February 8, 2016

The 3D-printed Dancer

Here's a delightful video my wife introduced to me, a video with a 3D theme. Enjoy!

February 1, 2016

What's in a name?

As indicated in last week's post, clearly, the abbreviation ‘3D’ is currently disappearing from some digital product marketing schemes, and is being replaced with other substitute words. We now must surveil for code words like “immersive”, “VR”, or “mixed reality”, to name but a few. 3D Might be hiding there. You never know. The ways we now describe 3D visualization technologies are at the same time confusing, shifting, and converging. Let’s just say that conversations are never easy in this promethean field.

Part of the complication we face is that 3D has truly become a culturematic in modern society. In my lead-in quotation from last week's post, Juliet laments:
“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet”.
Of course, what this means is: it matters what something is, not what it may be called. But in the education world, it sure makes it harder to hold conversations, build momentum, and do business around the notion of 3D.

January 25, 2016

By Any Other Name

      'Tis but thy name that is my enemy;       Thou art thyself, though not a Montague.       What's Montague? it is nor hand, nor foot,       Nor arm, nor face, nor any other part       Belonging to a man. O, be some other name!       What's in a name? that which we call a rose       By any other name would smell as sweet;       So Romeo would, were he not Romeo call'd,       Retain that dear perfection which he owes       Without that title. Romeo, doff thy name,       And for that name which is no part of thee       Take all myself.
William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, 1600

I want to reveal a perception that has consistently garnered my attention: I am finding that the term 3D is a rapidly shifting target. It means many things to many people these days. 

When someone speaks about ‘3D’, they may be referring to immersive rendered 3D solutions; or they may have in mind the amazing 3D room in the Pena Palace in Sintra, Portugal (see previous post); or they may be referencing stereoscopic or autostereoscopic 3D visualization products; they could be excitedly pushing the hottest virtual reality experiences; and they could even be describing augmented or mixed reality offerings. And I haven’t even mentioned 3D printing. In many cases, the actual term ‘3D’ may not be used, as it seems to convey “bad mojo” to some folks.

Here are some examples of this often occurring 3D obfuscation:
  • Within the behind-the-scenes platform for the 2015 Horizon Report (I served as a panel expert), organizers mystifyingly separated 3D technologies into four different categories. First, they saw most 3D as consumer technology and not an educational technology; they also mentioned 3D under data visualization technologies, under a virtual reality, and under a mixed reality. You can see why 3D didn’t make the cut if they don’t quite agree on what it is!
  • Many articles or press releases I read about virtual reality or mixed reality products are using stereo and/or rendered 3D, but these articles often steer clear of the “3D” moniker.
  • Manufacturers, committees, and school technologists are constantly mixing up these technologies in their minds and lexicon.
  • Chris Chinnock of Insight Media writes in a recent article: “This is how 3D is going to come back to life—via a VR headset.”

January 18, 2016

3D Fun in Portugal

Portugal is an amazingly beautiful and friendly country. It also has a sophisticated 3D industry underway. But on a recent trip I found a few fun things in the 3D realm, during my outgoings from Lisboa.

If you get a chance, try to visit the amazing 3D room in the Pena Palace in Sintra, Portugal. The palace features an entire room that looks like it has depth, but it was painted on!

The 3D Room in Pena Palace, Sintra

I also noticed this product beckoning on a Lisboa shelf:
“Cada pedaço de 3D's leva-te a uma dimensão desconhecida: Vais desfrutar três vezes mais!"
“Each piece of 3D's takes you to an unknown dimension : You'll enjoy it three times!”
And now, apparently, 3D now applies to new dimensions of taste!

January 11, 2016

Learning About 3D

Are you interested in learning more about 3D? Here are two friendly resources to help you on your way:

A New Book on 3D. Miriam Ross, one of the brightest people I have met online, has released a new book that translates well for 3D enthusiasts and can benefit educators as well. It is entitled 3D Cinema: Optical Illusions and Tactile Experiences. According to Dr. Ross, the book is a bit different from many of the books that have already been published on 3D based because it is rooted in Humanities theoretical analysis. See these preview pages.

A Useful 3D Knowledge Collector.  David Briggs, the co-founder of the Neo3do autostereoscopic 3D tablet, purchased and now runs operates an informative website on all things 3D, 3D Focus. It’s a good place for educators to learn what’s happening in the broader 3D world. 

