One of the busiest booths I have seen at several recent conferences has been the zSpace exhibit. ZSpace is a Silicon Valley company offering what I call “a near-holographic hardware platform,” one which really draws the crowds. Why some booths flourish, while others do not can be explained by my little poem: “Something trusted, something new, someone invited, something cool.” Trusted brands, new products, unique new capabilities, and ‘cool’ technologies seem to corral traffic reliably. zSpace is drawing crowds because they are offering something never seen before—and it is certainly ‘cool.’ As far as “someone invited.” I personally invited many power educators and top 3D industry folks to walk with me over to the zSpace booth. Now, these educators and industry leaders are seasoned folks--technology leaders, speakers, or integrators who really know their ed tech. They can see fluff right away, and are always a tough sell. I spoke to each person later, and each one was overly impressed with the zSpace offering. Knowing that these educators always start from a posture of deep skepticism, I was actually quite surprised at their reaction. It tells you something. (By the way, zSpace will be exhibiting at the upcoming TCEA conference, if you want to see them for yourself.)
Their GUI interface has a lot to do with their attractiveness, as it offers a unique metaphor for navigation. Gone are the primitive control screens I see with most other 3D solutions. The zSpace user interface is fun, new, invigorating, metaphorical, and captivating. They call it the zSpace experience. I get it. Using zSpace, I was able to pick up objects with a stylus and deposit them in a spinning portal which then took me to another scene or 3D environment, like magic. It’s different. And in this day of look-alikes and same-as, different is good.
But really…why is zSpace really drawing such attention? Don’t laugh, but my sense is that, in the zSpace offerings, educators catch a glimmer of the future of education. The education business, still in the throes of the recession, needs that restorative hope.