World’s Biggest 3D Activedesk Installation
Prof James Wolffsohn, deputy dean of the School of Life & Health Sciences at Aston University, explained: “With research showing that women struggle more with perceiving in 3D environments, we decided to put in a bid to the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) in support of bringing more women into STEM subjects. We were successful and our zSpace-based ActiveDesks are allowing us to teach large numbers of people via individualised experiential learning.”
zSpace enables natural interaction with virtual-holographic 3D imagery. It allows 3D objects to float in front of your eyes while you control the distance, zoom and rotation. The result is a wholly immersive and interactive virtual environment in which to better explore and understand information and data. Two years ago, Virtalis developed drivers that brought models created using its Visionary Render software into zSpace.
Prof Wolffsohn said: “Our ActiveDesks feature a range of software, from Cyber-Anatomy to Visionary Render, which means they can be used by multiple disciplinary groups of students, including psychology, biology, pharmacy, optometry, audiology and engineering specialities, such as mechanical, product design and biomedical. Immersive environments stimulate intra and inter-disciplinary communications, facilitating a level of understanding often thought to be unattainable using conventional methods. Our students now have the luxury of exploration and repetition until they are feeling confident about a topic. We have therefore scheduled the Labs’ timetable as a mixture of free learning and seminars.”
The new VR Labs chime perfectly with the current trend towards a more tailored approach to individual learning. The ActiveDesks will engender more innovative teaching, but crucially, students will also be able to learn at their own pace. “zSpaces are most definitely a step up from simulated 3D engineering animations on a screen”, said Prof Wolffsohn. “True 3D allows engineers to experience a real world environment, with the ability to look around objects, as well as to piece components together, seeing how things fit prior to prototyping.”
Using a special zSpace camera to capture the 3D image on a student’s zSpace. This image can then be transmitted to the entire VR Lab in projected pseudo-3D to form the ultimate in interactive lectures. In use since the beginning of term, so far, students report being amazed by the interactivity and technological advance the new devices represent.
“We chose Virtalis’ tender primarily because of the future collaboration offered”, commented Prof Wolffsohn. “An ongoing relationship with our technology supplier was important to us as we aim to lead the field in technology-enabled higher education learning environments of the future.”