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.

March 18, 2013

Whither eS3D?

Predictions for Educational 3D in 2013
Most prognosticators deal with predictions earlier in the year, say, in January. Unfortunately, my editorial schedule did not permit such a luxury. Under the “better late than never” rule, please allow me to humbly offer my informed predictions for the educational use of 3D in 2013:
  • The recession will continue to have a hampering impact upon the growth of 3D in K-12 education. (The way funding for education works is that schools lag the economy by a full year, so don’t expect much improvement until the year following any improvements in the economy.)
  • International use of 3D in K-12 education will continue to outpace the spread of 3D in U.S. schools.
  • The new SIG 3D formed by ISTE will double its membership and establish a growing foothold in educational technology.
  • Some surprise “big players” will jump on the 3D bandwagon in education.
  • Post-secondary education will see stronger 3D sales than K-12 schools as they continue to deploy 3D demonstration classrooms in some universities and community colleges.  (Post-secondary education, with the ability to charge tuition and fees, seems to experience nowhere near the same level of financial meltdown seen in the K-12 sector.)
  • Half of the universities or post-secondary institutions deploying 3D demonstration sites will create their own content, employing students in that effort; the remaining schools will buy or commission any needed content.
  • Medical education (medical schools, teaching hospitals, hospital education services) will see increased growth in 3D usage.
  • New and pioneering educational content providers will continue to appear on the scene, strengthening the quality and quantity of stereo content for education.
  • New innovations will emerge on the scene in 2013, strengthening the case for 3D (such as web delivery and viewing options beyond the active/passive debate).
  • Brain research (neuroscience) will weigh in, helping to build the use case for 3D in education.
  • 3D math content will increase significantly and science collections will continue to expand in topical coverage. There will not be enough 3D content to support most other subject areas, however.
  • User-generated content will continue to expand and represent a reasonable niche market.
  • 3D will become easier to use as some hardware barriers melt away.
  • Software copy protection schemes on software will continue to frustrate end users and make 3D difficult to implement. (Grow up developers—you’re not the CIA!)
  • The vision health issue will struggle to receive the attention it deserves. Still, slow and steady progress will be made
  • The persistent struggle we face in inoculating against 3D mythologies (3D is bad for you, it makes everyone sick, it hurts children) won’t go away. We’ll still have to wrestle with those unfortunate media-generated sound bites for some time to come. But we will win the arguments. Science and medicine support us.
What is your prediction? Please comment below. Resist the urge to stay silent. Blow the lid off this blog. Please.

March 11, 2013

Med Ed 3D (3)

In the last post, I asserted that much of the growth and potential for 3D in education will find a promising foothold in medical fields. In this last post, our example reaches into the arena of patient education.

Patient Education
Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) is an increasingly global health problem, one which leaves a lot of patient suffering and costs for care in its wake. Enter Sensavis CEO, Magnus Arfors, with an aggressive project employing stereoscopic 3D visualization for patient education.  Together with support from the Karolinska University hospital in Stockholm and the Swedish public patient insurance organization, this project may grow into a real game changer. 
Graphics from the Sensavis storyboard. Their actual graphics are insanely realistic.
“The overall goal of our effort,” explains Arfors, “is to educate and motivate patients to take action in the right direction in order to radically decrease suffering and to save money in the health care system.” Assembling a team of Sensavis visualization architects, specialists in lung medicine/physiology, and specialists in patient education, Arfors is deploying a unique software solution that imitates physiology, both in healthy lungs and in lungs with COPD (e.g. TLC, FRC, IC, VC, alveolar pressure, resistance etc.). Using this stereo 3D simulation, physiological parameters can be changed in real time and the consequences can be explored. With stereo 3D, the user experience becomes much richer than is the case with 2D visual representation. 

The project will launch with sophisticated content that is presented in large groups, using a 3D projector. However, their goal is to move well beyond the traditional scenario we have seen with audience-style patient education. Arfors plans to enable patients to interact with simpler content themselves, via iPads or tablets—or by making the content available on the Internet. This self-study approach represents an interesting supplement to traditional 3D audience-delivery education.

Evaluation will be a vital part of this project. Sensavis and their university partners will use a control group methodology to study improvements in learning. They also aim to analyze the bottom-line—the return on investment in terms of health improvements and cost savings. Part of the follow up study will measure the effectiveness of simpler simulations delivered to patients in the self-study format described above.

Although some of the collaborators are established, and others (including pharma companies) are in ongoing discussion, Sensavis is seeking (more) partners for the financing of the content production and the study. They are also looking for technical equipment partners (such as screens, projectors, computers and tablets). If your organization is interested in exploring this opportunity, please contact Maggie Warbrick at

March 4, 2013

Med Ed 3D (2)

In the last post, I concluded that much of the growth and potential for 3D in education will find a promising foothold in medical fields—in universities, medical schools, teaching hospitals, surgery centers, continuing education offerings for various health professionals, and patient education. Three recent international examples support my humble hypothesis. Our second example is in the field of surgery.

Surgical Education
One firm, 3Dlivesurgery (based in Portugal but with partnerships throughout Europe), is leveraging its substantial experience in live stereoscopic 3D surgery to expand its services to offer a full range of impressive 3D medical offerings.  These offerings cover the complete ecosystem of 3D medical services: 3D live surgery (using specialty cameras), 3D consulting /video production (how to get the most out of a 3D visualization), 3D recording (for use/reuse formats), 3D event management (education and training events), and 3D media publishing /distribution.

Marco Neiva, the CEO of 3Dlivesurgery, advocates that “3D HD provides a true perception of depth for surgeons, closer to their experience in the real world.” He also suggests that the value proposition for 3D visualization goes well beyond reducing the time to perform procedures and lessening surgeon fatigue. It offers tremendous educational potential for the surgeon’s operating team, residency programs, interns, and hospital staff. He explains: “High definition 3-D visualization should shorten the learning curve for surgical skills transfer. Now, multiple observers - including residents, fellows, and attending physicians - can all see the operating surgeon's stereo view.”