March 26, 2012

A BVS3D Research Update

This information was recently published as a comment in my two-part series comparing the U.S. and European research in the area of DLP-enabled stereo 3D. (See A Parallel Universe, Part I and Part II.) It is such valuable information, I wanted to dedicate an entire post just to the preliminary data being reported, along with some context.

Following the BVS3D year-and-a-half case study evaluating the effectiveness of DLP stereo 3D in Colorado (see tag trail), continued research efforts did not cease. Under the watchful eye of Kristin Donley, (she is the Colorado 2012 Teacher of the Year, a high school science teacher, and the science research coordinator for the Boulder Valley School District), the study was continued for another year in order to tackle one of the most important challenges we often hear about 3D in classrooms: “How do we tease out the advantages of visualization in 2D versus visualization in stereo 3D?” In her posting, Donley noted:

“I am currently looking at the data of the next step in the Regis University/BVSD partnership in evaluating the effectiveness of 3D. This time we tried to focus on the differences between 2D images and 3D images. I taught an abstract concept such as DNA Replication and protein synthesis. Students in the control class only saw 2D pictures and animations. The experimental group received 3D animations instead. Keeping with previous results, I didn't see a difference in multiple choice averages, but did see increased higher-level thinking and detail in the experimental group's essay writing. I also did a video assessment. I had students use manipulatives (tinker toy set to build DNA and represent other molecules) to explain the process of DNA replication, for example, and they used their cell phones or iPods to tape their mini-movies. Students who had the 3D were better able to put molecules in relationship to one another in the 3D space and they had a higher level of understanding of the processes. They included more details in addition to just relating terms and steps of the process. The class with the 3D received a half-a-grade higher average on their essays and there were less misconceptions evident in their video assessments. We just finished focus groups and I am now going through the multiple choice to see if there is a difference in the types of multiple choice that the control and experimental group students missed.
I appreciate Kristin and Regis University going the extra mile with our original research on DLP-enabled 3D in the classroom by extending the study an additional year. Expect a full report at the ISTE conference in San Diego, since I know the Regis University researchers are presenting there. Stay tuned…

March 19, 2012

The Eyes Have It

On June 6th and 7th, the Vision Performance Institute is offering a seminal 3D educational experience that will be of interest to 3D educators, software developers, hardware manufacturers, and literati alike: their 6th Annual Research Conference

This conference will feature topics such as
  • vision ergonomics
  • defining 3D content quality
  • vision care
  • S3D in the classroom
  • S3D in public health
  • and much more
At the conference, I will be moderating a panel, but will also offer an informative presentation on what is different about educational 3D content (eS3D), exactly how we use it in the classroom, what the research is suggesting to us, and key research questions your organization should examine in future case studies.
I strongly encourage the audience of this blog (and especially our strong international audience) to find a way to attend this conference. It will lend a competitive advantage to all of your hard work and efforts in this field. Below is the flyer. I hope to see you there.

March 12, 2012

In Méliès Shadow: A Gripping Story, a Hidden Allegory

Hugo (see the previous post) is the tale of a young lad trying to find purpose in his life following the untimely death of his father. But nestled within the plot is a unique story-within-a-story, a look at the budding history of early cinematography.

The view is through the eyes of Georges Méliès, a “special effects” cinematographer who was immensely popular and productive, producing well over 500 films in his day. A performing magician turned cinematographer, Méliès somehow never left behind his gift for magic, invention, and imagination as he pursued making movies. “I was convinced it was a new kind of magic,” he said of cinema.

Now, here’s where DLP-based stereo 3D comes in. This enchanting tale of the inchoate history of cinema creates a softly hidden allegory of today’s emerging 3D educational marketplace. The parallels are striking. Much like early film, 3D today seems like a “new kind of magic” to consumers and schools alike. “Movies are like seeing dreams in the middle of the day.”  I can’t think of a better way to describe 3D in the theater or the classroom. ”It was a gift!” Méliès voiced with delight about moving pictures. I see 3D in the same role—it’s a gift for learning and for healthy vision.

