(501) Technology Trends

Nintendo Wii, XBox Kinect and Play Station 3 Move

What do the Nintendo Wii, XBox Kinect, and PS3 Move have in common?  Yes, they are all gaming systems that use the ever growing and popular gesture-based computing.

As the sun sets on the ‘button smashing’ era, we welcome a new dawn of gesture-based computing that “react to pressure, motion…the number of fingers used in touching the devices.  Some devices react to shaking, rotating, tilting or moving the device in space.” (Johnson, L., Levine, A., Smith, R., & Stone, S., 2011, p 24)  You may recall watching people play the older versions of Mario Kart.  Did you notice them lean to one side or another as their character drove around a corner at high speed?  Even though leaning did not help and was not necessary, it helped a person mentally.  Since the Wii arrived on the markets in November 2006, the persons movement has become vital to practically every game.

In exploring the 2011 Horizon Report I saw the importance for every tool discussed to be implemented within the American Education System.  My initial thoughts would have led me to create a learning log on E-Books…the hopeful replacement for heavy classroom texts.  However, I kept coming back to gesture-based computing, and even though the availability is limited and not expected to be integrated in the classrooms for another 5 years, I enjoyed my time researching and became excited at the possibilities that it presents to future students, including my own child.

“Gesture-based computing is perfect for simulation and training.  Gesture-based computing has strong potential in education, both for learning, as students will be able to interact with ideas and information in new ways, and for teaching, as faculty explore new ways to communicate ideas.” (Johnson, L., Levine, A., Smith, R., & Stone, S., 2011, p 25)  Professors and Graduate Students from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have really grasped the concept of gesture-based computing for learning.

hardware for the new hand tracker system

MIT have created a 3-D gestural interface prototype that is not only functional but cheap. The way the interface works is though a household web-cam and a specially designed glove that, when worn, links to software that tracks the hand in real time (please take the time to view the short demonstration by clicking on the link). Prototypes in the past were only 2-D and were not practical. “Gestural interfaces can allow users to easily perform precise manipulations that can be difficult with a mouse,” (Johnson, L., Levine, A., Smith, R., & Stone, S., 2011, p 25) and what impressed me here is the example of the disk brake and the ease in which the demonstrator was able to disassemble it.   Imagine then being able to pick up a small object using only your two fingers.  This not only eliminates the use of the mouse but also gives technology a whole new hands on approach.  Simulations that require specific hands on training while in a tense and dangerous environment (such as the military) can easily adopt this new technology to save time, money and create less risk to personnel.

While this type of gesture-based computing could be described as “sci-fi” in its approach to “create entirely new forms of interaction, expression and activity,” (Johnson, L., Levine, A., Smith, R., & Stone, S., 2011, p 25) let us not discount what is presently available.

Ipad- frog style

In April 2010, the world was introduced to the Apple Ipad.  Within the first quarter of its launch, Apple had sold almost 9 million Ipad’s.  Since then school districts have began pilot programs to adopt the Ipad.  According to an article in the New York Times Illinois, Virginia and New York (just to name a few) have applied for millions of dollars in grants to procure this popular gesture-based computing device.  It is not hard to see why.  Apple in education highlights the versatility and hands on features that are fundamental to gesture-based computing. Everything a student needs to learn can be contained to one piece of technology, it is hands on and more importantly- it is available to integrate in American schools now.

Interaction through gesture-based computing allows for new and update learning.  Charter schools can offer fine arts classes in the form of “Rock Band” on the XBox while other schools adopt the Ipad into first and second grade classrooms.  What excites me the most is that while the mainstream gesture-based computing is on stage singing and dancing, behind the curtains are devices and tools that will be so powerful and precise that will change the face of education forever.  According the Horizon report, we only have to wait 5 more years.

References

Johnson, L., Smith, R., Willis, H., Levine, A., and Haywood, K., (2011). The 2011 Horizon Report.Austin, Texas: The New Media Consortium.

Gesture-based computing on the cheap. MIT News. Retrieved 2/12/2011, from http://web.mit.edu/newsoffice/2010/gesture-computing-0520.html

Math that moves: Schools embrace the Ipad. New York Times. Retrieved 2/13/2011, from http://www.nytimes.com/2011/01/05/education/05tablets.html

Learning with Apple.  Apple in Education. Retrieved 2/13/2011, from http://www.apple.com/education/why-apple/

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