Monday, July 26, 2010

Digital Immersive History Machine

I know, quite the title.  I just finished reading The Venetian Betrayal image by Steve Berry.  Woven into the story is an interesting history, some true and some dramatically altered, of Alexander the Great.  The author provides enough detail to stimulate your imagination so as to visualize the events, places, and people.  I love reading fiction where the author takes the time to research artifacts, buildings, places, events, and people and through carefully chosen words, brings them to life in my mind.

I remember learning history in school… boring!  I hated history.  Maybe it was because I had none myself.  Now in my 40’s, history really interests me.  It certainly doesn’t have to be dull and boring for kids though.  I think an inspired teacher can bring history to life for kids.  But, what if we had a machine that could help?

There’s a new show on TV called Caprica.  If you’ve watched the Battlestar Galactica series previously, you’ll know Caprica as the city planet where Battlestar Galactica begins after a nuclear war inflicted by the Cylons (in recent versions, human created artificial intelligent robots).  Anyway, in the new series “Caprica”, virtual reality has come of age.  People wear head gear that places them (their real life avatars) into a virtual world with each other.  The virtual world is very much real to the participants.  Whole historical cities have been created for people to experience real-time.  When you consider how far games like World of Warcraft (WoW) have come or virtual worlds like Second Life or Project Natal it doesn’t take much to imagine the virtual world capabilities of Caprica.  Add to that the advent of 3D TV’s and you can see the pieces begin to fall into place…

So, I wonder when might we see technology bring to life full digital immersive history?  I can see schools and Districts putting together virtual reality (VR) head gear one 2 one projects then moving quickly to personally owned gear (POG).  Student learning about our history will be fully experiential rather than boring text, static pictures, or made up movies.  Imagine how history could come to life for students and how they could participate as “real life” characters.  Perhaps they could reprogram history to test out alternative scenarios.  Wow!

I know, you’re thinking, “ya right, not in my life time”.  But, think about what has been invented in your life time or in recent time (landphone, TV, fax, computers (mainframe-mini-desktop-laptop-tablet-netbook), cell phone, cars (rich history here), PDA, iPod, iPad, 3D TV, jets, rockets, shuttles, Internet (1.0, 2.0), etc.  And think about how the invention cycle seems to be speeding up, perhaps exponentially.  What this means is the pace of the last 10 years of invention will occur in a much shorter time frame and it’s speeding up every year.  We will see amazing (impossible today) inventions in our time and I think K12 education systems will be huge beneficiaries of inventions like immersive virtual reality.  What do you think?  Possible?  Useful?