zSpace review: Virtual reality learning in the classroom

When I was in school, science class became way more interesting when we had collaborative learning through hands-on labs. Those few group experiences, such as dissecting an actual frog, made science real and always left us hungry for more.  

Fast forward to the present and a company named zSpace. Their Virtual Reality Learning Experience has transformed the classroom lab time into a collaborative VR learning playground, enabling education beyond our wildest dreams and far exceeding the labs of yesteryear. 

I recently had the opportunity to demo the zSpace platform at the recent Augmented World Expo in California. Its glasses are lightweight, the pen is easy to manage, and the screen is large enough for a number of other students to gather around and participate in the close-up learning experience.

VR in the classroom

The tech brings a virtual world to the classroom in a shareable way that's both engaging and easy to use. Now, instead of learning about the heart through animated pictures with labels and plastic models, anatomy students can view a virtual heart and look inside it, turn it around, speed up the heart rate, camera view into the center and peel back sections for all to see. 

Architectural drafting students can become more inspired to make measurements line up and square the corners properly as zSpace allows them to walk through their full 3D design. There are already hundreds of curriculums, with more being created all the time, and a software development kit exists for anyone wanting to produce additional curriculums.

How it works

The way the zSpace system is configured, is that while one student drives the process with the ‘tracking glasses’ and stylus, the rest of the students observe with polarized 'observer' glasses until it's their turn to use it.

The system watches the 'tracking glasses' so that when the driving student changes his or her angle of view, the 3D image will shift appropriately. 

This allows the driver to stick their head inside the 3D space and look around the entire image. In a large classroom setting, when the main computer is linked to a big screen TV, observers get to view the driving student interacting on screen with the 3D projection.

zSpace's virtual hands-on environment is focused on the education arena and already offers titles that range from electrical to architecture, earth science, and more.  

The system is customizable to meet almost any educational need. The basic system components include an all-in-one computer with a special 24-inch diagonal screen, stylus, one special pair of tracking glasses and two pairs of polarized observer glasses. 

And when you connect the computer to a TV, you create an observer screen which can accommodate an entire classroom.  A 10 system lab typically starts at $50,000 with customized software included to match each school’s different needs.

Over the next few months we'll be hearing about many new VR products with cool effects, but for a real system that supplies great experiential learning in a collaborative classroom setting – zSpace Virtual Reality Learning Experience is already delivering on the promise.  Anyone with children in school or involved in education should check it out. 

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