis pretty quickly when your options are 50 bucks for a used headset, $3,500 for the brand new Apple one. Both of those would work.

Yep, they both work because the media that we produce is universal across those devices. A video sphere is a video sphere regardless of which headset you're using to view it. Because there are so many products out there, it makes it really challenging for schools to decide, well what should I get?

And also they may go down a path of thinking, well I need a whole classroom set of VR headsets. And the reality is that you don't. Because the platform is available on standard devices and headsets, a single shared device can work really well for a school.

So we wanted to make sure that schools in North Dakota stepped off on the right foot and they were able to have a quality piece of hardware. We actually worked with HTC Vive, one of our preferred manufacturers of headsets. We actually bought a container of VR headsets, so 1,296 headsets.

And what we're doing is we're including those headsets in sales of CareerView subscriptions to schools around the country. And we're taking a portion of those proceeds and offsetting the costs of the headsets that were donated to North Dakota schools.

Main Street

Oftentimes I think when tech has been introduced into classrooms, the tech far outweighs the experience of a teacher. How does a teacher learn to utilize this tech? How do they adapt?

Are they given the tools to adapt?

Matt Chaussee, Be More Colorful

First thing I want to emphasize is that when we started the CareerView platform, we actually started creating recruiting experiences for employers. And it was teachers who told us we need that in the classroom. So out of the gate, the CareerView platform came out of a need that teachers told us they had.

Our initial thought for CareerView is there would be a set of headsets that would travel around the state and be available to teachers. Somehow they would magically all be charged and not have any technical issues. And one teacher would know when to send it to the next one.

It was not a great first idea. How do we make this work for you? And that was where they said, well, can we view it on non-VR devices?

And light bulb moment, we've already been creating these web-based tours. We went too far down the technology pathway too quickly. So we shifted and we focused on building the web-based tours accessible on all devices and making the headsets optional.

So long way to get to the answer to your question of out of the gates, it's clicking on links and navigating. It's intuitive for the web-based content. On the headset side of things, we have built, we have an onboarding process for all schools.

We have dedicated support services on our team. And we've actually engaged North Dakota's EduTech departments to be boots on the ground for any schools that have questions or issues with the hardware or the software. So it's not a haphazard approach to this.

This has been something that's been four years in the making and it came from the needs that teachers, counselors, and students identified and brought forward to us.

Main Street

Is this being done elsewhere, Matthew?

Matt Chaussee, Be More Colorful

Yeah, there are other solutions that are out there. A lot of the other solutions that have been adopted across the country and even internationally are simulations that show someone how to perform a task, laying the bead of welding, working on the instrumentation control panel, connecting the wires. And those are great training solutions.

What has been missed though is that base level awareness, the uniqueness of CareerView XR, that it is real people performing real work in real environments, but those situations that you could never take a student in person so that they can feel what's it like to be on top of an actual wind turbine or on an oil production rig in Western North Dakota, inside the emergency room when a patient is wheeled in. So those types of authentic experiences have really not been out there and the fact that it's accessible both on VR headsets and all standard devices, there's an accessibility component to CareerView that isn't in any other product that we found in the marketplace.

What's really exciting about that is this library of content we've primarily produced in North Dakota is now being used by schools in 12 other states. We have 34 area technical centers in the Commonwealth of Kentucky that are using it and we just signed our first international reseller partnership.

Main Street

We're enjoying our conversation with Matthew Shosey. He's with Be More Colorful, which is a VR production studio here in North Dakota. What is the age of student that you are marketing to?

Matt Chaussee, Be More Colorful

We're primarily marketing to, well, producing content for middle school to high school. That's the age level that it's being produced for, but what we're actually finding is that by producing it at that level, it's flexible. There are adults that are very interested in it.

We actually have two North Dakota job service centers who are subscribed and use CareerView for their adult career seekers. We have elementary schools. They're not necessarily bringing the headsets in, but they're able to engage with students and talk about different industries.

Really, because it's immersive, interactive, I mean, who doesn't like to go on a field trip? Just about everybody I know wants to go on more field trips, but there's no time or availability for that. CareerVXR is like an immersive field trip that's available 24-7 and we rate them E for Everyone if we had to put a rating on the experiences.

Main Street

Back to the production side, from start to finish to produce a video, A, how long is that produced video generally? Is there a sweet spot for length? And B, how long does it take?

