Happy Meal Boxes And Mattel View-Master Give Your Kid A Look At Virtual Reality and 3D


There is a funny cartoon making its way around the internet adding a new layer to the fairly well-known Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. At the bottom of the pyramid, someone graffiti-scrawled a new more important layer: WiFi now sits as more fundamental than food, water, shelter, and warmth.

Maslow + Wifi

Sure, someone is just having fun, but think about it: Kids in school, and at home, take WiFi as a given. Numerous other technologies are fast becoming givens: iPads, 3D printing, 3D scanning, virtual reality, 360 degree videos (similar to virtual reality), and others that we probably don’t think about. They engage with this myriad of tools almost every day, even if they do not get to use it directly. Yet. Here are a few examples of how technology tools are gaining hold in the classroom.

Google Cardboard

Many people, unless they are a video game fan, do not find virtual reality that interesting, at first glance. My son found VR rather boring, useless, until I assembled a cardboard viewer and showed him one, only one, YouTube 360 video in 3D, that a pro photographer friend of mine had done. Now, he’s hooked.

I received a free Google Cardboard at a tradeshow, but you can find tons of options to purchase them online and quick assembly at home. Possibly even better, major brands are making them available. Coca Cola has instructions in some of their beverage boxes. Even McDonalds has an option to turn your Happy Meal box into a Cardboard-like viewer (only in Sweden for now).

The problem with the DIY VR goggles is they are not very secure; your smartphone can slide out of the cardboard box. You can up your game for around $20 with the View-Master Virtual Reality Viewer by Mattel (photo below). Yes, for those of you old enough to remember, this is that old View-Master that had that paper and film disc that you placed in the slot and clicked the trigger to advance the images. Way more enhanced, and it lets you put a wide range of smartphones inside it. You can use their app and even buy some content, but you can also simply use it as a vastly-improved version of the fold-up cardboard type goggle. Your next options are closer to $100, minimum.

Mattel VR Goggles

Nearpod helps teachers with digital learning experiences to engage students. They are giving select schools access to 25 VR-based lesson plans and full sets of virtual reality cardboards. But you could make or buy them for a classroom and just head over to their site to look into the curriculum options. It is pretty impressive. VR and its close cousin, Augmented Reality (AR), are introducing kids to 3D design at a very young age.

3D Printers

More and more teachers are figuring out how to get a 3D printer into their classroom. The options are increasingly affordable. Libraries are creating makerspaces and there are plenty of high schools with full-fledged Fab Labs (think of them as more organized makerspaces, although that is not a fair summary). Inside these labs is equipment where your imagination can move an idea from bits to atoms. Even without one of the more robust desktop 3D printers, consumer-grade 3D printers will soon show up in classes, too. You can take a look at two under $400: MOD-t from NewMatter; and Micro from M3D.

Many of the 3D printers I hear about in classrooms are usually in the $1,000 to $1,500 range, but that is not outrageous because they often come with excellent customer support. One of my favorites is from Aleph Objects – known as the LulzBot TAZ (or newer Mini). I have written about Dremel’s IdeaBuilder, LulzBot Mini, and others that make printing easy.

Sindoh, a company with a 60-year heritage in 2D printing, recently came out with the 3Dwox. That long heritage tells me they know something about customer support. Yes, 3D printing is a different animal, but an infrastructure is in place to support this new direction. I spent some time admiring the print quality and sleek easy-to-use interface while at the SOLIDWORKS World 2016 show in Dallas (client).

3D Scanner, 3D Apps

Give a kid a smartphone and he or she will sit down and play games. Teach them how to take photos of a favorite object or even a person, and turn it into a video game avatar in 3D and they learn a whole lot more. They don’t need a smartphone; it can be any digital camera. Apps allow you to stitch them together into a 3D model. With a little work, you can turn that model into something you can 3D print.

Watch a child with a smartphone that has more than games on it. If there is something that allows them to interact with the app and the world around them, they will often take that path. New 3D drawing apps are helping students (and their teachers) see that they can be creators and not only consumers. Take a look at the new SOLIDWORKS Apps for Kids beta.

Other specific apps are creating new ways to encourage and teach STEM subjects. Noticing Tools is a ground-breaking suite of iPad apps that make learning math and science irresistible through play, creative design projects, and collaboration, developed by the New York Hall of Science.

The formal lessons might fall under a STEM or STEAM curriculum umbrella, but the access to smarter devices, easier-to-use software, and even VR goggles are offering kids new ways to think about their school subjects.

And maybe WiFi is actually more fundamental than food…

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Disclosure: I am currently doing a paid marketing and writing project for Dassault Systèmes, but my blog posts are, as always, my own.

In Category: 3D Printing, STEM, VR


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