It's the end of the first day of the CES, the Consumer Electronics Show - THE show for anything electronics-related. It attracts around 300,000 people annually, the population of Cambridge as it happens. The show started last night with Steve Balmer, Microsoft CEO, given an opening keynote speech. Today I've attended a number of seminars around the use of IT in Higher Education as well as having a wander around some of the hundreds of stands. Here's a summary of things so far, some of it from an Ed-Tech angle.
Steve Balmer's opening Keynote
In his keynote Steve showcased a number of hardware and software initiatives, in particular the Xbox360 and the new Kinect addition. The combination of Xbox 360 and Kinect allows for the games console to effectively see the user, and a number of games are already out on the market. In many ways it's a next-generation idea to the Wii: the user is the controller, i.e. no hardware controllers are needed to manipulate the game. There are fitness games on the market already whereby the console shows you what you need to do, you copy it, and the Kinect sees you and gives you feedback. Dancing games also featured. It also allows the user to interact with non-games applications such as choosing audio and video files by waving at the console/Kinect combo.
Probably the most-hyped area of electronics in the run-up to the show has been tablets, and so it's no wonder that there are tablets of all sizes on display. These range from the prominent Samsung Galaxy tab to a whole host of no-name Asian manufacturers displaying tablets all way from mobile-phone to A4 sized. Most of them run Android while others run their own operating system. A handful bill themselves as ideal ebook readers, but basically it opens up choice to the customer. In the same way that you can buy TV sets in any size from handheld to so-big-you-need-a-new-living-room, the same will be the case for tablets within the next year or two. For publishers this means that they need to ensure that the content they produce is flexible and adaptive enough to suit a range of display mechanisms. Does this mean that pdf is out and HTML5 is in? Discuss.
Similar to tablets I've seen two two-screen devices, the Kno and the Acer Iconia. Both are billed as having been developed for the educational market as they allow for either viewing a book in a traditional manner (two pages displayed side-by-side), or else viewing the text on one screen and making notes on the other one either with a stylus or a virtual keyboard. I'm going to see if I can try both of them out; so far, my iPad virtual keyboard has convinced me that I still need a physical one. Let's see if either of these two devices do a better job of allowing me to input text via their virtual keyboards.
These are everywhere, again in all sizes. Most rely on the use of special glasses, and now deliver really excellent visual quality. Some render a 3D image without the use of special glasses but these, in my book, still leave a lot to be desired. You either have a good picture but have to sit in exactly one position, or else allow you to move around more, but then lack in quality. That will probably be improved on over the next 2 - 3 years though.
A while ago we came across Siftables - cubes that sense each other and then react to each other in different ways depending on what they've been programmed to do. At the time these were very much in the prototype stage but are now beginning to be commercialised by Sifteo. These could have a whole range of educational uses: each cube could contain a letter, and when put together to form words could give the user feedback (e.g. pronunciation modelling, correct/incorrect spelling). Each cube could contain a number or an operator, and users could practise arithmetic with them. This is one to watch and I'm hoping to get a trial set of cubes and work with Sifteo to produce some educational games.
This is probably the coolest thing I've seen here. It's basically a room with screens all around. The demo videos that run around you really make you feel like you're in a church, in an open field or wherever - very neat. I could see this being used in a whole variety of ways - taking a learner into space, inside a human body, inside molecules or atoms etc. Rendering such environments would be a bit of a job but the end result would be neat.
That's all for now, maybe more tomorrow!
Thoughts and links to articles about a variety of ICT and education-related topics. Where an article or resource is referred to in the header of a blog post please click the header to read the article.