March 25, 2013

3D Conference Talk

As the 2012 ed-tech conference season began in earnest, I found myself at the FETC 2013 conference in Orlando (late January) and the TCEA conference in Austin (early February). I not only attended these huge events, I presented at both.  Of course, I also spent considerable time traversing the exhibit halls.  I would like to share some key observations related to 3D presence at these huge conferences.

Learnings from FETC
Stereo 3D was not well represented.  It was visibly on display only in only one or two booths. I followed up on every session in the conference program that mentioned ‘3D’ in the title or description, and it is clear that, except for one presentation by Nancye Blair, Stereo 3D is not well understood by conference leadership.  They imagine that “3D virtual worlds” (rendered-3D immersive worlds, like Second Life) and rendered-3D design tools (like Sketchup), or rendered-3D animation in augmented reality or games is what it is all about. I found nothing on the visualization and learning advantages of using stereoscopic 3D.  You may ask, “Why doesn’t conference leadership understand what stereo 3D is? I think it’s easy to explain. It is not fully a part of their generation or their personal culture.  It is not yet on their radar.  It should be, but it is not.  But don’t ever think it is an unreachable goal.  We just need the right messaging.

Learnings from TCEA
For the second year in a row, Texas really “gets” 3D.  My half-day workshop was packed with interested K-12 educators of every persuasion. My follow-up TATN network 3D presentation was well attended and well received.  It was clear the educators were ready to move on this technology. On a negative note, the exhibit hall floor had only four booths demonstrating 3D, a significant downward trend. Teachers kept approaching me on the exhibit floor to find resources, but I had only two places to send them. Lumens was the bright spot, crisply demonstrating their magnificent 3D document camera. One brave exhibitor was a new entry into the marketplace for 3D pre-school  content, Classteacher Learning Systems.  
Also, one 3D printing company (what we call additive manufacturing) offered a small presence.

The final product was in the Epson booth. But they were showing a 15-year old technology solution for 3D (double projectors) that exemplified the historical problems with this old delivery system: the projectors were out of sync and two expensive projectors, not a single inexpensive DLP projector, were necessary.  My conclusion: Again, just like last year, Texas educators really ‘get’ 3D.

On a related note, DLP 3D Lamp-Free Projectors were being demonstrated in a few areas, but the messaging was exceptionally weak.  I consider this to be one of the most impactful technologies ever invented for recession-wrenched educators, but it was absolutely clear that neither exhibitors nor integrators had any idea how to communicate its value proposition to educational customers. (To the educator, ‘lamp-free’ means not paying for bulbs every year—at $350 a whack.  These projectors cost a little bit more, but pay for themselves in a year and a half. In some cases, a solution can last for 20,000+ hours—10+ years in school terms.) You may want to research this mainstream innovation on your own.

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