Upon invitation by Professors Yuko Itatsu and Yujin Yaguchi at the University of Tokyo, Japan, my colleague Richard Carter-White and I visited the “Beyond Artificial Intelligence” Forum (B’AI) for a week in December 2022. The BʼAI is a research group dedicated to the development of Artificial Intelligence and other digital technologies to achieve a gender equal society that guarantees minority rights. Richard and I were invited to share and discuss our latest research on Virtual Reality within the context of geography education.
Our visit to the University started with a lecture on this topic. Virtual reality (VR) is increasingly claimed to hold significant potential for pedagogical applications in University education. Richard and I have critically examined this claim, with reference to results from a two-year research-teaching project based on a postgraduate VR field trip to the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum. We found that VR technology may work as a (dis)inhibitor, providing users with a sense of social and temporal freedom to explore sites but in combination with a new set of spatial and perceptual constraints. The lecture has been recorded and is available here. We also had the pleasure to engage in two different course workshops on “Leisure, media and power” with two wonderful groups of students. We discussed together the implications of VR for understanding (difficult) heritage, also within the context of today’s musea.
During our stay we had the honor to visit the Cyber Interface Lab at the University of Tokyo where a group of scholar-technicians work and experiment with the latest developments in the field of Virtual Reality technology and other related immersive technologies. We were treated by Dr. Takuji Narumi and his colleagues to a firsthand embodied experience of the latest haptic advancements that Virtual Reality technologies can provide.
Professors Yuko Itatsu and Yujin Yaguchi as well as their colleagues have been incredibly generous to give us this platform to share our research and to learn about the amazing work that they are doing on Artificial Intelligence and to discuss the implications of AI within the context of heritage.