3D comes out of the box

I recently watched Jinha Lee’s Ted presentation entitled “Reach into the computer and grab a pixel”. The point of the video is to demonstrate how boundaries are being removed by computers to access 3D content outside of the computer.

In our writing and business, we have been discussing 3D technology for almost a decade and how it will impact learning, business, and social interaction just to name a few of the influences.  We have talked about how learning by doing would be accelerated by 3D environments, virtual worlds and the like.

We have witnessed a huge cognitive shift from feeling “present” on-line, to managing not only your attention, but other’s attention when using 3D environments, to getting data out of everything to stimulate our critical thinking in unprecedented ways.  We have witnessed and actively promote understanding avatar psychology in immersive information environments and using it to augment human communication.

And now as computing innovation begins to accelerate, we see the emergence of 3D outside of the box, in essence 3D objects that we can interact with in real time as Microsoft Research, MIT and Jinha Lee demonstrate in the video.

Without thinking about it too hard, the implications of these innovations will be a boon to STEM education.  Students will be able to experiment more by playing with the physics of an object.  They will be able to observe phenomena in controlled environments and ask questions that stimulate unbridled curiosity and interaction.

When Eddington wrote to Albert Einstein and asked him if he could explain why Mercury was behaving badly based on Newtonian explanations of the universe, this simple question became the “ah-ha” moment for Einstein.

Their correspondence about Einstein’s math and Eddington’s patriotic desire to confirm (or deny) Newtonian physics helped Einstein recognize that space had shapes, and that Mercury was responding to those shapes in explainable ways.  In answering Eddington’s question, Einstein confirmed that time was different for everyone.

Let’s fast forward that relationship to today.  Imagine the speed that correspondence could have happened today – not through World War I’s ravaged Europe postal system, but through email.

Now imagine the two of them appearing together in a virtual world to experiment with 20 million polygons that defined a virtual solar system.  Now image them feeding those shapes with big data streaming live from space.  And, finally imagine them reaching their hands into that space and spinning Mercury around on its axis, and reacting to its bending orbit — feeling the magnetic pulse.

This is a time in history, when 3D computing and inquiry are leap frogging us creating scientists out of everyone. With computing becoming so practical and inventive, and the physical and the virtual becoming so intertwined,  it’s hard to not believe we are at the brink of a new Renaissance in Understanding.

Watch for yourself and see if you have a similar reaction.


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