Category Archives: Stereoscopic 3D

Posts about stereoscopic 3d

The television as a learning and training space


Recent years have seen the world of training embracing  learning on mobile devices, or mlearning, for short. There are many reasons for this:

  1. Client demand as people more and more browse the internet principally through mobile devices
  2. Clients always having their phones with them, allowing lots of little moments during a day when learning could potentially take place.
  3. Phones having lots of sensors and input methods, allowing for innovative interactions
  4. Phones allowing multiple communciation methods

Designers and developers have been working on designs using mobile learning. At its most basic this has taken the form of  using file formats so that videos or presentations will play on a tablet, or even just an iPad. Or to make the training as an iPad app or playable within some container app.

Others, approaching the matter with some semblance of actual seriousness, have gotten more creative, and tailored training more to the unique affordances of smart phones and tablets. They make learning games that use sensors or activities that use sensors as inputs for motion or touch based interactions. Or they use location information. Others use ideas of informal learning and performance support to break training into small, focused little pieces that can be accessed in a spare moment.

eLearning authoring tool providers advertise their tools as enabling responsive eLearning. They hype the promise of being able to publish content to multiple media and device types, for desktop, tablet, and mobile.

This is good for learning and training. However, in this focus on mobile, we may be losing sight of possibly the next key development of web-based learning and training – the television as a learning and training space.

Television as a new window to Internet content and learning

Sitting on a couch with a tablet is a nice way to watch  a video or presentation. The device is light and comfortable. But, still, it’s a 10 inch screen. It is nice for portability, but it’s still a small screen. The small size is a compromise, trading visibility and real estate for portability.

But across from the couch is what? The TV. Big screen – 30, 40, 50, 60 inches. 1080p HD, easy to see, nice to watch, decent speakers. And you don’t have to hold anything.

Television used to be a box on which we watched traditional television programs, whether delivered over the air, or through cable or satellite broadcast. Then, came VHS players, DVD, Blu-ray, video game consoles. The living room TV became instead the screen in the middle of a home entertainment center.

Now, increasingly, televisions are also becoming just another one of the screens,albeit, much bigger ones, through which to access internet content, whether for entertainment, work, or learning. This takes the form of video, audio, text, and apps. The long promised fusing of internet and television has arrived, with several different options available to make this possible.

Many TVs are now “smart TVs,” combining a TV with a computer. These TVs are WiFi enabled, with built in interfaces and platforms with apps capability. Apps allow straightforward connectivity to content sources like Youtube, Netflix, digital music streaming services, and other streaming media.

Modern TV screens also allow for stereoscopic 3D. While no longer a faddish selling point, most newer TVs are by market standard capable of displaying stereoscopic 3D content, whether accessed over the web or on 3D Blu-rays. TVs stand out notably from the other screens through which we consume content in that many of them today readily allow Stereoscopic 3D media. TVs are the one dependable 3D screen that people commonly own.

TVs are also capable of being connected to gaming systems like PS4 and Xbox One, the second of which includes the Xbox Kinect motion and voice sensor. These systems, while meant primarily for gaming, are also intended more generally for home entertainment, with app platforms and apps like Netflix and Youtube to see internet video content.

As well, set top boxes like Apple TV as well as many WiFi enabled Blu-ray players offer a similar bridge between the television and the internet.

Tablets, phones, and laptops can share screens wirelessly to TVs, either through devices like Apple TV, game systems, or via Miracast / WiDi from enabled devices.

It is easy to get content on the TV. As well, the TV will either be setup with sensors, whether in the TV itself or via something like an Xbox, or the person will be screen sharing from something which has sensors and a touch based control interface. It becomes easier to browse, select, and interact with online content shown on the TV.

Designers, both web designers an instructional designers,  need to think about training and learning possibilities in this space.  just as they should be thinking about that OTHER class of displays that will also be more and more in people’s lives – wearables and augmented/virtual reality tech such as Google Glass and Oculus Rift. (More on this in a future post)


There are a few challenges in this area:


One main challenge is that there are so many different sorts of configurations and ways to connect the internet to the TV:

  • Via game consoles such as XBox One or Sony PS4
  • Smart TVs
  • Set top boxes like Apple TV, Wifi Blu-ray player, or Chromecast
  • Computer connected to the TV to share the screen via HDMI cable
  • Wireless screencast from laptop, tablet, or smartphone to the TV, whether through Apple Airplay or up and coming wireless screencasting standards WiDi (wireless direct) and Miracast.

