Have you ever been amazed by a TED Talks video? This is one of those. Using principles from the insect world, these robots communicate with each other in ways that allow them to interact and work together. These robots can map 3D spaces, build complex structures out of modular pieces, and even jump through hoops — literally.
This video doesn’t necessarily have a direct-to-classroom ESL application — though I’m sure it would get your students talking — but it is a pretty impressive demonstration of how far this technology has come. With the work that is being done with Microsoft Kinect in the DIY community, I wonder how long before we are building these in our backyard.
When I hear the phrase interactive videos, I think of people covered in florescent mocap pingpong balls or choppy, Choose Your Own Adventure-style stories like Dragon’s Lair. And there are those. But, it seems that some creative tinkerers have pushed the envelope with some of YouTube’s interactive features and come up with some interesting results.
How can they be used with ESL and EFL students? Well, in addition to viewing and interacting with the videos and then discussing or reporting on the experience, students could be challenged to determine how the videos were made. For the more ambitious, students could make their own videos using the same techniques. Some of them, like the Oscars find the difference photo challenge would be relatively easy to remake.
For more interactive videos that will get your students talking, watch 15 Awesome YouTube Tricks.
Ever since a $3000 bounty was placed on cracking open Microsoft’s fab new gaming hardware, the motion-sensing Kinect for Xbox, hackers and tinkerers have been putting the open-source drivers to lots of interesting uses on platforms that Microsoft never envisioned. I’ve written about interesting Kinect hacks before (and before that,) and I’ve written about my experience with the Wii-based $50 Interactive Whiteboard (IWB,) but I haven’t seen a fully-developed Kinect-based Interactive Whiteboard.
Perhaps an Interactive Whiteboard is too narrow a description. Many of the pieces are in place (see below) to interface with a computer using Kinect. So, as with the Wii-based IWB, any application you can use on your computer can be controlled by this hardware. If you connect your computer to a projector, you essentially have an Interactive Whiteboard.
Is the Kinect-based experience different from a Wii-based IWB or a Smartboard? Almost certainly. There would be no need to touch the screen at all, but rather to gesture in front of the Kinect to interact with the projection on the screen. Would this be an improvement? I’m not sure. A touch-based IWB is more analogous to traditional whiteboard that uses markers and an eraser. So, the touchless experience would be quite different. I need to try it myself to really wrap my head around the opportunities that this motion-sensing interface offers.
I’m not sure if anyone here at Ohio State is working with Kinect as an interface for non-Xbox applications. But I do know that the Digital Union has a Kinect which could probably be used to see if and how things work. If anyone else is interested in trying to pull this together, drop me a line or leave a comment.
Multitouch with Kinect
Kinect on a Mac
Kinect Fingertip Detection
Kinect + PC + Mario = Fun
In the video above, a dad asks his son to draw something on a new iPad, the ubiquitous Apple tablet. The 2-year-old clearly has some facility with the device as he casually switches between apps and between tools within the drawing app. Interestingly, (though not surprisingly for anyone with a 2-year-old,) the boy also wants to use his favorite apps including playing some pre-reading games and watching videos. He very naturally fast-forwards through the video to his favorite part. He also knows to change the orientation of the device to properly orient the app to a wider landscape format.
Although I like gadgets, I’m not a true early adopter. I do carry a PDA — an iPod touch — which my 2- and 4-year-olds enjoy playing with. It’s amazing how quickly they understand gestural interfaces, pinching, pulling and tapping their way from app to app.
While I don’t think that I need to rush right out and get my kids iPads so they don’t get left behind, (the whole point is that they’re easy to use anyway,) I do wonder about some of the interesting opportunities for learning on these devices: drawing, reading, and linking information. Of course, they also do a lot of these things on paper which places far fewer limits on their creativity — instead of choosing from 16 colors in a paint program, they can choose from 128 crayon colors or create their own by mixing their paints.
In the end, this new technology is flashy and fun, but I’m not convinced that iPads and other tablets are essential tools that will give our kids and our students a clear learning advantage. I sure would like one, though.
I’m not extremely fluent in all of these technologies (for more info, see Flight of the Navigator), but as a demo, this is pretty impressive. To me, it looks a little like Second Life with tons of screens out to the internet. In other words, slick and different, but I’m not sure how useful, or even how truly integrated this experience would be. Would you rather navigate to different places on the Web by moving through a 3D space or by Ctrl-Tabbing to the next open tab in your browser? Maybe I’m old-school, but the latter seems far easier to me.
Of course, there are lots of other demos posted online and it will be interesting to see where this goes. Checking your favorite Twitter feeds in-game would certainly blur the line between the gaming experience and the real world, but is this necessary? Probably not, but maybe that’s not the question to be asking with whiz-bang technology like this. It certainly opens up interesting avenues for the greater integration of a wide range of technologies. Where that takes us will be interesting to see.