HP showcases vision for Blended Reality at Bett 2015
Along with new devices and new initiatives for teaching and learning, HP has been demonstrating its vision for Blended Reality learning on its stand at Bett 2015. According to HP’s Vice President for worldwide education, Gus Schmedlen, Blended Reality combines the best of the physical world with the best of the digital, to create compelling new experiences that enhance teaching and learning.
Combining 3D screens, motion tracking, a pen-like controller and 2D and 3D object scanning, Blended Reality can enable teachers and students to interact with virtual 3D objects in a simple, intuitive way, look inside them and really get to grips with how they work.
HP’s core demonstration mixes one of the zVR 3D monitors it introduced at this year’s CES with a Z series workstation, passive 3D glasses, motion tracking cameras and a pen controller. The camera tracks the position of the goggles and feeds the data back to the display to maintain a convincing 3D effect.
Wearing the glasses, we could pull objects out of a workspace and interact with them in a 3D field above the screen. Grabbing a female figure, for example, we could pull it in and out of the screen and twist it around, then zoom in to look at an animated 3D model of it’d lungs and heart.
From there, grabbing a camera tool and moving it into the heart model enabled us to look inside at the workings of the heart. The experience is both convincing and immersive, with haptic feedback from the pen enhancing the almost holographic quality of the image.
Other examples included a watch which could be grabbed and spun around, and an architectural model of a house that could be explored, floor by floor. There are clear educational applications across biology, chemistry, design and engineering, though the concept could easily extend to other areas of the curriculum. Imagine a history lesson where historical artefacts could be bought into the classroom in virtual form.
HP is also demonstrating Blended Reality through its innovative Sprout computer, which combines a 23-inch all-in-one PC with a 3D camera array, a downward firing projector and a 20-inch tactile touchpad. Not only can this mix real-world objects with digital content and annotations, scanning them in as 2D images which can be manipulated and scaled with intuitive touch controls, but we saw an early version of tools to create easy 3D scans, producing full 3D models that can be twisted and scaled in the same way.
This is exciting stuff, but HP’s vision for Blended Reality doesn’t depend on schools investing in specific hardware. HP has also developed LinkReader, an augmented reality app for smartphones and tablets, plus tools that enable third party developers to create visible and invisible watermarks and position them on printed content.
When viewed through LinkReader on a tablet or smartphone, these trigger digital content appropriate to the page or item scanned. With LinkReader, for instance, complex mathematical theorems could be augmented with audio or video explanations that go in-depth on what they mean and how they work. In effect, it’s a combination of Augmented Reality and blended learning, but with a high-tech, education-focused spin.
If anything is obvious from Bett 2015, it’s that while the technology being used in education is changing, the way it’s being used is changing too. With its take on Blended Reality, HP seems to have found an exciting way to make effective use of a wide range of devices in the classroom.