January 4, 2016

3D Events

3D Design Contest in the Planning. The huge Texas Computer Education Association (TCEA) is moving forward on a 3D design contest for students to be held in 2016. The contest will have students design a solution to a given problem using 3D drawing software such as SketchUp Pro, which is provided free to TCEA members. For details contact info and details, see this link: SketchUp Pro.

VREP Showcase Feted. The Annual Iowa VREP Showcase is scheduled to be held on April 14, 2016 in Des Moines, Iowa. This event focuses on 3D animation, video and printing contests, with scholarships at stake. A 3D scanning component is now being added. 

New L.A. VR and Immersive Technology Meetups . A recurring series of meetups for 3D VR and immersive technology enthusiasts are underway by none other than the Creative Technology Center’s founder (and Iggy Pop rock star), Michael Page. I mention this here because I have met a large number of these folks, and they are deeply interested and committed to 3D in education. It’s a good group to get to know, if you find yourself in Hollywood. The meetups occur twice a month. See the signup site here.


December 28, 2015

3D Tidbits

What's trending?

News from Outer zSpace. Talk about smart moves. zSpace has been wisely cozying up with symbiotic partners and pursuing powerful use cases. Their recent partnership with the Living Heart Project, a collaboration to develop and validate personalized digital human heart models and establish a unified foundation for cardiovascular medicine is sure to turn the heads of both the medical community and medical educators.

3D Model Creation Using Smartphones.  Carnegie Mellon University researchers in Pittsburgh have successfully explored the use of ordinary smartphones as scanning devices for the creation of 3D models. Lots of implications here for education. See this link for more information.

December 21, 2015

News from Sensavis

Sensavis, the creator of the unique educational product “The 3D Classroom,” together with partner Ed10x, has secured the first school district to implement The 3D Classroom with services and video rights for “flipped instruction” in all their schools. (The 3D Classroom is an intuitive and interactive 3D educational visualization tool which allows the teacher to explain complex and abstract subjects to students in a simple, visual, and understandable way.)

The Lincoln County School District in Southeastern Nevada can now produce their own professional development videos with high quality content on their own terms. With this district-wide licensing, teachers can share their best videos to their students working with “flipped classroom”, prepare substitute teachers with lesson resources in an instant, and as well as support students with personalized tutoring videos for class. “Lincoln County School District is energized and thrilled to partner with Sensavis. and provide our teachers the opportunity to incorporate an interactive 3D Classroom curriculum resource into their instructional strategies,” says Steve Hansen, Superintendent for Lincoln County School District. Fredrik Olofsson, CEO for Sensavis AB, the Swedish-based parent company of Sensavis, adds: “The 3D Classroom brings to Lincoln County School District a state of the art teaching tool that will enable students to grasp hard to understand concepts through stunning visuals.” Tiffany Kelly, CEO of Ed10x , explains: “It takes our Professional Development initiatives to another dimension… it fulfills one of our goals of capturing the students in those first few minutes of each lesson with technology enriched teaching methods. She adds: “Ed10x will also be working with Sensavis to develop a video lesson library and a peer to peer video library”.

Considering last week's post on Presente3D's new pricing, can you see a trend here? Again, we are beginning to rightly move away from the ponderous and onerous seat pricing model that has so plagued 3D in education to date. 

December 14, 2015

Presente3D News

Presente3D sells the best 3D PowerPoint plug-in I have seen on the market, and now they have raised the ante. Or should I say, lowered the ante? They have lowered their plug-in product cost to $9.95 per user for the education market.  See this offer. Dennis Cafiero, the company president, noticed a tripled uptick on purchases with the lowered price: “What I noticed was when people were buying it at this [price] level, the average user was buying for 3 pc's.” Frankly, this goes a long way to solve the problem of multiple user acquisition in cash-strapped schools. 3D costs are too high for education customers, and this is one of the first of many manufacturers I now see going for the advantages of volume purchasing. Smart move.  Presente3D will also be releasing a 3D video player and image converter in the near future. 

December 7, 2015

3D in Higher Ed (2)

There is a "story behind the story" related to last week's post about 3D education in a higher education setting:

In China, Radio and Television Universities (RTVUs) are open higher education institutions that conduct distance education using interactive multimedia courseware, online courses, and satellite-based distance learning. These RTVUs were created to improve the quality of the work force, adjusting to a large number of learners, particularly in support of non-degree education. To that end, RTVUs operates educational programs for community education centers, municipalities, counties, business and industry needs, rural areas, remote areas, and regions inhabited by ethnic minority groups. Their advantages include lower costs and quicker graduation schemes.

