SOFTWARE RELEASE: VILA empowers researchers to “step into” video data in virtual reality through ground-breaking immersive 360° video technology

Most researchers who work with video data know that watching a video recording of a data collection site is not quite the same as being there. But why simply watch a video recording on a flat screen when you can “re-enter” it in VR? 
 
“Imagine this. You are a researcher interested in classroom interaction. You go out “into the field” to make a video recording of an authentic classroom – not with a traditional video camera, but with a 360° camera, to avoid missing out on important activities. Now, when you get back to your office, instead of watching your recording on a flat computer screen, you “step into” the video data with a virtual reality headset – not just to watch the classroom, but to re-inhabit it. This is next level qualitative video analysis. And it’s possible with AVA360VR – a tool that leads the way for immersive qualitative analytics,” Jacob Davidsen says.
 
AVA360VR is the name of the software developed and recently released by the teams Big Soft Video and VILA at Aalborg University led by Professor Paul McIlvenny and Associate Professor Jacob Davidsen. 
 
This software can revolutionise the way we do interaction and video research,” according to Jacob Davidsen, “and it holds massive potential for education and pedagogical training in practice-based fields – for example training of health care professionals or pedagogues in nursery education.”
 
An upcoming feature is the collaborative version where users can view and annotate the same 360 video across locations. An example could be a clinical supervisor who uses AVA360VR with their students to analyse, train and practice together.

Demonstration video of AVA360VR

From watching to inhabiting video

Fuelled by a lack in the market, the Big Soft Video and VILA teams set out to develop a piece of software that could make up for the short-comings of traditional video recordings, especially for research.  Today, they’re releasing AVA360VR.

It is a unique and flexible tool for Annotating, Visualising and Analysing 360° video in Virtual Reality. The tool empowers users – researchers, students and educators – to relive and inhabit any 360° video-recorded situation in virtual reality.

AVA360VR allows users to work directly within the video. For example, it is possible to integrate multiple video cameras in one “reality” and then jump from camera to camera to change the viewpoint of the same interaction. Furthermore, user are able to add annotations, such as drawings, notes and arrows.

These functionalities set AVA360VR at the very forefront of virtual reality technology, immersive data analytics, qualitative video analysis and interaction research.

The innovative, built-in features in AVA360VR

AVA360VR introduces a variety of new features to the market – for example jumping between cameras, embedding objects on top of the video, annotating on the video and extracting data easily.

Read more in-depth about the features and the software in general in the background article “STEP INTO YOUR OWN VIDEO DATA WORLD: Ground-breaking software empowers researchers to “inhabit” video data in virtual reality through immersive 360° video technology”.

Endless applications for both researchers and practitioners

Initially, the Big Soft Video team designed AVA360VR as a flexible, versatile and analytical tool for researchers who engage with huge amounts of qualitative 360° video data. However, during the development process, it soon became clear that AVA360VR carries massive potential not just for researchers, but also practitioners. The tool is ideal for teaching and training purposes across all kinds of sectors, for example health and education – and stakeholders from these areas have already taken an interest.

 “A 360° video recording of authentic situations from a an operating theatre or a classroom can be put to good use when teaching students about communication, interaction with patients, medical procedures etc. The 11,000 nursing students in Denmark could use the tool as preparation before venturing into “the field” or as patient-nurse communication training,” Jacob explains.

The team is looking for funding to develop the software further as a pedagogical training tool. Currently, the Big Soft Video team has a full-time programmer, Artúr Barnabás Kovács, working to stabilise and improve the existing features and introduce new ones. An up-coming feature is “layers” that allows researchers to highlight or grey out certain (non-)salient areas of the 360° video. Another up-coming feature is the VRCapture function that gives the opportunity for recording the use behaviour in VR. This feature is not on the market in any form now.

Get started with AVA360VR now

Do you want to get started with AVA360VR right away? The basic requirements for running AVA360VR are a VR-ready computer as well as a VR headset (all commercial headsets can be used). The software itself is free of charge.

Please get in touch with Jacob Davidsen, Associate Professor at the Department of Communication and Psychology, Aalborg University, at jdavidsen@hum.aau.dk, or read more in the full case about the software.

Behind the researcher | Jacob Davidsen

Jacob Davidsen is an Associate Professor at the Department of Communication and Psychology at Aalborg University. He holds an MA in Information Science and is active in VILA (Video Research Lab, a part of DIGHUMLAB) at Aalborg University.

His research interests include computer supported collaborative learning and embodied interaction analysis. 

Behind the researcher | Paul McIlvenny

Paul McIlvenny is a Professor at the Department of Culture and Global Studies at Aalborg University. He holds a PhD from Edinburgh University, Scotland, and is active in the following centres and research groups: Centre for Discourses in Transition (C-DIT), Centre for Mobility and Urban Studies and VILA (Video Research Lab, a part of DIGHUMLAB) at Aalborg University.

About VILA

VILA is one of six research communities under the national consortium DIGHUMLAB. VILA supports research into embodied human interaction in a wide range of environments and with a focus on (social) cognition, learning and design. VILA offers access to labs, materials, booking equipment, online tutorials for video analysis software and workshops.

Read more about VILA here.

About BIG VIDEO

BIG VIDEO is a programme at Aalborg University that aims to develop an enhanced infrastructure for qualitative video analysis with innovation in four key areas: 1) Capture, storage, archiving and access of digital video, 2) Visualisation, transformation and presentation, 3) Collaboration and sharing, and 4) Qualitative tools to support analysis. 

Read more about the background for the programme or the BIG VIDEO manifesto. Check out the BigSoftVideo space in GitHub.

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