VR @ ISTE 2017: In the Exhibit Hall

Box glovesIn many ways, the virtual reality exhibitors at the ISTE 2017 expo hall reminded me of the sights, sounds and drama of a major multi-match boxing event. (The ISTE 2017 educational technology conference held in late June, with over 15,000 educators in attendance, is considered the largest ed-tech conference in the U.S. Every state and more than 72 countries were represented at this year’s ed-tech extravaganza.) The boxing mosaic was all there: the supercard, the undercard, the heavyweights, the welterweights, flyweights, the palookas and even a disappointing stumblebum or two.

The Supercard
A number of serious contenders took to the ring at ISTE 2017. Some of these virtual reality ‘prizefighters’ deserve a much deeper look, so I plan some in-depth follow up articles in the near future. But here’s a quick snapshot of the virtual reality supercard at ISTE 2017, in alphabetical order:

CoSpaces. CoSpaces, an ed-tech company with a ‘coding’ emphasis, allows students to create their own virtual reality environments. This company returned to ISTE for their third year, albeit in a downsized booth. Still, they remain popular contenders for the education dollar.

Google. Google Cardboard, a crowd favorite, was in the house. What can you say?

Merge. Merge drew solid traffic, providing both AR and VR learning experiences via a single low-cost headgear. They also creatively ‘placed’ holographic-like images in your hands by means of a physical, hand-held cube. They were truly unique.

Veative. Veative was the superheavyweight at ISTE 2017, offering a complete VR ecosystem and content to educators. See my Display Daily article, “Being Veative”, for more detail.

zSpace. Perennial desktop virtual reality provider, zSpace, returned in the sessions, posters, and the exhibit hall with their ever popular bus. Again, their “escape-room-like” interactive activities were truly compelling to passersby. They were also co-located in several other booths around the exhibit hall.

zPace Inside BusInside the interactive zSpace bus

The Undercard
A well-represented undercard of new, promising, and up-and-coming talent in the arena of VR was also apparent at ISTE 2017. These sluggers brought an electric environment to the conference, and included (in alphabetical order):

datui standingDatui labs was everywhere at ISTEDatui Labs. Datui Labs offered lots of flair and a ubiquitous presence throughout the ISTE conference: in hands-on playgrounds, sessions, and the expo hall. A relative newcomer, Datui Labs is a startup focused on exploring and discovering VR applications for Maker and STEM education. “We aim to make the abstract 3D designing experience intuitive and concrete with cutting edge technology”, they affirm. Despite its fanfare and visibility, however, Datui Labs ducked and weaved into a haymaker, as both its website and Facebook site are now suddenly blank. We have to score that as a TKO, I guess. Maybe they’ll reappear in a future card. Ouch!

FlyVR. Evidently one of China’s first VR companies, FlyVR has developed a series of low-cost and light-immersion VR and AR products, along with some heavy immersion solutions for education. With over 100 million RMB revenue in education product sales in China, this superheavyweight slipped into the ISTE 2017 arena testing the U.S. market with an AR holographic box and an integrated VR teaching machine. FlyVR’s available products and services are substantial, however, so I expect them to make the supercard in a short time.

Vizitech USA. I’ve written about this 3D and VR content company in past years, and this marked their first appearance at the ginormous ISTE 2017 ed-tech conference. Vizitech USA came to showcase their 3D/AR/MR/VR content for the classroom. Their strong suit, mostly ignored by other VR sluggers, is to bring the world of visualization to vocational education or career-technical education) (CTE) as we call it in the States. It’s a smart move: the current U.S. administration has just begun a renewed push for both pre- and post-high school vocational education.

ViziTechUSAViziTechUSA at ISTE 2017

VRCA. “Virtual Reality Coding Academy: Teach Your Students to Code” offered a VR coding curriculum to educators, tapping into the potent coding meme present at this conference. By the way, VRCA is another superheavyweight contender, concealing its considerable prowess and physique underneath an ‘unknown’ boxer’s robe. They are part of EYEQVR, a company with considerable VR heft, and I presume a contender soon to expand in a greater way into the public eye. I got the sense they were slyly taking a measure of the competition.

Teach VR coding

Sparring Partners
In boxing we see some folks that aren’t quite ready for prime time boxing, but provide excellent sparring experience for competitors on the current card. There were some capable newcomers “waiting in the wings”:

Silas. Silas (Socially Interactive Learning Avatar Software) is an avatar-based animation software for teaching Social Skills. It lets students learn and practice social skills by creating their own animated movies on their computer. For Silas, viewing student-created VR is coming soon.

The Beamer. The Beamer has created the Stardust Mystery Game. VR is on the way for this creative learning experience. In the game, students are sent back in time with three friends friends to find the source for your inherited stardust (atoms). In this simulation, soon to be made VR-ready, a team takes photos, collects samples, and explores the surroundings in search of their atomistic origins. That’s the way VR should be employed—not merely field trips—but in an experiential way.

Parrott Education. A UAV (drones) company, Parrott was showing its tablet-VR-drone interwoven solution, hoping for some audience appreciation.

In boxing, cornermen don’t appear on the card, but they do help pugilists prosecute the actual fight. For the first time, the ISTE 2017 conference evidenced a bevy of VR resellers and partners:

The Carts Came Out. Cart manufacturers seem to have moved into the role of cornermen, providing a number of solutions for storing, charging, and moving difficult-to-handle virtual reality headgear.

Spectrum CartsCarts for VR gear have arrived, including this one from Spectrum Industries

The Resellers. Eduporium, Best Buy, and TwoTrees featured top-to-bottom classroom solutions for schools.

EdporiumEduporium @ ISTE 2017

TwoTreesTwoTrees @ ISTE 2017

The Wannabes. The widely-respected Hamilton Buhl organization is now manufacturing its own VR headgear solutions, based on its own careful analysis and expertise in classroom sound reproduction.

Hamilton Buhl’s new VR headgear with integrated sound

Vizitech USA Again. Visitech also served as a trusted cornerman, hawking products for zSpace, AVRover, and HTC Vive along with their own VR content.

The electricity was certainly in the air, with the largest VR presence in ISTE conference history in the exhibit hall. In my next piece, I will highlight some of the educational VR trends and developments coming out of the general conference education sessions. –Len Scrogan