Moreover, viewer reactions to these early films then (and 3D movies or classrooms now) are eerily similar. In Méliès’ day, people responded with the same “it’s like being there” delight and physical reactions. One of the scenes depicted in Hugo involves a famous moment in film-going history, the brief screening of the Lumière brothers' Arrival of a Train at La Ciotat. Here’s a second YouTube version of the same film clip. Frankly, the visual surprise reenacted when the audience in Hugo saw this short video is no different than the reactions repeatedly evidenced in classrooms of elementary school students as 3D asteroids whizz by their heads on a simulated journey to the solar system. And it’s really not much different than the delight and connection demonstrated recently in Colorado and again in Austin by groups of adult K-12 educators at one of my 3D workshops. I guess there is one difference. The surprise and cognitive delight of viewing 3D does not seem to go away over time.

Méliès Shadow 
The similarities between the first years of moving pictures and our early experiences with stereo 3D don’t stop there. We see in both counterparts the struggles of the early years of making quality productions, the challenges of making a living on the basis of selling something as silly as imagination and wonderment, and the highs and lows of convincing others as to the true potential of the tool.

In Hugo, the magnificent and enthralling “world of imagination” created by Georges Méliès and others was driven away when World War I came. “Youth and hope were at an end,” lamented Georges. “The world had no time for magic tricks and movie shows… no one wanted my movies anymore.” “Happy endings only happen in the movies,” he added hurtfully. Due to the lack of demand for movies, he sold his company. Crushed and demoralized he invested all that he had left in a small toy shop. He felt that, in many ways, movies were just a fad. And the fad was over. 

Sometimes I feel the same way about 3D in education. What has become known as our ‘great recession” has hit manufacturer, software designer, and educational customer alike. At times, it seems like the economy has inopportunely slowed one of the most brilliant innovations of our time. Schools and universities that should be investing heavily in 3D learning technologies are instead focusing on keeping staff on the payroll. The critics of 3D are calling it either another fad or a luxury that cannot be afforded during tough times. Although I don’t want to ruin the movie, let me suggest that, in the end, Georges finds fresh legs. And in the 3D educational marketplace, there is reason for hope as well. You see, the educational market is resilient. It will bounce back. No, the message for DLP 3D’s potential in the classroom is not going to wither away. It will soon find fresh legs.


March 5, 2012

In Scorsese’s Shadow

3D again earned a noticeable presence at the 84th annual Academy Awards. Five awards (for best cinematography, art direction, visual effects, sound mixing, and  sound editing) went to the movie Hugo, the best breakthrough 3D movie I have seen since Avatar. This peculiar and enchanting film, based on the Caldecott award winning book, The Invention of Hugo Cabret, is even better than Avatar. (That’s also the opinion of James Cameron, Avatar’s director.) The film’s director was Martin Scorsese. I can only suggest you see this film before it leaves the theaters again.

Martin Scorsese embraced the 3D medium with every fiber of creative passion in his possession. But Scorsese’s work also casts a long and meaningful shadow on what we need to see in 3D within education settings.

Many of my friends and relatives recently have stopped going to 3D movies, citing visual dullness, drab conversions, and minimal negative parallax, but this powerful film demonstrates the type of creativity that will certainly bring the doubters back.  Hugo employs 3D for distinct artistic and visual advantage, a remarkable feat. It features extraordinary 3D portal views, the appearance of multiple layers of positive parallax, and positive parallax that is almost as good as negative parallax. During an interview with, Scorsese spoke of the initial challenges he faced shooting in 3D, saying, "Everything changed every shot. Every shot. The placement of the actor. The nature of the performance...” The same attention to detail will be needed to support the continued development of educational 3D content. For the education market, simple 2D to 3D video conversion will not be sufficient in itself. Running comfortable 3D cartoons for educational customers in exhibit hall booths will not be enough.

And one more thing about Hugo. The movie successfully revives, after an uncomfortable drought, the beauty and importance of negative parallax.  Negative parallax is critically important in educational content. In Hugo, we see bountiful negative parallax: snow… ashes… dogs… tools… pendulums… guitar necks… hurting feet… hat brims… spit… devices… and tools. All with a specific purpose and message to convey.

In planning a party for her godfather, Georges, the spirited Isobel declares in the Hugo film: “We need to have some… panache!” Negative parallax in 3D is like panache. When panache matters, it matters. Educational 3D needs more panache (translated, negative parallax). Think of it in this way: educational customers will come when content has panache