Imagine having the ability to examine a human heart, rotate it, dissect it and then put it back together, all in a 3-D world designed to teach how the vital organ works.
For Davenport Public Library patrons, that experience soon will be a reality using virtual reality technology. The library is purchasing the technology thanks to a Community Foundation of the Great River Bend grant.
"This is such a new way to present information and we wanted to be able to share that with our library patrons," said Amy Groskopf, library director. "A lot of schools are using it today. But if I'm not involved in formal education where am I going to learn what this is like? We see it as a great study aid."
Groskopf said the zSpace system will include three flat-panel computers and virtual reality software to create three stations. The system will offer users the opportunity to explore a variety of topics in virtual reality from anatomy to electricity, geography and other lesson plans developed specifically for virtual reality.
She said users will not wear the individual goggles most associate with virtual reality. Instead, patrons will have special glasses and a stylus, or pointer, to bring the image out.
In fact, Groskopf said three or four people can gather around a single station for viewing. But only one person can manipulate the images at a time.
The technology should arrive in four to six weeks at which time the staff will be trained on it before it is offered for public use. It will be located on the first floor of the downtown main library in the former teen area.
The purchase was made possible with a $15,000 Nonprofit Capacity Building grant from the Community Foundation, based in Bettendorf. FRIENDS of the Davenport Public Library was among 10 organizations to share more nearly $105,000 in grants.
According to Groskopf, the zSpace system's total cost was nearly $20,000 with the remainder paid by gift monies received by the library.
Kelly Thompson, the foundation's vice president of grantmaking and community initiatives, said the grants "are for those things that are going to make that organization stronger or better able to carry out their mission."
Launched in 2012, the grants are made from the Community Impact Fund, a permanent endowment. The foundation awards a total of $210,000 a year for the capacity building grants.
"Sometimes it's technology, training or strategic planning — anything that is going to make the core of that organization stronger," Thompson added.
The library's application stood out, in part, because of its plans to share the technology with the public as well as the Davenport Schools' Creative Arts Academy (housed at the library), she said.
"It's not only a cool gadget," she said. "But they are collaborating with the Creative Arts Academy to make this technology meaningful and useful to the kids."
The library also expects interest from other schools, the homeschool community and students at the future Eastern Iowa Community Colleges' Urban Campus, Groskopf said.
"All our libraries locally are pretty innovative and looking to better serve their patrons," Thompson said, adding "This time (the idea) just happened to be from Davenport."