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Matt Crosslin

Teaching and Learning with Annotation Tools like Hypothes.is

2 min read

Web annotation tools are not really that new, but have mostly been utilized for contextualized commenting or personal note taking. A more innovative use of these tools is for constructive criticism or group critique. Tools like hypothes.is can allow people to annotate publicly or privately in a closed group. For example, see this problematic article on the relationship between teachers and students, and how many have critiqued the article for a fascinating discussion (this particular critique example was started by Dr. Maha Bali). Instead of commenting on articles at the end, people can comment on specific parts, and then interact with others who also comment. Probably a much better system than typical discussion forum assignments - and also ultimately probably what many instructors want discussions to be like in the first place. The video above goes into more detail about the vision behind open annotation. In general, it is an idea that can subvert commenting and distribute the power of commenting. Of course, it could also empower abuse as well. But the ability to comment on specific sections of a web page rather than just the end, and then to start a discussion with anyone or a private group is intriguing.

Matt Crosslin

Virtual Reality + Augmented Reality = Merged Rerality

1 min read

Intel has been showing off Project Alloy, a self-contained headset that combines augmented reality with virtual reality. My first thought was "isn't anything that isn't virtual reality just augmented reality by default?" Well, the answer seems to be yes and no. It seems that alloy will use built in cameras to bring real life objects and people into the virtual world. The demonstration video above doesn't wow as much as offer promise (especially in the commercial at the end), but ultimately I could see these kinds of projects solving the isolating problems that virtual reality could cause. Also, it is interesting that they are designing a self-contained headset that does not rely on an external computer. Which is probably why there is such low quality in the demonstration video when real objects come into view. At least you can finally see your hands in VR. To me, this seems more like what Virtual Reality should be - a virtual simulation that can bring your real body and those around you into the simulation. Saying it is merged with augmented reality is a bit of a stretch for some, i am sure. But probably an important distinction to make.

Matt Crosslin

Re-designing the Data Ownership Structure of the Internet

1 min read

Brought to you by a team of developers led by the guy that invented the World Wide Web (Tim Berners-Lee), Solid is a new project designed to "radically change the way Web applications work today, resulting in true data ownership as well as improved privacy." The basic idea is that the data in an application is "decoupled" from the data inside it, meaning that if your favorite service shuts down (like MySpace, Jaiku, etc), you can switch to another and not lose what you did on that service. You would control your data and what happens to it. Stephen Downes looks at some of the applications being built on Solid. Solid is probably quite a way away from going mainstream, so don't plan to use it this Fall in classes. However, for people that want to get serious about data ownership, this is a project to keep your eyes on.

Matt Crosslin

Improving 3D Printing with Sculptable Filament

2 min read

I have kind of lost count of how many 3-D printing revolutions there currently are out there. About 30 or so I would say. But if you ignore the over used hype of "revolution," there are often some interesting ideas out there. One of the problems with 3-D printing is that even higher cost devices struggle to replicate fine details. One company that is seeking to fix that is Adam Beane Industries. The video above has been out for a while, but there is currently a Kickstarter to take their Cx5 tool-set to the next level. The basic idea is that you print out a basic 3-D base (like the dinosaur head above), smooth out the imperfections and lines from printing, then add fine detail with a specialized set of sculpting tools and drops of melted filament. Obviously, this tool would appeal more to those that have the artistic chops to do something with it. I'd like to see this combined with the ability to change colors, and maybe even an airbrush. My guess is that someday 3-D printing will evolve enough that we will be able to print objects with this level of detail from the start. Or maybe these tools will be integrated into 3-D printers on robot arms. Who knows. But an interesting development, and also good to see that an idea from last year is still moving forward.

Matt Crosslin

Is Virtual Reality Going Mainstream?

2 min read

One of the biggest questions about any emerging technology is "will it make it?" In other words, will it become popular enough to became an actual, sustainable "thing"? This question has profound effects (not always in good ways) on whether or not new technologies have a future in learning innovation. The more popular an idea becomes, then more companies will starting make products, and increased competition drives down prices while increasing options. And hopefully, a low-cost easy to use option will arise.

Virtual Reality seems to be (slowly) crossing that barrier into mainstream adoption. Depending on how one maps the growth of VR, its been on a traditional trajectory, or a highly unusual one. But the signs that it is reaching more adoption are things like the Virtual Reality fueled promos (like the one above for the most-awesome Stranger Things series on Netflix) as well as new Virtual Reality films in production. From Lucasfilm making a Darth Vader virtual reality movie to a panoramic alien invasion movie starring Wesley Snipes that might have VR-like sections, it seems that at least Hollywood is taking notice. And it probably won't be too long before we unfortunately see "How VR will disrupt Education!" sessions at Ed-Tech conferences. But it seems that VR is actually going somewhere.

