Archive for July, 2010

RayModeler: Sony’s volumetric display ditches the glasses

A pair of CrystalEyes liquid crystal shutter g...

Shutter Glasses NOT required ...Image via Wikipedia

The current paradigm shift in display technologies – i.e.,  the move to 3D –  took a further step into an unknown future when Sony demoed its RayModeler technology at SIGGRAPH 2010 three days ago.  Sony’s “Sonystyle Blog” discusses the technology, termed a “360-degree autostereoscopic 3D display” and also contains a short video demo.  The display consists of a cylinder 27cm high and 13cm wide – obviously not the biggest display around. It’s not quite small enough to carry around in your pocket, but just big enough to show off the technology. The  interface is gestural, giving users some control over the display with hand movements, and the really great thing is no overpriced shutter glasses are required.

Obviously this is a first step for Sony, testing the water for future (presumably larger, or even scrollable) displays.  The unknown and intriguing aspect is not the technology itself, but how people will respond to it.  I can immediately think of dozens of disciplines where volumetric displays could add a new and exciting dimension to learning materials and our perception of them.  One problem that suggests itself is the concept of scale, however.  Currently when we see a non -3D television broadcast of, say, a Friday night football match our brains accept the idea that the small figures running across the screen are players who are obviously far away from us (and therefore not life-size).  Once we introduce displays that include 360 degree views, that perception is immediately compromised, so the scale adjustments made in our cortexes become rather harder to make.

I’ve always believed that true 3D displays would need to be glasses-free to qualify for inclusion in a Jetsons-style future.  Maybe Sony is going to get us there.

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ADS Victimology

ADS is a acronym for Avatar Depression Syndrome. It’s a condition where people who have viewed James Cameron’s blockbuster come out feeling depressed, sometimes to the point of being suicidal.  One cynical poster coined the term “avatards” to describe the victims – rather cruel IMHO. The effect seems to be particularly notable when the film is viewed in 3D.  Law professor Ann  Althouse’s blog reasons that it’s a sense of loss brought on by living in a dying world (i.e. our own planet) compared to the eco-friendly approach of the Na’vi portrayed in the film.

The reason the ADS phenomenon caught my attention is that I’ve been thinking about the affective effects of immersive technology a lot lately.  A colleague of mine is currently researching the impact of immersive-technology induced motion-sickness (think 3D roller-coaster rides) on cognition. There’s no getting around the fact that as we move from a flatscreen monitor world to immersive 3D environments we’re going to have to deal with this technological phenomenon sooner or later.

Hip geeksite EPIC FU’s  commentator Zadi Diaz asks: “If people are sad because this movie is so immersive and rich, then what does it say about our REAL world?” EPIC FU’s discussion page on this topic attracted a wealth of responses, generally a mix of dismissive and sympathetic posts, with some armchair psychologist musing thrown in for good measure.

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Kaizen: Room for Improvement in Ed Tech Delivery?

Kaizen Kanji Characters

Kaizen

The Japanese word kaizen generally translates into English as “improvement”.  When used in the context of technology or management practice it usually means the process of continuous improvement to a product or process, and has been applied to manufacturing industries,  health-care, banking and government departments, with varying success.  Wikipedia’s entry on kaizen mentions that it was “first implemented in several Japanese businesses after the Second World War, influenced in part by American business and quality management teachers who visited the country”, the best-known being W. Edwards Deming who introduced quality assurance methods to several Japanese industries.

Toyota probably qualifies as the company with the greatest success record in the introduction of kaizen approaches to car manufacture, as evidenced by its current dominance of the world car market. The company developed a management philosophy known as Lean management which turns some traditional management processes on their heads. Toyota’s Lean approach to car production lines can be summarized as: “getting the right things to the right place at the right time in the right quantity to achieve perfect work flow, while minimizing waste and being flexible and able to change. (Wikipedia)”.

So how does the above relate to the development and use of educational technologies? I think some of the processes in play when building this year’s (Toyota) Lexus sedan can be mapped onto the way tools that can assist the process of learning and teaching are developed. Both initially identify a need or market, produce a design, prototype it and test it with a sampling of end users. Both rely on feedback to provide a basis for improvement, echoing a simple learning process we can all recognize.  Once an educational technology is implemented, helpdesk operations represent the feedback loop that can potentially allow for continuous improvement to the technology itself, or the way people are using it.

The Lean management approach has also been used in the health-care industry to improve the efficiency of health services delivery.  Mark Graban’s Lean Blog define the Lean concept from a health delivery point of view, and discusses how this management style is being implemented in a number of different health-related settings.

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