Fresh & New(er)

discussion of issues around digital media and museums by Seb Chan

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Some new technologies talked about at the Horizon.au Inaugural Meeting – July 2008

July 10th, 2008 by Seb Chan

It has been an interesting day down in Melbourne brainstorming many of the technologies that might impact on the higher education sector in the next 5 years. This brainstorming is forming the basis of the upcoming Horizon.Au Report – a version of the Horizon Report tailored specifically for the Australian and New Zealand community.

The North American 2008 report is available from Horizon, and there is a special Museums Report coming very very soon too.

The standard discussions around cloud computing, APIs, data sharing, participatory learning, open education licensing and many other things have been discussed so I’m just going to blog a couple of really exciting technologies I’ve become aware of through today rather than anything else. With such a diverse group of people here it has been exciting to hear about some of the things that institutions are experimenting with or planning to in the near future. The full report is being developed and will be out later this year.

One thing to note with these reports is that I learned that they try to describe the technologies that ‘jump the chasm’ from niche uptake (under 16% target population usage) to mainstream uptake – rather than those that are current niche (educational virtual worlds) or already mainstream activities (such as YouTube style video).

Here’s some of the cool things that have come up so far.

Camspace – use your webcam so that anything you hold in you hand becomes a WiiMote-style controller for any game!

LiveScribe – ‘computational paper’, or in other words a pen device that not only audio records your notes but also video captures them. It can even be used as an interface device – draw a calculator on paper and it becomes a real calculator. Draw an envelope on paper and write an email address to create an email to that person.

Buttons – an art project from a little while back that is a camera that shows you photos taken by other people (in Flickr) at the time you press the shutter (rather than taking a photo of the scene you are viewing). Extending this to geo-spatial, it would become possible to see the scene you are seeing as others have previously ‘seen it’.

Exposure – Similar to Buttons but available as one of the first iPhone applications. Exposure talks about a feature called ‘Near Me’ which shows you other people’s photos from near where you are taking a photo. Not only does this help you take better photos, learning from others, but also, means you can avoid taking the ‘tourist’ snap.

Possibly more to come.

Tags: 3 Comments

  • lyndak

    Seb, these are really cool apps. My question tho is what is this sector/group doing about changing attitudes and work practices of academics to actually use these technologies with their students or at least to understand this new world that operates with fewer rules coupled with rapid feedback mechanisms??

  • Seb Chan

    The actual report is aimed at the upper levels of higher ed and is about awareness raising of trends that are already unevenly distributed through a number of universities and also unevenly distributed within those universities as well.

    As an example – there are already apparently 16 out of 40 Australian universities with a presence in Second Life. Does that mean every student or class is using it? No. Does it mean it is now mainstream? No. But it does show that some sections of some universities are exploring the possibilities and this exploration alone is interesting.

    The forthcoming Horizon Museums Report does much the same – identifies in language that CEOs/Directors/Executives can (hopefully) understand – some of the important developing trends that they need to be aware of in technology that are shaping the sector. Some of them will become mainstream, others won’t.

    “fewer rules and rapid feedback”

    I’m not sure that the ‘new world’ you describe is as evenly distributed as it needs to be yet.

    The ABS data reveals that we still only have about 65% of Australian households with a home internet connection (ABS 2007). Now whilst some who don;t have a home connection will access the Internet in other places (work, libraries, possibly mobile etc) it does mean that there are some assumptions that we make that can’t be generalised too much.

    Of course, possible segmentation of this ABS data will likely reveal that a greater percentage of household with school-age children have a home internet connection . . .

  • … a greater percentage of household with school-age children have a home internet connection …

    And that connection is likely to be a broadband connection where it is available, for those that can afford it. Unfortunately, that cuts out most of regional Australia and a surprisingly large fringe of the metropolitan areas, too. I recently found out that Avalon, a new suburb on the edge of Melbourne, doesn’t have broadband, for example.

    Without broadband, people might be able to get wireless connectivity via the mobile phone network. This still cuts out rural Australia, but it at least covers most regional towns to some extent. Of course then the price problems become acute.

    One day it will all be different, but I don’t see that day coming soon. Currently we (as a nation) cannot agree on the requirements for providing a tender for national broadband coverage, much less providing the coverage itself. In the past, states have worked hard to connect rural schools via satellite dishes and other exotic solutions. However, due to lack of training, understanding and perceived need, a lot of the dishes have ended up as very good nesting places for birds, and not much else, as far as I am aware.

    I only mention this because Powerhouse has a strong presence around regional New South Wales and the technologies you mention need a good, fast connection.