Matt Crosslin

So Where Are Microbots Anyway? Why Aren't They Fixing All of Our Medical Issues?

1 min read

Fans of Science Fiction are probably familiar with microbots (aka nanobots) - small robots that are usually injected into the body to fix any number of plot holes.... errr... medical conditions of the future. But why aren't we using these bots in real life? This article looks at some of the current advances in dealing with the problems that are holding microbots back from widespread usage. The short version is that these tiny machines are hard to control once released. As the video above points out, nanobots were first successfully used in animals just last year (wonder why they had to point out "successful"?). Most people think of microbots in terms of medical advances (such as unclogging arteries or making chemotherapy more targeted and safe), there are also many ways that technology could be implanted inside of our bodies to bring about some form of Trans-humanism.

Matt Crosslin

Atomic Memory Inches Closer to Reality - But Don't Make Any Plans Yet

1 min read

Scientists this week published an article about technology that could possibly fit thousands of terabytes of information on a single drive. The idea is that they basically used the position of atoms to store data. This is very new technology that is a long way away from being sold to people, but it points to a future where you could potentially store more data on a single device than you would ever need in an entire life time. Of course, we have access to that through the Internet, but a lot is still locked away behind paywalls and the Internet is still not everywhere. Breakthroughs like this could put a library of knowledge in your hand where ever you go. What it means to learn has also been evolving along these lines for a while now as memorizing facts becomes less important when you can easily look them up. More details in the video above.

Matt Crosslin

Pens That Draw Circuits on Paper and Create Electricity Art

1 min read

Pens that draw cuircuits on paper are not necessarily a new thing, but it seems that people are taking these tools to new heights in their practical application. Since you can draw circuits that would conduct electricity on paper, then most logical conclusion is to them turn the paper into art that utilizes electricity. Or electricity art as some put it. The video above shows some of the city model work that has been created with these pens, but this technology could also be put into use in other forms of art as well. I would have loved this as a kid if it could work with Legos.

Matt Crosslin

Pokemon GO is the xMOOC of Augmented Reality

3 min read

So by now you probably know what Pokemon GO is. If not, then you probably don't care. For the sake of the one or two that might not know, Pokemon GO is an augmented reality game. Augmented Reality is a concept that has been around for a while (believe it or not, it's history goes back to at least 1901), but has been gaining momentum in recent years as due on mobile devices. The basic idea is exactly what it sounds like: adding a layer of something to reality around us. Video gamers in the 80s probably remember a video game called M.A.C.H. 3 - a game that put a computer graphic jet fighter on top of real flight footage. Now take this into current times where you can create that real footage in real time with your mobile phone, while also adding computer graphics in real time. This is the current feild of augmented reality, while projects like Microsoft Hololens are taking it in other directions. Augmented reality apps do everything from layering map directions on the road in front of you to letting you fight off alien invasions from your back yard. In other words, Pokemon GO is not really anything new. Pokemon GO just found a way to connect existing ideas with an addictive popular idea that got a massive number of people suddenly interested in it. In many ways, Pokemon GO is the xMOOC of the augmented reality world. And just like xMOOCs, we are already hearing about how Pokemon GO will revolutionize education (of course it won't) or how we need Pokemon GO to get learners active, engaged, communal, etc (even though we already have many things that do that in education already). See also my blog post "Pokemon Go and the Gimmickification of Education." Additionally, the sudden mass popularity of Pokemon Go has created problems with data, personal injuries, and even criminal attacks. No one really takes the time to think through potential misuse of technology anymore... except for, of course, those that want to misuse it. If you love Pokemon GO (it is a pretty cool game designed to get people active after all), don't let that distract you from other interesting uses of augmented reality that have been around for a while. If you hate Pokemon GO, don't let that turn you off to other, better uses of augmented reality.

Matt Crosslin

3-D Laser Printers - or More Accurately, Laser Material Cutters

2 min read

Glowforge bills itself as an "iconic 3-D Laser printer" that "makes magical things at the push of a button." Of course, those of us that remember the 90s remember when laser printers were all the rage, but it is important to note that 3-D printers are not really printers at all. The Glowforge FAQs point out that their product is not really a printer but a "CNC laser cutter engraver" that can cut shapes out of, or engrave designs into, solid pieces of leather, wood, acrylic, or chocolate. In order for your creations to really be 3-D, you kind of have to glue those pieces together layer by layer. But you can print up some cool things with it... if you can afford the $4700 price tag. And I am not sure I would be ready to stick my Mac-book into this machine to let it engrave designs on it. But the video makes it look you can create all kinds of things - like a rubber band shooting drone" - or engrave designs on all kinds of existing things (clothes, food, books, etc). Someday we all may just need our own FabLab room next to the laundry room or office it seems.