August 29, 2011

A Common Language

Over the last year, I have overheard many 3D professionals label ‘true’ 3D as:
3D (just 3D)
Stereoscopic 3D
Stereo 3D
3D Stereo
More importantly, I have heard non-3D technologies portrayed as:
3D (just 3D)
Monoscopic 3D
Non-stereo 3D
Virtual 3D
Pseudo 3D
Although most of the public simply uses the term ‘3D’, Chris Chinnock, president of Insight Media and publisher of Large Display Report has long fretted over the confusion our mixed-up terminology causes in the minds of consumers, educators, and decision makers. Chinnock, an expert in projection, 3D, and display technologies, suggests that we use the term “rendered 3D” to refer to CAD drawings and other animations (computer-generated imagery or CGI) that use light, shading, texture, or perspective to create a simple ‘sense’ of 3D.  He separates this type of imagery from “stereoscopic 3D (or S-3D), which involves the use of left and right eye image pairs. Chinnock advises educators: “I strongly urge you to adopt this [terminology] in the education field to start to help differentiate the differences.  We need to start with a common language.

In our next post, we will explain why a common language—a shared understanding—is so important. In the meanwhile, please try out this social experiment embedded below. Imagine you were planning a presentation on stereoscopic 3D, but really wanted to draw the attention of conference organizers and attendees. What terminology would you use and why? Please contribute below...

August 22, 2011

What's In a Name?

Throughout this blog, there is an ongoing debate thread about what 3D is and what it is not. You can follow that thread by reviewing any of the links below:
3D @ ISTE 2011
Whether talking to parents, teachers, friends, relatives, professors, or casual acquaintances—it has become clear that the term 3D means different things to different people. Some think 3D is evidenced in Google Earth, when you zoom in to view a 3D-rendered scene; some think it is one of the 3D-like video games they play on their Xbox, PlayStation, or Wii; others think it’s nothing more than designing a 3D object using AutoCAD or SolidWorks; and still others see 3D as simply an entertaining app running on their Droid or iPhone.  Even more people feel 3D best describes an immersive virtual world such as Second Life. Sadly, none of these is what we mean by stereoscopic 3D. 

But this lack of shared understanding is now getting in the way. It’s getting in the way of teachers trying to explain it to principals; it’s standing in the way of resellers trying to sell 3D to education decision makers; and it remains a stubborn obstacle obstructing the pathway of 3D content providers trying to explain their visually rich offerings to all of the above-mentioned groups. So, in this and a short series of coming posts, we will attempt to conjure up a common language about what 3D is—with a surprise ending—how educational 3D is different, still.

August 15, 2011

3D Myth Busting

A recent magazine article features an old western ‘shootout’ between 3D and 2D projector technology. The article, published on August 1, 2011 in Tech&Learning magazine, highlights two districts and why they chose either 3D technology or 2D technology in their projectors. I was one of the individuals being interviewed. The premise of this article is a good one, but I’d like to correct some persistent inaccuracies, lest they lend themselves to the unfortunate role of myth-building:

"There is a lot more content" for a 2D projector.
"The direct cost of a 2D projector is less than" a 3D unit.
"3D [projectors] need to be kept sterile"
2D— “It’s what you expect in a classroom.”

So in the interest of myth-busting, here’s the truth, unembellished and straight up:

  • All DLP 3D-ready projectors are first and foremost, 2D projectors at the same time. In fact, a 3D projector is used as a 2D projector most of the day—and when you want to see 3D, your software simply tells the projector you are in 3D mode.  
  • Since all DLP 3D-ready projectors are also 2D projectors, they have access to all available content, whether 3D or 2D. The reverse is true for 2D-only projectors—they cannot project 3D content!
  • Our 3D projector cost $520 with 3D. If we had purchased it without 3D built in, it was $520. Do the math.
  • 3D projectors do not need to be kept sterile. Neither do glasses. The word "sterile" is a bit overstated. The recommendations found in the coming See Well, Learn Well report suggest the following common-sense guidelines: "Disinfect the 3D glasses thoroughly after viewings. This is most easily accomplished by using anti-bacterial sprays or wiping down each unit with a single disposable alcohol pad after use." And by the way, kids like the glasses.
  • “2D is what you expect in a classroom.” Over my career, I have been involved in the design and building of nine new schools and over twenty-six major remodeling projects. Over the span of those years, I often heard this kind of statement. It usually referred to such technologies as chalkboards, overhead projectors, analog clocks, VCR players, and CRT monitors. We build for the future, not the past.