This makes things difficult for developers, as there is no one clear dominant target for development.

The gaming consoles, which have positioned themselves as not only gaming platforms, but home entertainment hubs, may be one promising avenue, as the multi-billion dollar gaming industry already attracts lots of skilled developers to these platforms. Microsoft’s XBox One in particular runs an operating system related to Windows and uses the same development toolkit. Also, these gaming consoles offer innovative ways to interact with the content on the TV through different types of controller devices. These include body movement and voice based controls. The gaming console option offers interesting possibilities in terms of innovative learning interactions.

A more straightforward, elegant solution may be through smart TVs, where everything is in one box. This would especially be the case if in the future the telvision included sensors that could be turned on for Kinect-like interaction with cameras and microphones. One challenge, however, is attracting developers to different platforms from different manufacturers. Possibly only a company like Samsung, which is involved in manufacturing phones, tablets, computers, and TVs would be in a strong position to carry over advances in interfaces and interactivity from other devices to TVs. Or someone like Apple.

The other challenge would be emotional reactions from consumers. When early press about the Xbox One suggested that the system would require the Kinect sensor – which includes stereo cameras and microphones – to always be on, even when the system is not in use, people became very paranoid, and there was a backlash.

It is possible that TVs will evolve in coming years to become a sort of all-in-one computer, with web connection, innovative web browsing methods (the concept of adaptive web design will also have to adapt and evolve to cater to TV as a screen), app platforms, and built in SSD memory space, possibly supplemented by cloud storage.

Quite possibly the next stage of the Apple OS – Android – Windows – Linux battles will be fought on the battlefield of internet connected TVs. Ubuntu, for example (A variant of the Linux operating system) has actually been positioning itself as a flexible multiplatform, including TV – OS for some time.

Wireless screen sharing may be the simplest approach, making the smartphone, tablet, or PC the central point of control of what appears on the TV screen. Desktop and laptop computers would have limits though in terms of enabling learning interactions.

Tablets and smartphones, could potentially allow for interesting learning interactions through the accelerometer, gyroscope, and touch sensors.

The scene is probably going to be messy for a few years with a lot of options making it hard for developers to pick. This will make it hard to form development communities that will drive things explosively forward.

Interface and Interactivity

The possibilities for learning and training will depend somewhat on the options available for interactivity. One of the challenges in making the TV a hub for learning content is how the user can control and navigate content sitting or standing from across the room. Good eLearning and online training especially requires rich interactions.

But how do you interface with the TV? A computer you sit right there and control it via mouse and keyboard, and to a lesser extent, microphone and camera. A tablet or smartphone you tap it, swipe it,  turn it, talk to it, because again, you’re up close to it and it fits in your hands.

TV is different. You sit back from it, or stand back from it. You’re not going to stand at your TV tapping the screen like those big maps on CNN election night.

There are probably four major options:

  1. Some modification of a traditional TV remote, possibly one with a touchscreen and accelerometer/gyroscope sensors
  2. Some camera and microphone based sensor like the MS Kinect that lets you control via voice and body gesture
  3. Controlling through a laptop computer, tablet, or smartphone, which shares the screen wirelessly via WiDi, Miracast, or Apple Airplay and lets you control things via touchscreen and motion sensors. The TV simply becomes a screen to mirror content on the other device.
  4. A smartphone or tablet is paired with the TV via an app, and serves as a WiFi-connected touch- and motion-based controller.

All of these could probably be made to work, though options 2 and 4 are probably the most plausible options going forward in terms of usability and in terms of building on existing platforms.


Learning and Training Possibilities

The matter then becomes how to harness this emerging new portal to the internet for learning an training.

A few possibilities come to mind.

