Jisc’s programme director Matthew Dovey and Jisc RSC’s e-learning advisor Judy Bloxham found that this was also the year when some recent technologies found themselves with practical applications.
Reality – only more so
Augmented Reality (AR) is a familiar concept, and we’re pleased to see that new uses for it are bringing successes in terms of student engagement and institutional effectiveness.
We saw how Kendal College has followed up on last year’s innovative AR prospectus with a new, improved version that enables students to speak out from the pages to prospective students and their parents, and also made teaching resources for plumbing students available via AR.
South Staffordshire College is another at which AR has been embraced enthusiastically across the disciplines. For trainee bricklayers, AR demonstrations of how to break a brick correctly has meant that 90% can now do it right first time, compared with just 40% before.
Recent excitement over Google Glass suggests how far AR may go in the very near future, so this is definitely one to keep watching.
Making ‘Bring Your Own Device’ safer
It’s cheaper for colleges and universities to allow students and teachers to use their own devices, and individuals often prefer it, too. But it’s a strategy that exposes institutions to significant risks if their networks are used inappropriately.
At Bett, mobile device management was a hot topic. Services such as AirWatch offer institutional managers a practical way to ensure their networks can support a wide variety of approved devices and authenticate their users, enabling tracking of what is being done on the networks – when, and by whom.
Robbie the Robot comes of age
This is the year when friendly, engaging robots have finally made it out of the pages of science fiction. You’d be hard-pressed not to stop and watch the programmable, human-like NAO Next Generation robots at Bett. In addition to having a wide range of movements, they can speak, react to what you say back, recognise faces and objects and adjust to changes in their environment.
NAO robots offer a platform to help teachers and learners keep up to date with new developments in programming and research, and provide hands-on programming experience that is fun, fresh and fosters teamwork and problem-solving skills. If you don’t think robots can be fun, watch the clip…
3D gets practical
3D scanning and printing are already revolutionising the way we make functional 3D models and now, if you don’t want to go down the route of building your own using open source technology, there are commercially produced ones that start at under £1,000. Take a look at the Kinecting up the Past project that makes use of the Microsoft Kinect device to make it easy to capture 3D objects and environments such as caves.
And imagine the possibilities for fresh insight that could be opened up by a device that effortlessly records in 2D or 3D while you are watching out in the field – for example, if you were studying birds or insects in flight. Sony Desk 5 digital recording binoculars allow you to watch and record simultaneously.
Or how about a 3D mouse, that has obvious applications in building and product design, where it helps to facilitate 3D modelling, or enables you to do a virtual‘walk-through’?
And since Bett, there has been the promise of a transparent computer that will – eventually – allow users to reach inside and touch digital content, though that’s about a decade away.
Speech recognition takes the drudgery out of recording meetings
Speech recognition and high quality audio recording technology are coming together to make it easier to track who says what, and who to, in meetings and conference calls. One example is Microcone, a multichannel USB microphone array that can detect and track multiple voices to create a good quality meeting record – apps that accompany it can help you to record, tag and recall meetings, and can be used in Skype calls so it is easy to identify who is speaking at any given moment.
Working along a similar theme, there’s Livescribe, which captures handwriting and records meetings, and enables the data to be uploaded to evernote via wifi.
Both have obvious immediate uses in meetings and tutorial groups, and could also have benefits for students studying via distance learning or working in environments such as chemistry labs, which are not friendly to PCs or notebooks.
Near field communications (NFC) is the technology that enables card-free payment for goods and services – just wave your smart phone in front of the terminal, and the transaction completes. That’s a common application in colleges in the US, and in the UK we’re working with institutions on projects that are using NFC as a fast, efficient way to share information around the campus.
All the signs from tech companies are that NFC is finding lots of new uses – the Museum of London, for example, is using it to provide a more interactive experience of its exhibits and to offer vouchers. One suggested at Bett is likely
to be popular with students – NFC makes it possible for people to share meeting notes or other data simply by tapping their smartphones together.
This article originally featured in issue 36 of Jisc Inform (UK web archive).