James Riggall and Bruce Wolcott Talk About VR at Bellevue College

In this short social media video developed by Nicole Beattie for Bellevue College web marketing, James Riggall and Bruce Wolcott provide an overview of virtual reality at the college.

The virtual reality communications courses at Bellevue College are among the first undergraduate classes offered in “XR” technologies in the Pacific Northwest.  XR refers to “extended reality” or “mixed reality” – a range of technology-enhanced  experiences that enhance human perception, ranging from full immersion to information augmentation, as seen in the diagram below.

Image from Wikipedia: Giovanni Vincenti

Virtual Visit to Rec Room

Rec Room Virtual Playground and Communications Hub

Rec Room is a multi-user shared immersive virtual environment created by innovative designers and programmers at the Seattle-based company, Against Gravity.

Bruce and James recently visited Against Gravity community designer Shawn Whiting within Rec Room.  Everyone arrived wearing their custom-made avatar outfits.  James  (on the right) is dressed in a tailored suit while Shawn (left) came to our meeting in a flight suit.

Bruce took this photo using a virtual camera that produced an image that could be passed around and shared with others in the lounge.

Rec room Community designer Shawn Whiting with James Riggall. Photo credit: Bruce Wolcott

Rec Room Features

Rec Room is designed from the ground up as an immersive shared virtual entertainment space where participants can create a unique character, and travel to various environments to play games, socialize, and interact with a wide variety of in-world devices.

Rec Room members use a wrist interface that lets them interact with various devices and Rec Room environments.  Players can play frisbee, basketball, paintball, darts, charades, co-op quests, golf,  or use a wide variety of creative tools such as a camera, whiteboards, or 3D drawing tools.

Rec Room Social Design

One of the most remarkable aspects of Rec Room is how subtle human gestures, eye movements and other kinds of non-verbal communication are represented.  Even though characters are cartoon-like in appearance, they’re able to deliver a wide range of visual expressions and cues.

In this series of screenshots from the Against Gravity blog, a variety of simple eye brow, eye pupil, and mouth movements are delivered by way of normal conversational chat.

Rec Room Character Expression
Thumbs up with wink
Rec Room character expressions - perplexed
Rec Room Character expressions - goofy look
Goofy face
Rec Room character expressions - shifty eyes
Shifty eyes animation

Invitation from Rec Room

Rec Room is currently free and available from Steam software for virtual reality devices, including the HTC Vive, Oculus Rift, and Sony PlayStation VR.  The social application is open and welcome to everyone, as it states on the Against Gravity blog:

Rec Room is a fun and welcoming environment for people from all walks of life! Come and join the fun for free!

Virtual Reality Creators Panel in the Bellevue College Collaboratory

Virtual Reality Creators Panel Discusses How VR is made in Seattle

Date:  Wednesday, November 1st, 2017
Time:  2:30-4:30
Venue:  Bellevue College, Collaboratory

VR Producers Panel at the Bellevue College Collaboratory
James Riggall, Evie Powell, Michael Gelon, and Sophia Baldonado participate in the VR Producers Panel on Wednesday, November 1st, 2017

Early Career Pathways into Virtual Reality

Students enrolled in Bellevue College STEM courses had a chance to witness a panel of virtual reality developers from the Seattle area in early November, 2017.  The panel led a discussion on how they got involved with the virtual reality industry, their path through school, and advice to students who are thinking about VR and related disciplines as a potential career path.  The panel consisted of a cross-section of early career people who have taken different paths to join the Seattle area virtual reality industry.

The panel was led by Christina Sciabarra and James Riggall representing Bellevue College, and was made up of the following producer-participants:

Sophia Baldonado
Pluto VR

Michael Gelon

Evie Powell
Verge of Brilliance

General themes of the panel:

  • There is no “one size fits all” path into the virtual reality field. Everyone on the panel arrived via a unique set of circumstances
  •  It’s important to be persistent -taking advantage of available internships, classes, and local VR meetups and other community gatherings.
  • Keep working on a chosen skill set, and maintain a commitment to lifetime learning.

Video: VR creators panel discussion
Nov 1st, 2017. (Duration, 1 hr 17 min)

Following the panel discussions, attendees were able to try out virtual reality using the Vive VR and Oculus Rift headsets.

Virtual Reality developer Evie Powell with panel participant
VR developer Evie Powell of the company Verge of Brilliance discusses her virtual reality program with a panel event participant.

BC eLearning Center brings Virtual Reality to the 2017 NW eLearn Conference

BC eLearning Makes a Case: Using Virtual Reality Tech for Teaching at Bellevue College

On October 18th, 19th and 20th members of the Bellevue College eLearning Center staff attended the 2017 NWeLearn Conference, which promotes itself as the place “where teaching, learning and technology converge”.

The reason for this trip was to connect with other tech-based educators in the Northwest, discuss online teaching issues and introduce virtual reality displays as an emerging approach for technology-enhanced education.  We also laid out our plan for teaching two new courses in virtual reality design and communications at Bellevue College as a way to bring attention to this new medium, for students and faculty alike.

Photo: James Riggall, Bruce Wolcott and Vivienne McClendon describe the Collaboratory
James Riggall, Bruce Wolcott and Vivienne McClendon describe the Collaboratory within the Bellevue College library and RISE learning center. Photo credit: Gordon Hom

How to Connect Worlds 8000 Miles Apart

Fulbright scholar James Riggall presenting
James Riggall describes makerspaces and plans for a long distance learning lab.

Makerspaces are technology equipped informal learning  spaces that put mentors and students together to build projects ranging from drones to virtual reality communities. Fulbright scholar James Riggall has spent close to a decade creating makerspaces in Tasmania, notably in the cities of Launceston and Hobart.