  • Any passive consumption of video content. Particularly content in HD or stereoscopic 3D format. YouTube contet, for example. A TV would be the most natural and comfortable way to watch. Everything becomes bigger and more lifelike
  • Educational gaming activities using a gaming controller
  • Web content browsing with voice and gesture inputs enabled by something like the Kinect. Say, for example, a view of different documents or different levels of detail making use of different focal planes in a 3D field of view. This allows information and screen elements to be arranged not just along dimensions of horizontal and vertical, but by depth as well.
  • Interaction with stereoscopic 3D models using Kinect sensor. Such as chemical structures, architectural structures, geographic feature models of an area, or components of equipment.
  • Live, synschronous, life-like teleconferencing via TVs and Kinect sensors using apps like Skype or something like it embedded in a virtual classroom application. Virtual classroom would work very well on an HD television with connected camera and microphone. For live, face to face communications, for conversational practice in language learning, or a live virtual tutoring session.
  • Using the Kinect, the learner practices some psychomotor skill. At the same time, the Kinect camera lets a remote instructor watch the performance and comment. The Kinect could also capture data to assist in analyzing biomechanics.

These are a few sample ideas. Maybe readers can think of others.


The past six years have seen dramatic changes with the coming into the mainstream of mobile devices as a new space for online learning, with unique affordances for interactivity. The mobile web and mLearning have expanded our horizons for entertainment and learning. The television, connected to the internet offers a new field on which we can ply our craft as designers and developers. It’s a developing field with a lot of options that will take some time to sort out and settle down. But for those of us tasked with helping our clients and students to learn and develop, it’s a field we would do well not to ignore.


Once again, feel free to share your comments, either below, or via social media.

Concept: Promoting persistence with exercise equipment through video gaming


Fitness is a big business.

In the US, for example, as of 2009:

  • Health clubs: $20 billion a year, 45 million memberships.
  • Consumer fitness equipment: 3.2 billion

At the same time, there is a lot of concern about public health from diseases related to obesity and lack of exercise.

People spend a lot of money in particular on home exercise equipment. Devices like treadmills, rowing machines, elliptical trainers, and exercise bikes. But people don’t tend to stick with it. The initial motivation comes, but the motivation often doesn’t persist. A common story is that families will buy these for Christmas as part of some intended New Year’s Resolution. More often than not, the box is opened, it’s set up in the basement, it’s actively used for a few weeks or months, and then it’s forgotten about again.

What can be done to help this? Is there a solution to this performance gap?

Gaming and Motivation

One area that excels in creating and then sustaining motivation (persistence) and intensity of engagement is video games. People will spend hours and hours on games, sometimes to the degree of forgoing food, sleep, other activities, and human contact. Games achieve this with a range of different mechanisms: fun and variety, a mix of long term, middle term, and short term goals (game completion, boss or world completion, and minor task or level completion),  continuous informational feedback and rewards in the form of scores and achievements, competition with other gamers, and social communication tools to allow discussion of game strategies and mutual social based motivation.

Could this power of video games be harnessed to encourage people to make more frequent and more effective use of their home exercise machines? Namely through fitness based games that make use of and incorporate the use of the exercise machines?

A solution: fitness based games using the equipment

Fitness based games are something that already exist. There are a number of titles for Wii, Xbox 360 with Kinect / Xbox One, and PS3/PS4. Often, these will make use of the motion based controllers. For the Wii and PS, this involves a handheld motion controller, while for the Xbox with Kinect, this involves simply moving in front of a sensor that captures body movement. The problem with these is that they just involve you moving or jumping around in your living room. There is not a lot of space. This works for people that like yoga and aerobics, but not so much for people that like to bike or run.

As far as I am aware, there aren’t any titles that make use of home exercise equipment. This is, in my mind, a gap just waiting to be filled. Microsoft, the manufacturer of the Xbox, would be in a nice position for this because their Kinect controller doesn’t require you to hold something in your hand to use it.

Microsoft could partner with the exercise equipment manufacturers to build free to download Xbox One game apps that make use of the Kinect sensor and the use of the equipment as part of fun, engaging games.

For example, a biking race game where you control the game, through the Kinect, by pedaling the exercise bike, and there’s nice HD scenery as you go along the race course, any one you like. Mountains, beside the ocean, beside a river. Ort famous race courses like the Tour du France. Ideally displaying in stereo 3D. You could have a training mode and a racing mode, which could offer either a short track race or a longer road race.

