Scran staff paid their customary visit to BETT in London earlier this month, though, thanks in part to the snow, our numbers were somehat depleted from previous years. BETT is the national educational technology fair, and each year attracts hundreds of exhibitors and tens of thousands of exhibitors to a vast, cavernous space in Olympia. With so many stands vying for your attention, it's sometimes difficult to discern genuine innovations and identify trends.
However, and notwithstanding the above, two overall trends did seem to make themselves apparent. the first was 3-D. This was everywhere, from 3-D printers and scanners (not new in themselves, but starting to become cheap enough and ubiquitous enough for schools to consider purchasing them) to, especially, 3-D projectors. There were any number of stands demoing 3-D projectors. Some solutions used two separate projectors tethered together showing two separate pictures which then merged into a 3-D image once you donned the required glasses. The best stand, though, was Texas Instruments', which was demoing its DLP technology. It allows projectors to transmit two separate images simultaneously, which can then merge into one for a viewer wearing special glasses. The advantages are that the projector is relatively cheap (c. £700), can also be employed to project regular 2-D images, and it is easily portable. This is essentially the same system used in cinemas to project films like Avatar. There, though, some fancy polarisation happens before the projected image reaches your glasses, which means the glasses are relatively cheap to manufacture. The downside of this system is that the hardware must stay fixed in place to work properly. With the portable system that Texas Instruments were pushing, the polarisation happens in the glasses themselves. This means the glasses cost about £100 per pair, potentially adding £3000 to a school's initial outlay. The results that you get are spectacular, though. Being able to see a human brain in 3-D, or being able to fully visualise the X, Y and Z axes on a 3-D graph may engage learners in ways that 2-D can't. The potential for Scran and RCAHMS to be able to generate 3-D content in the future (of buildings, monuments, objects, for example) is quite exciting. We'll see what happens.
The other dominant trend I detected was "augmented reality", made possible by modern, GPS-enabled, compass-enabled smartphones like the iPhone 3GS, and by software developers like Layar. Videos on YouTube explain augmented reality far more succinctly than I can here, so look at this and this, and especially this. The potential for Scran and RCAHMS, again, are enormous, if we can add our huge amounts of data to such applications.