30 Tech Tools in 30 Days: 3D Bear

AR with 3D Bear

If you have been paying attention in ed tech lately you have noticed that virtual reality, augmented reality, and mixed reality have arrived in the classroom. If you were at the ISTE conference in Chicago back in July, you probably noticed that expo hall, playgrounds, and breakout sessions were abuzz with the possibilities of VR and AR.

For me personally, I’ve been tinkering with VR and AR over the past few years – starting with Google Cardboard’s immersive VR experiences and dabbling a little with some of the AR apps available for the Merge Cube (more on Merge Cube in upcoming posts). It has been fun to play with but I have not yet really explored how VR or AR could be used in the classroom. Until now.

Hello, 3D Bear!

3D Bear  is a free augmented reality app that works on Apple or Android devices. (Chrome coming soon – maybe? Hopefully!) With 3D Bear, students can create virtual scenes and dioramas using 3D models and their real-wold space. For example, in this lesson, based on The Martian by Andy Weir, students can design their own Martian colony. (Full disclosure – NIU STEM Read worked with 3D Bear and featured this lesson a our PD Party in Space with Andy Weir back in July.)

Imagine having your classroom filled with a bunch of virtual space colonies! What’s really cool is that 3D Bear integrates with Thingaverse so that the models you use in virtual space can also be printed. The image below is from the Thingaverse lesson page and shows virtual astronauts and rovers in a real box of sand.

Mars Colony in a sandbox. Picture from Thingaverse Lesson Page. https://www.thingiverse.com/thing:3084537


Pros and Cons

I really like this application. It is free (there is a paid teacher portal and I’ll get to that in a second) and fairly easy to use. One drawback for me is that my phone and tablets are all kind of old. 3D Bear works on the older devices but there are some features that don’t work. For example, on my phone I need an anchor point to keep my virtual creations tethered to the real world. Newer devices do not have an anchor point so it is easier to build. Other than that the app is functional on older devices. That is really my only negative. So, I just need to get some updated tech. I’ll let my husband know that Christmas is coming. (haha.)

Here are some of the really cool features of this app.

Dino garden
My virtual dino garden. My cat is not amused.
  •  Integrates with Thingaverse – you can use Thingaverse models or upload your own to Thingaverse and use your own models.
  • Model skinning – you can customize your 3D models with your own custom textures. Including your face. Cool and creepy!
  • Animated models – Your 3D models do not have to be static. There are animated models in the library as well.
  • Lesson ideas – The website and the teacher dashboard have some nicely written, standard-aligned lessons for you. It is always helpful to have lesson ideas there and ready to go.
  • Great team – the 3D Bear team is awesome! You can tell they are passionate about what they do.

Teacher Features

The newest release includes some great teacher classroom features. These features are not free, classroom pricing for one teacher and up to 30 students is $199/year. That price includes classroom management tools such as student IDs, teacher dashboard, and lesson plans. If you are going to be using this tool a lot, those tools might be worth the price tag for you. Here is more information on pricing.  Teachers, you can sign-up for a free trial. Sign up here – Free Trial.

Classroom Ideas

Here are a few ideas for how to use 3D Bear in the classroom.

  • Storytelling – students create virtual illustrations of their own stories.
  • Book connections – recreate their favorite scenes or setting of classroom books.
  • Design – students redesign their classroom or create a new space. Then 3D print the models and make a real-life model.
  • Historical places – recreate historical places.

The ideas are endless!

In short – this is a fun tool. I think we are just seeing the tip of the learning iceberg when it comes to AR. And 3D Bear is a great place to start. The interface is easy to use even for the most novice beginner, yet the results are powerful. Download it today and give it a try.

Are you using 3D Bear in your classroom? Let me know how in the comments. I’d love to hear how you and your students are using this awesome app.

Happy creating!

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