Shuttle Computer Group and zSpace have announced a plan to create a virtual reality computer for grade schools and universities. Together, these companies intend to harness the latest technology to enhance students' in-school experience and make learning more interactive.
According to eSchool News, zSpace's virtual reality program offers over 250 STEM lesson plans and activities for educators and students. Users can lift virtual-holographic images, like a human heart or a helicopter, from a customized PC's screen and manipulate them with a stylus. This virtual interaction will help students learn and remember key concepts in math, physics, engineering and biology.
Due to heavy graphic requirements needed for three-dimensional applications, zSpace's program required cumbersome computers with intensive power that took up a lot of desk space. After partnering with Shuttle, however, zSpace will offer the virtual-reality program through much more compact, economical hardware.
Shuttle specializes in customizing PC hardware:
"Shuttle is known for working closely with its partners to create tailored products for specific applications, integration and OEM," said Marty Lash, director of Shuttle's sales and marketing. "Our customization for zSpace is very specific for their application, including minor hardware tweaks, custom imaging, and tailored packaging. They can't buy off-the-shelf computers – their requirements are very specific, and they get exactly what they need with Shuttle."
For their part, the developers and techies at Zspace seem more than happy with the services provided by Shuttle. Steve Kingsley-Jones, the product manager at zSpace, says that "Shuttle is a solid hardware partner for us. Their computers are small, cool-running and reliable, which is vital in a classroom. And the customization is great â¦ They deliver exactly what we want, on time, every time."
Michael Hart of Campus Technology reports that these customized PCs will come with high-speed head-tracking, special AR/VR glasses and a "virtual reality stylus" that will allow students to control what's on screen.
The goal of the program is to revolutionize the ways students engage with information. Medical students will be able to examine, hear and feel a pumping three-dimensional heart, and high school physics students will be able to experiment with gravity. Students will be able to experience information rather than passively observing it on a flat screen. The project takes the adage "information at your fingertips" literally.
zSpace set a launch date for the PC of later this year, priced at approximately $1,500, reports Ant Pruitt from TechRepublic, who herself had an opportunity to toy around with one of these PCs. She said of her experience that "the rendering [of a virtual heart] was fluid and presented almost no latency." The average price for gaming PCs is $2,000, so these new computers will be cheaper and more intellectually gratifying than similar units.
The development of virtual reality has captivated the tech industry. Tools like Amazon Echo and Apple's Siri have hinted at a world in which technology can respond to human voice and commands, and 3D movies have invited viewers into fantastical films. Consumers have long desired a more interactive relationship with technology, with the education sector pinning many of its hopes on the promise of technology, spurring zSpace and Shuttle to employ virtual-reality technology on behalf of students, not consumers.