We see a similar trend in U.S. colleges and universities. The trend is described in a recent book by Richard DeMillo, From Abelard to Apple. The theme of DeMillo’s books is that “any college or university can change course if it defines a compelling value proposition (one not based in "institutional envy" of Harvard and Berkeley) and imagines an institution that delivers it.” 

There’s the rub. Smaller and less influential institutions, like these Chinese RTVUs, now seek to accommodate large numbers of new learners in quick and cost effective ways, at the same time competing for students with more well-known and well-endowed universities. One way such second-tier schools are competing is through providing cutting edge visualization tools. (See my recent article, Nevada State College Flies High with 3D.) In both the Nevada State example and the Chinese Jiayuguan Branch RTVU, 3D visualization becomes much more than a sexy technology acquisition—it becomes a value proposition for the school. A draw for students. A competitive edge. A necessity. What are the implications in this story? Some of the most promising--and most likely--pacesetters for display technologies are smaller colleges, universities, and technical schools.

November 30, 2015

3D in Higher Ed: China Edition

The Jiayuguan Branch of Gansu Province’s RTVU (Radio and Television University) announced their first “3D Guide Simulation Experiment & Training Room.” This is a “Multi-Channel Dome Projection System”, one which employs VR technology to simulate 3D stereoscopic scenery. (For more information on dome projection systems in general, see this link.) The project was funded jointly by the Gansu Provincial Department of Education, which invested 1 million Yuan, along with the Jiayuguan RTVU Branch, which provided an additional 300,000 Yuan for the solution.

According to a spokesperson, students sitting in the new training dome can “travel forty thousand kilometers per day in one place” and are freely able to explore many famous scenic spots around the country. The scenes created by this immersive virtual simulation display environment are uniquely placed “within arm’s reach.” The platform can also support 3D films, pictures, PowerPoint, audio/video files, video conferencing, and distance learning.

The solution is used for training students for the growing tourism and hospitality industry in Jiayuguan City (known for the in Jiayuguan pass, the Great Wall, tombs, glaciers, stone carvings, mounds, and glider recreation), which has experienced rapid growth in the last few years. Using the platform, students are able to practice tour guide explanation and language skills. The RTVU also plans to use the dome for simulation practice and teaching in the specialties of mechanical engineering, auto repair, and architecture. 

November 23, 2015

The Way Forward (3)

In his insightful book, Think in 3D, DeSouza points the way to the future for 3D. DeSouza emphasizes three main ideas, in his efforts to provide  a way forward for 3D. Here is the third.

Selective Focus. DeSouza describes a film-making technique he calls the “circle of isolation," which is also called selective focus. “The trick,” he says, “is to completely blur out any background imagery in the scene beyond recognition and so help audiences slowly evolve their senses to reject parts of the scene that are not in focus.”  The main rationale behind “selective focus” is to make 3D viewing easy on the eyes, easy on the viewer’s comfort.
What DeSouza is describing here is sorely needed in educational content, not just in films. The key learning of any visual experience should come clearly into focus, while other visual aspects must take a back seat. These other aspects often become mere ‘noise,’ confusing and misdirecting young learners. Effective educational 3D is not only about eliminating discomfort—it is also about elevating the learning target at hand, while simultaneously reducing cognitive ‘noise.’ You see, educational 3D cannot and should not be all about stimulating the senses and visual overload.

 “Thinking in 3D” is more a journey than a destination. It’s an ongoing process, a way of thinking about a new and promising medium. We should take DeSouza’s profound words and ideas to heart in education, whether students are designing 3D or learning with the help of 3D. And if you get a chance, pick up a copy of Think in 3D and join the closing ranks of the dimensionally attuned. 

November 16, 2015

The Way Forward (2)

In his insightful book, Think in 3D, DeSouza points the way to the future for 3D. DeSouza emphasizes three main ideas to provide  a way forward for 3D. Here is the second.

Interactivity. DeSouza submits that it’s time for more interactivity in 3D. “Real-time, stop-and-look-around interactivity is the way forward for a truly immersive experience,” he says. “This emotes in the audience feelings of belonging and identifying with the world being presented.” He issues a clarion call for the creation of more “3D engines for realistic stereoscopic 3D virtual worlds.”