Or a running game / road race trainer game tied to major treadmill models. Go for a run by yourself or in some chosen scenery, either in nature or in some city. When you want to test yourself, you play a race mode that puts you in a famous road race course like a big, renowned 10k or the New York or Boston Marathon. Again, 3D rendered and ideally displaying in stereo 3D.

Or for the elliptical, it could be cross-country skiing.

Or a rowing game using a home rowing machine with well known scenes or race scenarios. For example, a game scenario where you train with the Harvard or Cambridge crew, row on an Olympic course, or relive some big race on the Seine in Paris from the early 20th century.

Make sure there’s an interactive display layer menu the user can access for exercise and training analytics. Also with some sort of virtual coaching, maybe something using interactive avatars. In addition, ideally a social network layer to share “achievements” or get encouragement from friends that are also on an exercise program. A space for monitoring vitals like heart rate over time and tools to manage diet and nutrition and suggest meals would also be useful.

Ideally, Microsoft would want to have someone working with the equipment designers and manufacturers to incorporate wifi connections or Bluetooth in the equipment so that the Xbox game, via the Xbox software, can wirelessly control the exercise equipment within some manufacturer and user set safety tolerances. Also, the other way, so that the equipment can wirelessly send the current setting to the game. So, for example, if you’re playing your running game, and you’re on the last kilometer of a 5 k race, and you want to sprint for a PB or to catch someone, and the software calculates that you’re not over-exerting for your age and fitness level, the system raises the speed of the treadmill automatically to match your attempt to go faster. Or for the bike or treadmill to automatically adjust the inclination when the game gets to a hill on a training or race course.

It would also be good for the games to be multiplayer, ideally multiplayer over the internet. Then people could go on at the same time and race each other on their equipment over the Internet. This could help additionally with social based motivation.

With the right gamified elements and incentives and feedback, you could help people make more effective use of fitness equipment in their lives, help them persist at it, and get fitter. The machines would be better used, and health outcomes could be improved over the longer term.

I could even see a nice marketing strategy for Microsoft for the Christmas holiday season. Make a joint marketing arrangement with the major home fitness manufacturers and TV manufactures and the electronics and home appliance stores.

Arrange to set up displays in store. Have the exercise equipment set up facing the biggest TV screen in the store, with the TV hooked up to the Xbox One at an appropriate distance from the exercise equipment and with a well positioned Kinect hooked up to the Xbox. Have some game running in multiplayer mode. People could try it out and have a little low intensity friendly competition right there in the store. And by juxtaposing the Xbox One, the TV, and exercise equipment in a way that shows them working together, you might well increase the sales of all three, benefitting the manufacturers of the devices and the store that sells them. Everyone wins.

Further Reading

On Gravity, 3D, and miscellaneous

Hello all,

Thought I’d make a brief post, since I wasn’t able to make my usual weekly update this past week, for a combination of reasons. First, went on a nice trip into the off-the-grid wilderness of Eastern Algonquin. Some beautiful territory:

Second, have been busy doing paperwork in preparation for a personal business registration and for starting a new job (hooray!)

Finally, my old Vista-era laptop’s hard drive decided to fail a few days short of the Windows 8.1 update. (R.I.P old soldier). I think every computer I’ve ever owned has died of a fried or mechanically damaged hard drive.

Anyway, had to go shopping for a new computer. Almost went with a slick little lightweight, touchscreen solid-state-only number from Samsung. Only 128 GB and no DVD drive, but who needs DVD and who needs more storage space what with SD cards, external HDDs, and the cloud. (Also, no moving parts = no potential for mechanical failure) Sadly, they were out of stock. THIS CLOSE to slipping to the dark side with an on sale MacBook Air, but was ultimately turned off by their proprietary connectors (and the expensive proprietary adapters that go with them).

So instead went with a nice, functional, moderately priced HP number. Cost the same as the last laptop purchased 4+ years ago, with significantly higher clock speed, twice the RAM, and 3 times the onboard memory. Go Moore’s Law.

So, computer set up, Windows 8.1 update downloaded and installed, and ready to go again.