August 8, 2011

3D School Safety (Part II)

In the previous blog post we announced that SchoolSAFE is currently developing a 3D training simulation for school emergency preparedness. Two key questions surface: “Why use 3D to do this and how does all of this fit in with school safety?

By employing 3D video to train schools in crisis response, SchoolSAFE hopes to evoke a strong “training dividend” from the compelling nature of 3D content. John Simmons ( explains that “by viewing brief 3D scenes, trainees can experience a level of stress that will test their ability to manage the incident as they communicate with first responders” while a school threat unfolds in front of them. “3D has such volume,” he reminds us, and that’s why his organization believes this will succeed. Simmons points out that most school emergencies must be addressed by school staff who are 7 to 20 feet away from the action. This corresponds to the distance from the 3D camera where the 3D effect would be most pronounced. And, according to Simmons, synchronizing 3D viewing with live two-way radio drills provides an intense interactive experience not common in the world of entertainment or gaming.

In addition, using 3D offers some economic advantages. Simmons explains "in these tough economic times, this interactive 3D experience brings down the cost of drills and exercises, and offers more opportunities to schedule high-quality training so that all school personnel and students can benefit." These simulations can also help overcome the challenges of teacher turnover and new incoming classes by maintaining a consistent level of training for newcomers year after year.

The goal of this partnership, an effort notably inspired and led by Colorado State Senator Steve King,  is to bring this training to 30,000 school safety personnel and 800,000 students in Colorado, and ultimately to 2.1 million school safety personnel and over 56 million students nationwide.

So how will schools react? Steve Hoban the Director of Operations, Security & Environmental Services for the Boulder Valley School District, is optimistic. “The use of the 3D technology holds great potential in the world of school safety,” he predicts. 3D technology and training simulations represent “an opportunity to be more efficient with training, while still giving the recipient a more realistic feel for the crisis event being addressed,” he adds.

While attending the most recent meeting of Colorado’s School Safety Task Force, Jim Chabin, who is President of the International 3D Society, agreed:

" Using the immersive strengths of 3D media to better present, illuminate and stimulate educational subjects for students, teachers and leaders responsible for their academic success and safety, is an exciting opportunity. Once again, Colorado's community of committed educational stakeholders is leading the entire country in creating more exciting, and cost effective educational tools for this, and our next, generation of students. "

From a partnership perspective, school safety’s entry into the 3D world will bring a variety of players to the table—hardware, integration services, content development, and advertising. From an educational perspective, school safety could be a school district's first reason to invest in 3D classroom technology.

August 1, 2011

3D and School Safety

Think for a second about the community you live in. On any given work day, twenty percent of your community is involved in a K-12 environment. And if you add higher education to this count, the total number of community members actively involved in school locations exceeds twenty-five percent. That not only represents a huge footprint for public safety agencies, but a potential security “blind spot” if schools cannot communicate with them during emergencies.

As a result, SchoolSAFE recently announced the launch of a national 3D television campaign during National Safe Schools Week, October 16-22, 2011. SchoolSAFE has selected School Safety Partners to produce the 3D campaign with input from major 3D technology companies and school districts. The campaign will use live-action stereoscopic scenes and stereoscopic 3D animation, and will be delivered to general audiences, school staff, and students using all available platforms. The campaign will show how schools today must plan for a broad range of incidents and emergencies including: an active shooter, animal threats, bomb threats, a bus accident, chemical spills, earthquakes, fire, floods, food contamination, gas odor, intruders, pandemic outbreak, power outages, tornadoes, and severe winter storms.

SchoolSAFE’s plans offer some interesting content implications. “3D television channels are going to be hungry for product and sponsorship. Since the purpose of a TV channel is to use programing to gather a large audience and deliver it to the advertiser, the advertiser's message has to stand out. If channels are producing eye-popping 3D content, 2D advertiser messages are going to fall flat.” School Safety’s John Simmons predicts the emergence of more and more high-quality 3D advertising to fit in and keep stride with the new 3D content. "If our responsibility is to raise awareness in the community and try to influence public opinion about school safety, then our PSAs should be in 3D as well," Simmons says.

School Safety Partners then plans to create an interesting new mashup. It aims to leverage the impact of 3D with the power of interoperable two-way radio to create a pulsing, semi-live training simulation for school emergency preparedness. It’s interesting to note that the vision and impetus behind this effort comes from Colorado State Senator Steve King, who has a strong record in school safety legislation. 

Revisit our FutureTalk 3D blog next week to learn more details about this hallmark effort.