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Posts Tagged ‘Virtual Worlds’

Almost every kind of IT has a potential impact on education. If you look at the various dimensions that constitute mainstream adoption, you want to look at the fit to the educational need, the capability of the audience to consume it, the access and availability of both platform and content, supporting infrastructure required and of course the cost & scalability factors.

Most forms of IT interventions in elearning, I always say, fail due to the death by technology syndrome i.e. an overwhelming emphasis on technology and delivery. I would place many forms and methods of generating elearning content, especially the same umbrella term of technology.

We know that the space has potential, but the problems we face with traditional elearning and elearning technology such as the ability to personalize learning, to make it experiential & engaging and to demonstrate a return on investment, get a little more complex as we look at 3D immersive technology and we must build solutions keeping this in mind.

So firstly we need to focus on the learning needs. India is uniquely positioned because we have the youngest population. We must ask ourselves what will our needs be and thus our expectations be from the workforce in the next few years and work towards aligning all efforts in that direction. That direction must also be inclusive and equitable, and this is critical for us.

Then the way our young population has embraced the changes in the global workplace, and especially in the next generation Internet based technologies/movements like social networking, open source collaboration and mobility, needs to be leveraged as a 21st century skill, the way other countries are doing in a concerted manner.

Then we need to ask what kinds of segments we can address with which solution. For example, 3D immersive technology is a no-brainer for vocational training, manufacturing, technical training on hardware, product marketing, brand presence, eCommerce, generic collaboration etc. In the K12 segment, there are a host of possibilities such as for discovery-based learning, virtual laboratories, educational games and simulations that can make the experience come alive for our children. This technology is appealing because it is based in a visually immersive setting, like the world around us, and therefore lends itself to collaboration, discovery, exploration, problem solving, critical thinking and many other key learning dimensions.

We must then build capability with teachers and educationists to navigate these possible solutions. Traditional assessment solutions also need to be reworked in the context of the rich feedback that some of these solutions can provide on student activity and competency.

Creative content is then going to be an important part of the solutions we create. In my opinion, technology solutions that offer easy and cost effective ways to generate 3D based learning solutions will be critical in this space.

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Data visualization in 2D is what we have done most of our lives. Till recently, I viewed 3D as a medium for understanding and manipulating complex structures (say molecules, genes, architectural maps etc) both for academic and commercial use. With mashups, came the concept that you could intermix n-dimensional data (like OLAP) in a Web 2.0 environment. IBM’s ManyEyes uses this data to create 2D and 3D chart visualizations.

However, 3D visualization common use application still eludes me. I remember, as far as 10-12 years back, someone talked to me about “walking” into an Oracle database as an administrator and using hands to reorganize tablespaces, compress them and many other administrative actions. Years later, I watched Michael Douglas in Disclosure moving around a 3D file system and Tom Cruise and team waving life-videos and geo-spatial data on screens looking like a sheet of glass (I think it was in Minority Report).

Now Green Phosphor has come out with 3D technology based on the Content Injection and Control Protocol (CICP), sort of a “http for virtual worlds“, that merges excel data or database query outputs with 3D representations in a virtual world.

But I still struggle with possible applications. My friend Sid, at Indusgeeks, and his wonderful team, are looking at immersive and interactive 3D learning spaces for learning and collaboration.

What makes sense for me is not “representational” 3D (i.e. 3D visualization that depicts n-dimensional data visually), but “meaningful, context driven” 3D. For example, real time data about movement of whales in the oceans could be merged with a virtual ocean world where students could come and explore, replete with ocean and whale sounds, measurement techniques and tools etc. Or for that matter, a data center created on the fly for practice on measurements of power and cooling, from data that represents servers, power units, HVACs etc. These systems mirror real-life in ways that can go beyond the real life experience (e.g. walk inside a server or inside an artery). But they are also limited by the amount of kinesthetic immersion they can supply.

What is also interesting now is the availability of mobile phones with graphics accelerator cards built in. Imagine having a virtual world experience on your mobile phone. Look at Imageon. In fact, technologies are emerging today that allow you to use your mobile phone to click an image and have a backend system process indexed image (and possibly video) databases to return to you information related to that image. Imagine never having to be lost again or to click a product picture in a electronics store and get all the information and reviews related to that item.

In 3D terms, imagine being in a virtual world that reconstructs the actual background environment that each participant is coming from – one driving his car while in the conference, the other in her office, the third on the field at the scene of action, each being able to access and share information.

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