November 30, 2015

3D in Higher Ed: China Edition

The Jiayuguan Branch of Gansu Province’s RTVU (Radio and Television University) announced their first “3D Guide Simulation Experiment & Training Room.” This is a “Multi-Channel Dome Projection System”, one which employs VR technology to simulate 3D stereoscopic scenery. (For more information on dome projection systems in general, see this link.) The project was funded jointly by the Gansu Provincial Department of Education, which invested 1 million Yuan, along with the Jiayuguan RTVU Branch, which provided an additional 300,000 Yuan for the solution.

According to a spokesperson, students sitting in the new training dome can “travel forty thousand kilometers per day in one place” and are freely able to explore many famous scenic spots around the country. The scenes created by this immersive virtual simulation display environment are uniquely placed “within arm’s reach.” The platform can also support 3D films, pictures, PowerPoint, audio/video files, video conferencing, and distance learning.

The solution is used for training students for the growing tourism and hospitality industry in Jiayuguan City (known for the in Jiayuguan pass, the Great Wall, tombs, glaciers, stone carvings, mounds, and glider recreation), which has experienced rapid growth in the last few years. Using the platform, students are able to practice tour guide explanation and language skills. The RTVU also plans to use the dome for simulation practice and teaching in the specialties of mechanical engineering, auto repair, and architecture. 

November 23, 2015

The Way Forward (3)

In his insightful book, Think in 3D, DeSouza points the way to the future for 3D. DeSouza emphasizes three main ideas, in his efforts to provide  a way forward for 3D. Here is the third.

Selective Focus. DeSouza describes a film-making technique he calls the “circle of isolation," which is also called selective focus. “The trick,” he says, “is to completely blur out any background imagery in the scene beyond recognition and so help audiences slowly evolve their senses to reject parts of the scene that are not in focus.”  The main rationale behind “selective focus” is to make 3D viewing easy on the eyes, easy on the viewer’s comfort.
What DeSouza is describing here is sorely needed in educational content, not just in films. The key learning of any visual experience should come clearly into focus, while other visual aspects must take a back seat. These other aspects often become mere ‘noise,’ confusing and misdirecting young learners. Effective educational 3D is not only about eliminating discomfort—it is also about elevating the learning target at hand, while simultaneously reducing cognitive ‘noise.’ You see, educational 3D cannot and should not be all about stimulating the senses and visual overload.

 “Thinking in 3D” is more a journey than a destination. It’s an ongoing process, a way of thinking about a new and promising medium. We should take DeSouza’s profound words and ideas to heart in education, whether students are designing 3D or learning with the help of 3D. And if you get a chance, pick up a copy of Think in 3D and join the closing ranks of the dimensionally attuned. 

November 16, 2015

The Way Forward (2)

In his insightful book, Think in 3D, DeSouza points the way to the future for 3D. DeSouza emphasizes three main ideas to provide  a way forward for 3D. Here is the second.

Interactivity. DeSouza submits that it’s time for more interactivity in 3D. “Real-time, stop-and-look-around interactivity is the way forward for a truly immersive experience,” he says. “This emotes in the audience feelings of belonging and identifying with the world being presented.” He issues a clarion call for the creation of more “3D engines for realistic stereoscopic 3D virtual worlds.”

Of course, DeSouza is on right on target again. Although interactivity already serves as the bread and butter in the video game industry, that is not so in 3D in education. In 3D learning, content must change. Interactivity must be reified—it must become the thing. Current educational 3D content manufacturers produce interactive simulations as an afterthought. There aren’t very many. That needs to change. DeSouza predicts that this may occur within the context of 3D VR. It's something to think about.

November 9, 2015

The Way Forward (1)

Over the last month, we took time to translate many of the powerful creative thoughts of Clyde DeSouza into the context of education.  In our next three posts, we will address the question “What is the way forward for 3D educational content?”

In his insightful book, Think in 3D, DeSouza points the way to the future for 3D. DeSouza emphasizes three main ideas to provide  a way forward for 3D. Here is the first.

Modular Digital Assets.  DeSouza calls for the use of modular digital assets in 3D. He defines digital assets as a reusable collection of “…3D computer models (CGI), digital sketches, and other elements such as video clips and animations done by artists [used to] make modern movies.”
In education, there is a strong need for a growing and interchangeable library of modular digital assets in 3D. Companies like 3DHub and Eon Reality are already headed down this pathway.  On the development side, some educational 3D content designers, like Sensavis, employ an engine that ensures new content doesn’t always emerge from a ‘made-from-scratch’ recipe.  Some 3D content designers, like CubeDigico and DesignMate, are providing substantial curriculum coverage with very broad offerings, enough to make a difference in almost any lesson plan.

Effective digital assets for the education market must be modular, carved into smaller and more focused segments, interchangeable, and mashable. Above all, these digital assets must be tolerant of changing technologies, competing products, and classroom realities.

November 2, 2015

SXSW Redux

SXSW here we come!
Thanks to all our readers who helped vote for our South by Southwest edu (SXSWedu) 3D proposal, See to Achieve: Where VirtualReality, Vision, and Learning Meet. 

The crux of this presentation is that successful reading requires our eyes to track a line and focus on a word or letter—and our eyes must do those things together. Enter modern day virtual reality. 3D virtual reality experiences also require our eyes to track, focus, and team. This presentation shows how virtual reality is fostering unanticipated benefits for vision health and learning; and how new mobile 3D technology is being used to screen for and improve early childhood vision. 

Out of 1300 applicants we were accepted. For those unfamiliar with SXSW, in the U.S. this is bigger and trendier than a TED talk. So thank you very much for helping us get accepted!