Of course, DeSouza is on right on target again. Although interactivity already serves as the bread and butter in the video game industry, that is not so in 3D in education. In 3D learning, content must change. Interactivity must be reified—it must become the thing. Current educational 3D content manufacturers produce interactive simulations as an afterthought. There aren’t very many. That needs to change. DeSouza predicts that this may occur within the context of 3D VR. It's something to think about.

November 9, 2015

The Way Forward (1)

Over the last month, we took time to translate many of the powerful creative thoughts of Clyde DeSouza into the context of education.  In our next three posts, we will address the question “What is the way forward for 3D educational content?”

In his insightful book, Think in 3D, DeSouza points the way to the future for 3D. DeSouza emphasizes three main ideas to provide  a way forward for 3D. Here is the first.

Modular Digital Assets.  DeSouza calls for the use of modular digital assets in 3D. He defines digital assets as a reusable collection of “…3D computer models (CGI), digital sketches, and other elements such as video clips and animations done by artists [used to] make modern movies.”
In education, there is a strong need for a growing and interchangeable library of modular digital assets in 3D. Companies like 3DHub and Eon Reality are already headed down this pathway.  On the development side, some educational 3D content designers, like Sensavis, employ an engine that ensures new content doesn’t always emerge from a ‘made-from-scratch’ recipe.  Some 3D content designers, like CubeDigico and DesignMate, are providing substantial curriculum coverage with very broad offerings, enough to make a difference in almost any lesson plan.

Effective digital assets for the education market must be modular, carved into smaller and more focused segments, interchangeable, and mashable. Above all, these digital assets must be tolerant of changing technologies, competing products, and classroom realities.

November 2, 2015

SXSW Redux

SXSW here we come!
Thanks to all our readers who helped vote for our South by Southwest edu (SXSWedu) 3D proposal, See to Achieve: Where VirtualReality, Vision, and Learning Meet. 

The crux of this presentation is that successful reading requires our eyes to track a line and focus on a word or letter—and our eyes must do those things together. Enter modern day virtual reality. 3D virtual reality experiences also require our eyes to track, focus, and team. This presentation shows how virtual reality is fostering unanticipated benefits for vision health and learning; and how new mobile 3D technology is being used to screen for and improve early childhood vision. 

Out of 1300 applicants we were accepted. For those unfamiliar with SXSW, in the U.S. this is bigger and trendier than a TED talk. So thank you very much for helping us get accepted!

October 26, 2015

Rueing the Day

Here are some arguments against 3D conversions in education:

Why 2D-to-3D conversions of educational content will make all of us rue the day
  • There’s too much junk. I have been a large purchaser of traditional 2D digital content for many years. After our school district deployed a richly endowed digital content management system, we began the laborious process of acquiring digital content licenses en masse for our teachers. One thing I learned in the process was echoed by thousands of teachers: in a typical digital content collection, only 5% of the content is worth using. The rest is filler. It just makes the provider's collection look bigger. We were forced to cherry pick the best titles. “Why pay for the junk,” we thought? Some companies wouldn’t play ball on that iTunes-like playing field. So we skipped them. For that reason alone, 2D-3D conversions will ruin the promise and potential of 3D in the educational marketplace.
  • It’s too expensive. 2D educational content, converted to stereo 3D, will also require DeSouza’s “visual grammar change” and many publishing companies will simply not pay for z-depth enhancements, slowing, savoring, or other visual improvements. Yet DeSouza has other ideas about this limitation. "Another thing to keep in mind," he adds, "is that much educational content is produced in CG. (DirectX, OpenGl) etc. If this is true, by default they have a Z-buffer channel that can produce stereoscopic 3D. The nvidia stereo drivers operate this way for example." This could greatly lower costs. Still, I hold my ground for one big reason: most digital content companies in the education space license their products from smaller producers, as is. Any incentive to improve the product is mitigated, simply because it is decentralized.

I know the emotions and the players involved in the 3D conversion debate.  Let the debate now extend to education.

October 19, 2015

Saving the Day

Here are some arguments for 3D conversions in education:

Why 2D-to-3D conversions of educational content will save the day
  • It’s about critical mass. Once the big publishers enter the educational 3D market, it shouts that 3D has finally arrived. It’s like the Pope’s blessing, isn’t it?
  • Some conversions work. Although DeSouza worried that “straight over conversions will not work,” great conversions are adjusted—tweaked—so they can therefore be considered something more than a "straight over conversion.” I can therefore assume that some well-known and well-loved educational content can indeed be tweaked. Slowed down. Paused, allowing full savoring. Negative parallax added, so that depth can be advantaged at the right moments. It seems reasonable to me.