I wanted to just make a quick post as a substitute for last week. Actually, kind of a follow-up to a previous post about the potential for Stereoscopic 3D in education. I want to comment a bit on the phenomenal hit 3D film Gravity.

When I wrote the earlier post, I had been looking forward to seeing the film. I ended up getting out to see the film on the opening day on October 4th, and have to say it definitely lived up to expectations. This is one of those films that kind of have to be seen in the theatre to be truly appreciated, and one of those rare experiences where the steep surcharges for 3D IMAX are worth it.

This is an excellent example of 3D being used for something other than mere gimmick, to let you as a viewer viscerally experience a place where only a tiny handful of human beings have been so far been lucky enough to be able to go. The 3D gives a beautiful immersive sense of the vast distances in space, of the emptiness and isolation, of the sense of the altitude hundreds of kilometers above the earth’s surface, of the spectacular beauty of whole continents seen at a glance, and of the terrifying power of hyper-velocity collisions.  Here, 3D is used in an artful, highly effective way to immerse the viewer, make him feel a part of the situation, bring out the story and raise it to a level that wouldn’t have been possible otherwise.

This is largely to be expected, given the calibre of the director. Alfonso Cuaron is a truly world-class artistic filmmaker. He is probably best known before this for the dystopic sci-fi film Children of Men (Available for viewing on Netflix Canada and highly recommended).

Hopefully this spectacular film, bound to be nominated for just about everything, technical and artistic, at the next Academy Awards, will help to give a shot in the arm to more meaningful use of stereoscopic 3D in film and elsewhere. Stereoscopic 3D is a technology that holds such awesome potential to bridge the gap between ourselves and otherwise inaccessible locations and realities, to make them present and tangible.

And isn’t this, after all, what education is all about? To take the unfamiliar, and make it familiar? To take the inaccessible, and make it accessible? To take the far, and make it near?

The Potential for Stereoscopic 3D in Education


One relatively old technology idea that has enjoyed a resurgence in the last couple of years is stereoscopic 3D. 3D in the cinema is a technology that has waxed and waned in a faddish sort of way over the previous decades. James Cameron’s Avatar (2009), a high budget, highly successful blockbuster film by a top notch action director making artful use of 3D led the most recent charge in bringing back 3D as a trend.

While most examples of 3D in film since then have used the technology in much less skillful ways, the tech is still going relatively strong in theatres, its staying power buoyed by higher revenue from 3D films and aided the appearance of 3D HDTVs and 3D Blu-ray players on the home theatre front.

So 3D has made a comeback over the past four years in entertainment. But what about the prospects for more serious applications, for learning? The subject of this week’s blog post is the potential for the use of 3D content in learning / training.

The post will look at:

  • Factors converging to make more widespread use of 3D content possible
  • Potential learning benefits achievable through judicious and effective use of 3D content
  • Types of subject matter content that would be potentially amenable to instruction through 3D video
  • Challenges faced in making 3D content used in a more widespread fashion
  • Considerations for effective use of stereoscopic 3D in learning and training

First a note that when I talk about 3D here, I am making a distinction between older Pixar-style 3D animation (computer generated animation with lighting effects that make the images look “3-dimensional” but made for viewing on a 2D screen) and stereoscopic 3D, which uses two slightly different images (one for each eye), and glasses (either active with shutters or passive using polarized lenses) to simulate what the eyes and brain would experience looking at a real object, simulating an immersive and realistic experience. This article is focused on stereoscopic 3D.

Factors Leading to Increased Use of 3D

There are a number of developments causing a convergence toward an increased potential to use stereo 3D content for learning. These developments include:

