Education technology company zSpace visits ASU on bus tour

ASU students and faculty try out mixed reality technology

Education technology company zSpace visited the ASU Tempe campus on its bus tour around the country in order to give students and faculty the opportunity to see its take on the future of education.

Thessa Monaco, a regional sales director for zSpace, said that this bus tour is a way to let people know that the company's mixed reality learning system exists. The technology is currently in over 400 school districts across the country and is looking to make ASU its next customer.

“We’re incorporating both virtual reality and augmented reality to provide lifelike experiences to students that are immersive and interactive, “ Monaco said. “Basically we’re bringing their lessons to life.”

The education platform is geared toward science, technology, engineering and math — commonly known as STEM — but also offers a variety of applications in math and the arts with the option to incorporate your own three-dimensional models, Monaco said.

“We’re looking for where it would fit at ASU,” Monaco said. “Right now one of the strongest applications that we have is health science. So we’re looking at it for those students, so they are able to see the human anatomy, they’re able to really understand each part of the body, come back to it over and over, and really get a deeper understanding of the human anatomy.”

Monaco said that the technology promotes engagement and fearless learning in students because they can work without the fear of making mistakes.

“I’m looking forward to having the students at ASU be able to utilize this,” Monaco said.

Mike Angilletta, the associate director of undergraduate programs in the ASU School of Life Sciences, said he can imagine that virtual reality technology, like what zSpace creates, will be used in ASU courses as early as 2018.

The idea to incorporate this type of technology at ASU came about when the School of Life Sciences decided to develop an online biology degree course, Angilletta said.

“Doing classes online isn’t new, we do them all the time, but classes that we don’t have are these advanced lab classes, where you’re learning some sort of higher level sophisticated lab techniques,” Angilletta said. “So the question became ‘how do you do that in your house?’”

The technology will also be used to create virtual reality labs on campus, Angilletta said.

“You can only do a lab once and it costs a lot of money, and maybe there are certain things you can’t do either because they’re dangerous or too expensive,” Angilletta said. “Imagine you have a real lab experience but then when you go home you can repeat it multiple times and you can do things you couldn’t do in the real lab experience.”

Corey Caulkins, a junior studying ecology, said he is on board with the plan to use mixed reality technologies in lab courses.

Caulkins heard about the zSpace bus tour in class and decided to check it out. Caulkins said he had heard about mixed reality technology, but never for use in education.

“I actually hadn’t seen the technology in person before; I was kind of blown away actually,” Caulkins said. “I was just imagining taking organic chemistry, and instead of having to draw out these really precise drawings of molecules, you would just kind of have them in front of you.”

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