3D projectors: the frog-friendly face of biology classes

13 Jan 2010

New 3D projectors could be used to teach children more quickly and more effectively

Texas Instruments has demonstrated its 3D-Ready projector technology at the BETT 2010 education conference, and it looks to be good news for those ill-fated frogs in biology class.

The Abbey School in Reading is one of the first to trial the new technology, and its director of ICT, Kathryn Macaulay, was lavish in her praise. “From the perspective of the children, they think it’s awesome,” she told PC Pro. “They not only like the experience it also motivates them to learn.”

Macaulay cited the example of dissecting a frog in 3D, where the children raced through the process far quicker than they would with a 2D display – and with far less squeamishness than if they had to dissect the frog themselves.

Goggles aren’t a strange thing: the children are used to wearing safety goggles in Chemistry

The technology works by creating two different images alternately using TI’s new chip, and although the technology needs special glasses to work Macaulay felt this wasn’t offputting. “Goggles aren’t a strange thing: the children are used to wearing safety goggles in Chemistry, for instance.”

Although the glasses do add extra cost – current prices are around $60 per pair – the chip technology is, claims Texas Instruments, essentially free. “Previously people had to buy double-stacked projectors to get 3D images,” says Roger Carver, manager for DLP products at TI, “but this is the standard chip that will be in new products. It won’t add any cost to the projector.”

Carver claims that 53 3D-Ready models will be on sale by the end of the first quarter 2010, with ten major projector brands – such as Acer, Dell, InFocus and Optoma – all supporting it.

The final ingredient is the software, with a limited amount of 3D offerings on sale now. “It’s a case of chicken and egg,” adds Carver. “Now the products are here people are keen to create the content.”

He was also confident that 3D content wouldn’t come at an extra cost, and insisted that children learn faster with 3D than 2D. “There’s a study from a research company in Indiana where they took 1,300 students and taught the control group in 2D and the other group in 3D. And guess what? The 3D group had a 30% improvement in test scores.”

This research was backed up by Macaulay. “There’s one example where children have to look at a cube and work out where the red side will be after it’s been rotated. 3D really helps them visualise it, much more than 2D. You can’t do that in a book.

“There really isn’t a weakness,” she added. “The chip isn’t costing any extra, and you can try it out with just a single pair of glasses. I can’t see any reason for schools not to buy a 3D-Ready projector.”

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