Monday, June 5, 2017

ZSpace VR/AR demo van visits Mahopac!

Have you heard of zSpace?  

If not, you are definitely missing out on an amazing experience!  

Today, the zSpace VR/AR demo mobile van visited our middle school and high school.  We first learned about zSpace on the web and then saw a demo of it at one of our BOCES technology expos last year.  However, we did not explore the idea further due to time constraints.  Luckily, our technology department was able to secure a demo for us last week! 

The topics that zSpace offers is expanding tremendously into areas such as geography and math.    If you search their database of lessons, there are over 100 lessons for middle school science topics.  If you teach a class that covers the human body or animal models, you will be astounded at what zSpace can do.  Imagine being able to extract the blood vessels from the human brain.  Or how about being able to take apart sections of the heart?  You can do that in zSpace with ease.

When you book zSpace to come to your school for a demo, they bring a giant mobile van with all of the equipment needed for your experience. The staff oriented the students to the tools for the platform and they were off and running within about 10 minutes.  Our groups explored some of the human body systems.  The images were dynamic, realistic and even had a quiz feature.  The students were amazed at how much they could magnify an image, see details, and explore from every angle.  The glasses allow you to see the content in a 3D or augmented reality manner.  The glasses were much more natural feeling than a typical virtual reality headset that can sometimes get very hot and foggy. 

We know that the content is high level, but we were holding out on the feedback from the students. Since our group ranged from 8th graders to 12th graders, we knew if would be a good sampling.  The seniors were more skeptical.  They haven't grown up using technology in their classes, so they aren't used to it invading their classrooms.  Believe it or not, they still like paper and pen.  Afterwards, they commented that they really liked the zSpace experience to be able to get a more realistic look at the human body to prepare for dissections.  It is something they could do "once in a while, but not every day."  Perfect.  They realize that everything in moderation is a good mix.  The students still want the experience of a real dissection, not just a virtual one, but know that the virtual dissection prepares them for the real thing. 

The younger students really thought the experience was helpful to see things that they normally have difficulty viewing or testing in real life.  We also had one group of 8th graders that were able to spend about an hour in the van.  This group experienced building a circuit for a quad copter.  It was a challenge to see which team could build it the fastest and they loved it. The team work was great because the "passenger" truly helped the "driver" troubleshoot the system.  It was amazing to see how this group learned how to manage the system by the end of their hour and saw their skill level increase to a visible comfort level navigating the tools.  At the end, some students did comment that an hour was a bit tiring on their eyes but it was very fun.  

One of the highlights of the day showed just how intuitive the software is once the students get a little time to practice. After only ten minutes using the software, one of our students showed her teacher how to explore with zSpace.  Watch the video to the right to see it in action.

The zSpace trainer asked the students one question at the end of the hour, "if you could describe zSpace in one word, what would it be?"  One student shouted out immediately, "revolutionary!"  Well said.  If implemented thoughtfully, it zSpace can be a game changer in your classroom.  Students can experience and experiment with tools that are not easily used in the traditional classroom setting.  It brings content that would normally be inaccessible to everyone. 

Check out our photos and videos from the day!  Hope you enjoy.

-Jennifer and Brian Cauthers

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