Choosing a platform

One conundrum for a technology educator is developing for tomorrow while living in today. It doesn’t make a lot of sense, in our rapidly changing landscape, to develop technology applications for today – we must try to be one step ahead of the curve in order to have any lifetime at all to our products. But how do you test with a group beyond early adopters (who tend to be of a particular socio-economic, and probably other, demographic) to get a product that will be ready for all when their time comes?

I dunno. Sorry if you were expecting a brilliant answer to that question. What I do know is that, for me, it is much more fun and challenging to look forward to new technologies and think how they will shape learning in the future than constantly feeling liking I am retrofitting.

So in that spirit, I am dying to play with a headset my colleagues, Jamie and Teon, picked up at the GDC expo last week. It is a MindWave headset that one can use to control applications on a Mac and PC, using EEG devices that can measure multiple states of emotion simultaneously. Developers have started creating games and educational applications that are driven by this interface. Players try to control their states of relaxation and emotions to make game objects on the screen move, change direction, jump, and other actions. The player is using their emotions to guide their on-screen character. These technologies are just emerging, and are likely faulty in some ways, and are certainly unproven.

This reminds me, however, of the first time I saw Kinect – then called project natal introduced by Jaron Lanier from MS. Several years ago at Games4Change he talked about haptic learning. I remember him saying that when playing the piano, occasionally his fingers play something beautiful that his mind had not known was there. I thought about my adult career as a not-very-good soccer player. The reason I played defense, and not striker, is because when I got control of the ball I thought about it. My teammates teased me that they could watch me calculating a trajectory when I got the ball and they’d yell “just shoot!” I never played soccer as a child – it was not in my muscle memory, it was not part of my haptic knowledge. I am the even worse with a game controller see (earlier post). But when I saw Kinect I saw not only how I could interface with games in an easier way, but how interfacing with games could provide an entirely new way to approach learning. 

The MindWave headset is another leap. If emotional states are used as tools for powering movement on the screen or eventually any kind of electronic activity, that affordance can be leveraged for offering new ways of learning. 

I don’t know what that even means yet – that is why it is so exciting to me. But I can envision all kinds of doors for people of so many ranges of physical and emotional abilities and goals. Wow.



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