Matt Chaussee, Be More Colorful

We have found there's a sweet spot. When we started, it was anywhere from little 90-second clips that had three or four scenes to 14-minute videos that might have 20 or more scenes. What we've really found that sweet spot for attention span and usability in the classroom is 10 to 15 different scenes that are each 20 to 30 seconds in length, and that results in a five to seven minute VR video experience.

Main Street

I think what listeners also should understand is this is not like a meta experience where someone is attached to the internet, walking around, maybe being exposed to things that they do not want to be exposed to. This is a closed system as I understand it.

Matt Chaussee, Be More Colorful

Yeah, this is a curated environment with educational experiences that are designed to inform and get students and job seekers thinking either A, yeah, I'm interested, I'd like to learn more, or B, this is not what I thought it was, I am not interested. Both of those outcomes are equally valuable.

Main Street

What's your biggest challenge that you see or maybe a couple challenges that are in front of you in order to have the success that you want to have?

Matt Chaussee, Be More Colorful

Continuing to source production partners that are really excited about being involved in a platform like this, there's inherent challenges with producing any media, and a lot of times when we're working with new production partners, they've never worked with 360 degree imagery, and that requires an additional level of care and informing our partners in terms of what that all looks like. Do you do most of the production in-house today? Yes, yeah, we do all of our production in-house.

Scaling that is a challenge. Right now we're on pace for between 40 and 50 new experiences every year, but we do want to begin expansion of production into other states as well. That will require probably a distributed partner network, so that's one challenge that we're identifying right now, but we've got a couple ideas for how that will expand.

But the nice thing is we don't need to recreate every career in every market that we go into. We've created a great baseline set of experiences here in North Dakota. Dental hygienist experience, for instance, up in Devil's Lake, North Dakota, that's the same in LA as it is in Devil's Lake, North Dakota, as it is in Orlando, Florida.

A dental hygienist in the U.S. is doing the same thing. So really the opportunity for us becomes producing experiences in new and different industries and at employer locations that are outside what we can produce here. Figuring out how to scale that, that's going to be a challenge.

Another big challenge is just having schools adopt the hardware and understand the value of incorporating immersive media. Public K-12 schools are typically, you know, later to the game for adopting hardware, and this is such an important tool to help kids go down the right career path that we want to do everything that we can to support adoption of extended reality, virtual reality in K-12. That's a big part of why we're doing this this headset donation to show that, hey, North Dakota can do this on a statewide level and get other states to be encouraged to try and do the same thing.

Main Street

So of course there are hundreds of schools in North Dakota, middle schools and high schools. How do you possibly market to the folks that you want to market to?

Matt Chaussee, Be More Colorful

Well for us, I mean, we've been really fortunate that we piloted in North Dakota schools for a couple of years. The legislature saw fit to provide funding to CTE for the purchase of virtual reality career exploration software. CTE decided to go with the CareerView solution.

So we are in every middle school and high school across the state. CareerView XR is being delivered through the statewide areyouready.nd.gov career information network. So all of the web-based experiences can be accessed through that for all students.

And then we're currently working on ramping up the distribution of hardware and getting the VR video files loaded to that hardware through this initiative that we're pushing this spring. Matthew, your 10-year vision would be? Our 10-year vision is CareerView XR accessible to every student in every state.

That's a big vision. It is. And the way that we're going to get there is not by individual purchases of subscriptions by schools, but through industry and employer partnerships.

We're already starting to see that happening here in North Dakota where the access to the platform is funded through June of 2025. But we want to work with our industry partners and employer partners here to ensure that the cost does not become a burden to schools, that the employers and industry partners who are getting the benefit out of students learning what they want to do earlier are helping offset some of those costs and getting visibility for that. That's a model that's starting to evolve here in North Dakota and we see that as a model that could easily be scaled nationally.

We've actually had conversations with a number of nationwide industry associations who are already talking about creating an experience with us and then having their membership organizations license that content or sponsor access for a school and ensures that no student in the country misses an opportunity to pursue their dream job just because they didn't know it existed.

Main Street

People want to learn more about what it is that you're doing now or plan to do, they should go where?

Matt Chaussee, Be More Colorful

Yeah, careerviewxr.com is the is the product sites. Also feel free to check out bemorecolorful.com.

Main Street

Matt Chaussee, he's with Be More Colorful. Matthew, thank you for joining us on Main Street. Thank you.

Note: This transcript was generated using AI tools. The audio of the interview is the official record.