  • Resurgence of interest in recent years 3D in cinema. A mixed bag for quality has slowed the growth of popularity of it in the theatres, but approximately 1/4 of box office dollars still come from 3D screenings. Some artists really have learned to work the distinct visual language of 3D in an artistic, compelling, integrated way and have made films oriented toward use of it that brings added value. Others tack it on as an afterthought, diluting the concept.
  • Increased accessibility and affordability of professional 3D camera rigs, as well as relatively affordable consumer-oriented dual-lens 3D camcorders. Basic 3D capable camcorders are currently in the hundreds of dollars to a little over a thousand range. For a while now, YouTube has allowed the uploading of user-generated 3D content.
  • Accessibility and affordability of TVs and monitors that can display 3D. Though 3D is no longer being used so much as a dominant selling point, the reality is that most newer TVs include 3D as an option by default. A quick search on the Future Shop website shows 3D capable HD LED TVs from top tier manufacturers like Samsung between $750 and $1000. And obviously as technology advances these prices will continue to fall.
  • Affordability of 3D blu-ray players. A similar search shows these devices selling for as little as a bit over $100.
  • Accessibility and affordability of office and school type projectors that can project 3D content. ($1500-2000)
  • Availability of software for editing 3D content (After Effects, e.g.).
  • Increased diffusion of expertise in 3D cinematography – understanding of principles behind stereoscopy and how to compose scenes for 3D video. This is an important factor for ensuring not only a quantity of content, but quality too.

Potential roadblocks

There are several potential roadblocks that need to be overcome, however:

  • Getting access to quality camera equipment
  • The need to develop knowledge of how to properly set up 3D shots and shoot in 3D
  • Hassle of glasses; active shutter type glasses need a power source and are expensive, polarized passive glasses by design filter out half the light, making for a dimmer, less vibrant picture
  • Expense of screens (though this is falling)
  • Limited amount and varied quality of content. Some 3D content is high quality, though much is riding the bandwagon, faddish. Few learn effectively how to use it, working with its strengths and weaknesses, and planning the visual composition of shots from the start with good use of 3D in mind, so as to make something that adds value from what would have been possible in 2D

Potential benefits of 3D

So why use 3D content for learning or training, beyond use as some sort of fad or gimmick? There are several potential benefits, given use of the technique in a meaningful way:

  • Immersiveness
  • Learner engagement
  • Increased level of connection with content
  • Sense of realistic “presence” of what is being seen
  • Enhanced ability to perceive and comprehend spatial relationships and depth in learning content

For learning that involves understanding a place or some sort of 3D structure, with 2D content, it takes more mental effort to interpret and understand the spatial relationships, to connect with the place. Good filmmakers and photographers know how to compose 2D imagery and video to help us with this, but there is still a need to take the 2D and mentally abstract from it, imagining mentally the 3D reality. With 3D, there is not so much imagination or abstraction; the mental processing of it in terms of the experience in the brain would theoretically be similar to how you would process the perceived image of the real thing if you were there.

Visit a location, or a good museum exhibit, and you can see the power of experiencing a location in all its spatial dimensions. It is one thing to read about something and look at a picture, another to experience it in an immersive fashion.

Potential areas of training application

Stereo 3D could be beneficial in a range of different subject matter areas, from hard sciences to life sciences to social science to fine arts. Some examples of where 3D could be useful:

  • Understanding 3D structures and relation to form. For example in hard sciences. For example to understand the spatial arrangement of stars in a galactic supercluster, to visualize a simulation of the formation of the solar system, to visualize the relation between structure and function for higher level protein structure, or of the enzymes that control DNA transcription, to visualize simulations of how weather interacts with geography like mountains.
  • In experiencing exotic or impossible to visit locales. For example, outer space, in Space Station 3D or Alfonso Cuaron’s upcoming Gravity. Or to virtually visit paleolithic cave paintings normally closed to the public in Werner Herzog’s Cave of Forgotten Dreams. Another would be out of the way natural parks or reserves.
  • In experiencing areas of natural splendor like the Grand Canyon. Or more remote areas of natural beauty. Ecologists and conservationists sometimes struggle to communicate the value and beauty of certain isolated natural locations and the value of their preservation. 3D can give a more meaningful sense of what the place is like and why it is special.
  • Along the same lines, to experience wildlife on video in a more realistic, lifelike manner.
  • In experiencing human spaces or manmade sites like famous areas in foreign cities
  • For history to better understand the spatial layout of an area to give a better grasp of how that shaped the experience of some historical event. Pass of Thermopylae, for example, or Normandy Beach, or Dieppe.
  • For anthropology in the study of different cultures and their ways of life and the spaces in which they live. A good part of social science and is in understanding the physical spaces in which the people live. Culture is, in a sense, formed at the intersection of a physical space with technology and climate. 3D transmits more powerfully that spatial dimension, allowing us to better bridge that  separation between ourselves and some exotic culture by virtually entering their living space.
  • Religious studies – to virtually experience the geography of the Sinai desert, or the Mount of Olives, to walk through a 3D archaeologists imagining of the Temple at Jerusalem, to virtually experience Mount A’rafat or the Kaaba in Hajj, or to virtually visit one of the more famous and spectacular Hindu or Buddhist temples
  • Fine arts: To experience art exhibitions, sculpture particularly in distant locations virtually for art education, to visit the studio of a prominent photographer or painter, or to be in the pit of an orchestral concert.
  • Experience of a first hand point of view for relatively recent history and contemporary human events as live footage gets captured in 3D
  • In architecture or structural engineering for collaboration in the design of structures by looking at 3D models in 3D