October 12, 2015

3D Conversions in Education

 “Will 3D conversions of legacy educational content be a godsend?

Fact One. Three of the largest educational content publishers in the world have educational 3D content ready to go—or should I say—ready to convert from 2D to 3D. Only if needed. Only if the market comes calling. For now, these publishing behemoths are content to sit tight, waiting on the sidelines. If, and when, the market picks up, they are certainly ready to flood the market with 3D conversion titles.

Fact Two. No matter whom I speak with in the educational content business or 3D hardware manufacturing business, mostly everyone thinks that 2D-3D conversions of educational content will somehow save the day. Nearly everyone.  

As for me, I’m not so sure. Maybe. Aw, probably not. I have good reasons for my troubled fudging.  Stay tuned for next week's post!

October 5, 2015

About 3D Conversions

In his book, Think in 3D, DeSouza worries about conversion of traditional 2D content into the 3D format.  He frets: “Straight over conversions will not work,” suggesting that this is merely wishful thinking--merely “thinking in 2D” about 3D. He explains the possible failure points for such a crossover in this way: “the brain takes a while to ‘take in’ a 3D scene, and although still an illusion, contain such rich visual information that if it were to be combined with 2D cinematographic technique such as fast cuts and pans, rack focus, or depth of field manipulation – it would lead to visual overload for the audiences, who may end up getting a headache as they struggle to make sense of all the visual stimuli being presented. “ Instead, DeSouza values an enveloping “visual narrative… presented…via subtle camera movement rather than a montage like style, frequently changing camera angles, or fast camera motion that is normally used to convey anticipation, excitement, or other emotions in 2D movies.”

DeSouza feels that straight-over conversions of 2D content into 3D format will not reach audiences as well, because “most directors, editors, and cinematographers have grown up with montage style filmmaking, and do not use ‘dwell time,’ which a 3D movie thrives on. Instead, DeSouza postulates that great 3D content requires a necessary “visual grammar change.”

Still, in a recent interview, DeSouza feels that in the education space, there might be room for some doable conversions. He states: "I believe that educational content might perhaps benefit from conversion, because they aren’t produced with camera work at the same tempo as Hollywood tentpole productions, which are notorious when it comes to converting." In our next week’s post, we will tackle the issue of 3D conversions in the educational space. 

September 28, 2015

Lackluster 3D

In a previous post , I took time to translate many of the powerful creative thoughts of Clyde DeSouza into the context of the educational stereo 3D (eS3D). In this post, I am going to take a look at DeSouza's theories from his book, Think in 3Dand attempt to answer the question: “Why is some eS3D content so darn lackluster?”

Why some 3D content is lackluster
It’s too flat. In  DeSouza proposes that [when viewing 3D] “the screen really is a stage for all purposes. It is no longer a flat wall.” DeSouza accurately understands that, whenever 3D educational content is so close in appearance to flat movies, it loses its appeal. Think about what he is saying. Why would schools pay for the extra costs of 3D if they are only a little bit better than a 2D classroom video? It’s so obvious! So, too, in classroom 3D. In education, depth ‘rules’ and flat ‘drools’. (Please excuse my use of middle school vernacular).

It’s too subtle. DeSouza believes that is a mistake to assume that "subtle 3D is good 3D." He warns that “subtle 3D at all times  creates safe – [and] boring 3D." I agree. Anyone who knows educations is well aware that ‘boring’ ushers in an“irreversible kiss of death."

It moves too fast. DeSouza postulates a new “golden rule for 3D”: cause no harm to audiences. One of the main ways 3D can upset younger children is fast or swirling action. According to DeSouza, “the familiar montage like style , made up of rapid cuts, frequently changing camera angles, or fast camera motion that is normally used to convey anticipation, excitement, or other emotions into 2D movies” just doesn’t work in 3D film. I can say the same for the classroom. Perhaps that’s part of the reason I am so worried about vanilla conversions of existing 2D educational content into 3D content. How are they going to deal with these issues? The classroom is different than the movie theater or entertainment ride.

3D content development still has a long way to go. Some companies—like zSpace, CubeWiz3D, and Sensavis—are leading the way. Hardware and software companies alike would be wise to pick up DeSouza's book, connect with his ideas, and start to really think in 3D.