Friday, 16 January 2015

#Googleglass out, other smart tech in? Where is #educational bonus?

The wearable technologies are booming business, but a lot of it is still very expensive. And with Google just releasing today that Google glasses will be reinvented, if not stopped, it got me thinking about cost and educational options. Just think about all the developers that bought the Google glasses (1500$) and now get the news that the project is being reinvented. Or about those schools that purchased one set allowing students to research its functionality?
Certainly when looking at smart glasses, there is a lot of expensive material (coming) out. As multiple options are being launched (or are on the verge of being launched) I do wonder what to go for, budget wise. For if the half-life of tech is only about a year... it might not be wise to invest in it? Time or budget wise.

Cheap virtual reality and smart glass solutions are increasingly being rolled out, but as with all technology: multiple companies are trying to corner the market, but in the end only a few will keep on standing (and it seems tech launches and halts happen quicker than ever). A couple of nifty options: the 'classic' Google glasses which is now being rethought, the more advanced Meta space glasses, the more stylish looking (yet with wire hanging from ear) Antheer lab option, of course for gamers the Oculus rift or the about to be released Sony's Morpheus, and for the more cognitive oriented among us the EmotiveInsight headset which is said to be available in April 2015 and which monitors brain activity. But it does cost a lot of money (ranging from cheapest 350 $ to 1500$).The latest from Microsoft is Microsoft's Hololens which merges virtual and IRL nicely together.

On the one hand it is clear that smart-everything is the way forward, but the cost of each item makes it tricky to test all of them in order to find its educational value. Using such tech in classrooms or global courses is at the moment cheer impossible, unless... you choose for the cheaper option: e.g. Google cardboard. This virtual reality app/option allows everyone to either build a Google cardboard from the Google cardboard kit which turns a mobile into a virtual machine, or to buy a cheap cardboard box to be used with a smartphone (and apps which you can search for depending your mobile operating system: e.g. android - Google play, but also to be said working with iPhone ).

What is interesting when looking at all these smart technologies, is all of them rely on crowd-development to provide more meaningful features or applications for their hardware solution. That of course does have a very interesting educational bonus, as it is clear that this supports peer knowledge creation based on a API's or other boundaries provided by a couple of experts. An interesting shift that has been increasingly growing the last couple of years. The same is possible for the cheaper options as well, as such it makes these options (like Google cardboard) a nice jumping board for young developers with a knack for programming or creative solutions.

Looking at some options that are out there for Google cardboard (some of which are also available on the more expensive gears, like oculus rift): Tuscany house: a nice application that shows the opportunities for design and architectural simulations that can be made in class. A more old school tech option: hang gliding and flight sim(ulation) app: decades ago, I was using flight simulator to get a feeling of what it took to fly a plane. It was (and is) fun, and it is instructional as simulations allow a more authentic preparation for the actual IRL action. Or more subject matter related options: e.g. moon, which takes you to a virtual moon surface.

All of the apps can offer educational value, but I keep wondering what the extra bonus would be. What can it teach us that we were not able to be taught in the past. What does it allow me to do, that really lifts learning to the next level? All in all, I see the smartglasses as performance enhancers, more than re-imagining education. The simulations bring real life, authentic learning closer to home; designs can be viewed in 3 dimensions, ... but it seems they all keep within learning/teaching that already existed. Just wondering what it could be, what I am missing.

Google cardboard assembly picture from here. And a really nice, short description of the Google cardboard in this YouTube movie: