Thursday, October 16, 2008

EffectiveUI offers 360-degree video apps

EffectiveUI offers 360-degree video apps

This review of EffectiveUI got me re-thinking about the future of CALL. Virtual reality worlds (MUVEs), such as SecondLife, has so much potential, but they have had so much potential for many, many years in one form or another. They have never broken through into truly useful tools for your average classroom teacher to utilize.

One problem is still that development is so difficult. I know that many might argue that developing in SL is relatively easy and they anyone can learn, but that is exactly the problem. People need to be able to do, not learn. I consider myself rather tech capable in many areas, but all of my attempts at development in SL have been complete failures.

There are many great projects in SL, but these don't even come close to offering good coverage for classrooms. They can be great activities, but that seems like a lot of effort (both on the class and developer sides) for isolated activities. I have seen some great lessonplans for use in SL, but they all seem to be reaching a bit.

What a computer program can piece together videos and pictures of places, procedures, and so forth and create the environment for you? That is essentially what EffectiveIU, Google Street View, and others are doing right now. In addition, these can then be augmented by creating hotspots, overlays, avatars, and other real/virtual enhancements. Take this a step further and it can be done realtime (as in virtual, realtime participation in meetings/classes) by powerful servers in the cloud. Client-side requirements are about the same as streaming video, which, with 3G and upcoming 4G solutions here and on the horizon, can be done on pocket-side mobile units (previously known as cellphones :)

In this view, development is as easy as taking a video (with your mobile phone or higher quality unit) or even with UCC videos and pictures available on the Web (Creative Commons of course) for basic design. Advanced design will still probably be out of reach of teachers, but they could do an amazing amount of work with the basics.

The beauty of this is that there is an amazing amount of both direct and indirect crowdsourcing. Every tourist, hotelier, businessperson, and advertiser will contribute to these spaces. Basic designs will get more complex/detailed as more images are added to the environment and as more people develop for the space. That which used to require hours and hours of animation work can largely be done quickly and by amatures with cheap, readily available video cameras.

I would have thought this science fiction just a couple years ago, but now I see it beginning to happen. Faster computers, faster data transfer, and faster software development make it likely that we will see many more movements in this area. Before long, I'll be virtually ringing your doorbell and coming in for a coffee in Chicago, while actually commuting to work in Seoul.

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