During the conference, Riggall outlined his plan for helping Bellevue College create a makerspace learning community at the RISE project-based teaching center and BC library Collaboratory space. A long distance learning lab is planned to make use of virtual reality networking, video conferencing, and other communications tools to connect makerspace teams in Tasmania and Bellevue College.

Opening the Doors of Perception with VR

A primary objective for the Bellevue College eLearning team was to provide hands-on immersive virtual reality experiences to online teaching administrators and instructors – most of whom had never tried it before.  For many, it was a transformative experience.

Bellevue College instructor Keith Rowley demonstrates the Vive VR system.
Bellevue College eLearning instructor Keith Rowley demonstrates the Vive VR headset with BC library dean, Vivienne McClendon. Photo credit: Gordon Hom

eLearning faculty from all over the Northwest had a chance to try virtual reality for the first time, with comments such as “Amazing”,
“Wow”, “Fantastic”, and “I’ve never seen anything like this!”.

College instructor tries out virtual reality for the first time.
Photo credit: Gordon Hom

College instructor tries out virtual reality for the first time.
Photo credit: Gordon Hom

Northwest instructor tries out virtual reality for the first time
Photo credit: Gordon Hom

Northwest instructor tries out virtual reality for the first time
Photo credit: Gordon Hom

 Roll On Columbia

On the road back from Pasco to Seattle, Washington,  members of the BC eLearning crew Keith Rowley, James Riggall and Bruce Wolcott stopped for a photo break on the Columbia River.  The sudden switch from green Cascade Mountains to the dry arid plains of Eastern Washington was a startling change for Tasmania native James Riggall.

Keith Rowley, James Riggall and Bruce Wolcott stop for a photo break on the Columbia River in Eastern Washington State.
Keith Rowley, James Riggall and Bruce Wolcott stop for a photo break on the Columbia River in Eastern Washington State. Photo credit: Gordon Hom

Bellevue College Welcomes James Riggall

On September 22nd, 2017 staff from Bellevue College’s RISE Institute, Learning Media Center, Faculty Commons, and eLearning Center met in the recently completed RISE labs to welcome Fulbright scholar James Riggall.

Members of RISE, Learning Media Center, Faculty Commons and eLearning Center welcome Fulbright Scholar James Riggall
Bellevue College welcomes Fulbright scholar James Riggall. Photo credit: Gordon Hom

James Riggall Brings Makerspace Experience to Bellevue College

Over the past six years, James Riggall has developed a number of community-based makerspaces in Launceston and Hobart Tasmania.  The goal of these makerspaces is to provide a place where students of all ages can develop hands-on projects under the mentorship of experienced tutors.  These can be considered as informal learning environments that not only teach through hands-on projects but provide a service to the wider community in Tasmania.

These makerspaces are given logistical support from organizations such as BitLink, Innovation Circle, Enterprize, StartUp Tasmania and the TasCatalyst Project.  As one of the goals of his Fulbright scholarship, Riggall intends to contribute his entrepreneurial startup and makerspace experience to help kickstart a hands-on, project based educational community at Bellevue College.

Bellevue College Makerspace Movers and Shakers

In 2015 efforts were initiated by Gita Bangera, Interim Vice President of Instruction and Vivienne McClendon, Dean of the Library Media Center to create a Collaboratory space in the Bellevue College library.  This “noisy” section of the library is dedicated to live and streaming presentations, courses, team projects, and panel discussions.

Collaboratory space photo
Collaboratory space located in the Bellevue College library

The Collaboratory is supported by several key organizations on campus that share a common cross-disciplinary cooperative culture.  These include the Library Media Center Collaboratory, RISE Learning Institute, Faculty Commons, and the eLearning Center.

Collaboratory and support organizations diagram
Diagram showing relationship between Collaboratory and key cooperative organizations at Bellevue College.

Michael Reese, director of the RISE Institute recently opened the RISE lab, which provides a variety of project-based makerspaces to support student hands-on learning.

RISE makerspace lab
RISE makerspace lab, opened in September, 2017. Photo credit: Gordon Hom


James Riggall, Fulbright Scholar: Northwest Voyage of Discovery

James Riggall photo

On September 15th, 2017 James Riggall arrived in Seattle after a 16 hour flight from Launceston, Tasmania to begin a 7 month Fulbright residential scholarship at Bellevue College.

Riggall arrives with a background in virtual reality technologies from the University of Tasmania’s Human Interface Technology Lab, as well as many years of experience creating community-based makerspaces and entrepreneurial startup ventures.  These include BitLink, Innovation Circle, Enterprize, StartUp Tasmania and the TasCatalyst Project.

Riggall’s goals include working with Bellevue College faculty, students and on-campus organizations such as the Library Media Center Collaboratory, RISE Learning Institute, Faculty Commons, and the eLearning Center.

In thisTED talk video, Innovation in Regions, Riggall outlines his commitment to creating an economically thriving and technologically advanced Tasmania, despite its remote geographic location.

This site is set up to chronicle and document Riggall’s activities during his Fulbright residency at Bellevue College.  Come back for updates!

Long Distance Teaching Colleagues

Photo showing James Launceston meeting with Bruce Wolcott via video conference call
James Riggall and Bruce Wolcott – Launceston to Seattle Newspaper photo credit: Launceston Examiner


Fulbright scholar James Riggall and Bellevue College faculty member Bruce Wolcott began their long distance co-teaching relationship in 2010 while working for the Human Interface Technology Lab (HITLab) at the University of Tasmania. The HITLab as well as the Fundamentals of Interactive Entertainment course was made possible through the efforts of virtual reality pioneer, Dr. Thomas Furness.

This teaching relationship formed the basis for James Riggall’s residential Fulbright scholarship at Bellevue College.
Continue reading Long Distance Teaching Colleagues