Important Training Considerations

In order to promote effective learning or training using 3D content, there are several issues to which attention will need to be given:

  • Ensuring effective cost-benefit. If investments of money and time are going to be put into buying equipment and learning how to use it, there needs to be a return on investment in the form of more efficient and / or more effective teaching / training. It has to be more than a fad or gimmick done “because the technology is there.” There has to be a compelling learning case for any particular usage.
  • Avoiding it being mere “edutainment” where it’s cool to watch but learners don’t gain anything toward the actual objectives. We need to recognize when 3D legitimately gives worthwhile added value that justifies it and when it’s just decoration. There is a difference between content simply being entertaining and content being educational. (Though of course, the ideal is for it to be both!)
  • Finding quality content. This is a major concern right now. There is currently a kind of catch 22 for example with 3DTV where people don’t watch a lot of it because there are hardly any channels with content and new channels are slow to appear because not many are actively watching.
  • A significant portion of the population (some estimates go up to 25%) experience negative effects / discomfort from watching 3D content, ranging from headaches to nausea. This comes from a mismatch between how the eyes must be oriented to experience the 3D effect in focus (both eyes looking straight ahead toward the screen, parallel to each other) and how the eyes naturally tend to orient themselves based on where the brain is telling them the image is (eyes rotate inward so that they converge on the object in between). This strain, however is usually experienced from watching a whole feature length 2 hour film in one stretch. This effect would likely be less noticeable in viewing sets of 3D clips with breaks in between, as would be the case with using 3D educational materials.
  • The need to establish a sound, rigorous research grounding of principles to guide best practice. There has been a relative shortage of hard research on establishing what works educationall in 3D. There are some research studies showing positive and significant differences in amount learned between groups when content was viewed in 3D as opposed to 2D. However, more rigorous research, as well as creative informal experimentation by training professionals and enthusiasts needs to be done. People need to generate content and play with different variables and see what types of content benefit in a meaningful way from a 3D treatment and which don’t, what factors augment or hinder the educational impact of 3D, how much of measured impact is attributable to simple novelty temporarily enhancing attention, and how much to real improvements in the ability to get ideas across. The increasing availability of affordable, quality 3D capable camcorders and screens on which to show the content should enable this by opening production of content up to education departments, training departments, and “amateur,” YouTube type enthusiasts.

In Conclusion

A number of factors are converging to produce an environment where stereoscopic 3D is increasingly a viable approach for some training content. Well constructed 3D content can potentially bring learning benefits as part of a properly-designed training and learning solution for a range of different subject areas. Proper attention has to be paid however to ensure that 3D content is used in a thoughtful, principle-based way so that it brings legitimate ROI rather than simply being a gimmick.

Interesting Links

Logical future directions of stereo 3D technology:

  • Combining 3D video capture with body movement based Natural User Interfaces (NUIs), interacting with a 3D imagery via physical gestures
  • Capturing and streaming 3D video to enable Live 3D virtual tele-presence. Some companies are already offering such setups for corporate clients.
  • Incorporation of 3D into mobile or wearable devices. Imagine a miniaturized dual lens 3D capture set-up in future versions of cellphones, tablet, or Google Glass-type augmented reality wearables with dual cameras and a 3D display in the glasses a few years down the road. Meta glasses are one example of projects working in this direction.