July 30, 2014
Lessons in the Palm of Pupils' Hands
The days of only learning through books is nearing an end as technology creates new options in the classroom.
Tablets, apps and video chat are becoming part of pupils' lives as they learn through different media.
Eric Woods wants to take it a step further – using augmented reality to make learning more interactive and to expose children to ways of learning previously seen in sci-fi movies.
Woods, managing director of Christchurch-based MindSpace Solutions, hopes his product, Imaginality, will enable pupils to do things such as "hold" a beating 3-D heart in the palm of their hand and see how blood flows through it. Augmented reality is a burgeoning technology that takes a view of the real world and places virtual content on it, as if it was in the real world.
He has already created a program for Windows computers but has launched a Kickstarter campaign to bring it to mobile devices.
Imaginality works by using hand-held paddles that when viewed through a camera have virtual objects attached to them. These objects then interact in various ways such as locking together to build a machine or you can hold a paddle up to your head to wear an artefact.
He says tablets and phones are suited to Imaginality as you can look "through" them like a window into another world. Other advantages include walking around interacting with virtual objects and sharing them with others in the class.
While augmented reality is being applied in other areas, Woods wants to focus on education.
"I've always had a desire to apply technology to education to make education a better experience. There is a lot of potential here that is still untapped.
"Education is one of the most powerful things that determines a person's success in life and we spend so much of our life on it so it is really important."
While he says technology has a large role to play in education it will never take over every aspect.
However, technology has the potential to teach children better than other methods in subjects such as astronomy.
"Being able to get as close to hands-on as you can with physical objects so you get the benefits of interacting with it. Also, being able to do things you couldn't normally do such as comparing two planets side by side according to scale."
As people get more comfortable with the technology, teachers will be able to make their own lessons and pupils will be able to contribute to a library of resources.
Woods says it is the early days of augmented reality but it has limitless potential.
"We are still figuring out the ways people will use the technology."
MindSpace's technology is being used in more than eight countries, including the United States, Australia, Mexico, Indonesia, Singapore and New Zealand.
Woods is confident of raising the $120,000 needed and hopes the campaign will not only bring in cash, but also feedback about the product. If successful, Imaginality could be in schools by the end of the year.