zSpace takes 3D learning to a whole new level

3D images become teaching manipulatives with a new ‘immersive desktop’ system

Using the special stylus, students can “pick up,” rotate, and otherwise manipulate the images they see on the 3D monitor.

Imagine being able to learn about the human heart by picking up a still-beating heart, turning it over, peering through its outer walls, and watching the various valves open and shut as blood pumps through them.

Talk about bringing science to life!

For the last few years, three-dimensional science curriculum software has been available to schools with 3D-capable digital projectors. While these programs have allowed students to visualize various structures in much more vivid detail than the static, two-dimensional images found in a traditional textbook, they’ve come with certain limitations as well.

For instance, students couldn’t manipulate the 3D images as if they were holding the objects in their hand—a key sensory experience that enhances understanding.

That’s about to change with new technology from a California company called zSpace, which makes 3D learning more interactive for students.

zSpace offers an “immersive desktop” environment that consists of a 24-inch, high-definition 3D display, a stylus, 3D glasses, and CyberScience 3D curriculum software from Cyber-Anatomy.

Using the special stylus, students can “pick up,” rotate, and otherwise manipulate the images they see on the 3D monitor—giving them a unique way to explore and interact with 3D content.

(Next page: Learn more about the zSpace system—and watch a video of the technology in action)

Click one of the buttons on the stylus, and the part of the object you’re pointing to becomes transparent, allowing you to see inside. Click another button, and you can see labels for the various parts of the object.

But the technology’s most useful feature is that it enables students to move around, turn over, and otherwise manipulate virtual 3D objects within the immersive desktop space.

Watch the technology in action here:

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zSpace demonstrated the technology during the Texas Computer Education Association (TCEA) annual conference in Austin last week.

Executive Vice President Mike Harper said the company plans to sell lab bundles of the zSpace system. The bundles aren’t cheap: For about $30,000, schools can buy a package that includes six lab stations, a teacher station, 50 pairs of glasses, and the CyberScience software.

The CyberScience software that comes bundled with the zSpace system covers topics such as human anatomy, botany, zoology, earth science, chemistry, engineering, and paleontology. zSpace will be expanding its offerings to include modules in physical and space science as well, the company says.

The Los Altos, Calif., Town Crier reports that the Los Altos School District is piloting the zSpace system with students in the middle grades.

“Through our partnership with zSpace, we will help develop and expand STEM learning tools in Earth, space, physical, and life sciences for students in third through eighth grades,” Alyssa Gallagher, director of strategic initiatives and community partnerships, told the newspaper.

If the pilot project is successful, the district will expand its use of the technology to all nine schools, Gallagher added.

Follow eSchool News Editor in Chief Dennis Pierce at @eSN_Dennis.

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