Thanks to new developments in handheld technology, students soon could have glasses-free 3-D displays in the palms of their hands.
Sharp recently announced its latest in 3-D displays that work without the cumbersome glasses commonly associated with 3-D video, though as of press time the technology worked only on a three-inch screen held a foot away from the viewer’s face. These smaller screens are intended for mobile devices such as cell phones, game machines, and digital cameras, Sharp said.
According to one reviewer, the 3-D animation on the handheld screen is like a miniature version of the 3-D animation viewers are used to seeing on larger TV screens, though images were less convincing than those seen in a darkened cinema.
Sharp’s latest in displays use liquid crystal screens to show 3-D animation. They feature touch-panel screens that switch from one 3-D photo to another, and they can connect to a 3-D video camera.
Reviewers said the photos on the touch screen were blurry from certain angles, but Sharp said its latest technology does away with these “ghosting” effects. The displays also can continue to show 3-D images when they are turned to the side, Sharp says—a key feature for smart phones.
Mass production of the 3-D LCDs was set to start earlier this month, and many are speculating that the technology is likely to show up in the next DSi portable game machine, which Nintendo Co. says will be in 3-D. (Hitachi, another Japanese manufacturer that released 3-D glasses-free technology for cell phones last year, supplies LCD screens to Nintendo, together with Sharp.)
Nintendo said it would begin selling a 3-D version of its popular handheld console within a year. Tentatively called “Nintendo 3DS,” the console will feature a display without the need for 3-D glasses. The new portable gaming device will be compatible with software made for earlier models, said the company.
Already, Nintendo’s DS handheld console is being used in 3,700 Japanese McDonald’s restaurants to train employees in a program called eSmart, and according to Shigeru Miyamoto, a Nintendo general manager, the company’s plan is to get DS systems into elementary and junior high classrooms in Japan as a learning tool once the new school year commences this fall.
Education “is maybe the area where I am devoting myself [the] most,” said Miyamoto in a press statement.
The DS is no stranger to education and is frequently found in galleries, museums, and aquariums in Japan. Some Japanese schools, too, already use the DS to help teach math, language, reading, and other subjects.
Although 3-D is becoming the movie format of choice, and 3-D home televisions are just around the corner, will a 3-D handheld gaming console be more than just a fad in schools?
One obvious advantage to using a system like Nintendo’s 3DS is its ability to engage students in learning, some education technology advocates say; students no longer would have to “power down” to go to school.
3-D technology is ushering in an era when “there will be less sitting back and watching television, and a more immersive, interactive experience,” said Tim Baxter, president of Samsung Electronics America, in an interview with the New York Times.
“Good education is good education, so whether games are involved or not is not the issue,” said Kurt Squire, assistant professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, in an interview with eSchool News. Squire is a research scientist at the Academic Advanced Distributed Learning Co-Lab and is a co-founder and current director of the Games, Learning, & Society Initiative, a group of more than 50 faculty and students investigating game-based learning.
“However, games do provide a way to engage students in learning,” he said.
The key to making any game-based curriculum effective, whether or not it’s available in 3-D, said Squire, is to make sure the games are based on curriculum objectives and involve more than simple rote memorization.
“It’s really all about the content,” said Squire. “3-D will really benefit education if it’s relevant to the subject—for example, a 3-D version of the human body for biology, or seeing how a plane flies for physics. However, right now there is a significant cost increase involved with making content 3-D, as well as a need for a common graphics standard.”
Squire believes large-scale adoption of educational gaming—3-D included—will split between larger districts that are pressured to perform owing to programs such as Race to the Top, and districts that are not under the same amount of scrutiny.
“For those districts under pressure, the supplemental services market could really take off, providing tools and games for after-school or AP classes. For districts not under pressure, gaming adoption will depend on the teachers and whether or not the teacher embraces the idea of gaming,” said Squire.
Squire said his team is currently developing an augmented reality gaming app that uses GPS and wireless technology. They’re also developing a Flash-based game.
“With time, issues involving price and design standards will get better. … You just have to keep in mind that the content has to be high quality and not just there because it’s 3-D. You also have to think about special-needs students, as well as the stress of standardized tests on class time,” Squire said.