Developing a SixthSense for Mobile Learning

I recently wrote about Augmented Reality (AR) and some intriguing possibilities in mobile learning. Some folks at MIT are working on a technology that could have dramatic implications for mobile learning and information retrieval.

They call it SixthSense.

Demoed in a TED presentation Pranav Mistry has created an inexpensive wearable system that can project information about real world objects onto any surface. While most current AR implementations require you to pull out your phone, or wear a Heads Up Display (HUD) device, Mistry’s invention is worn around the neck and thus always accessible.  The implications of this really have to be seen to grasp the possibilities.

The real magic of the system however is in the programming that allows you to interact with real world objects. Imagine this type of device being used in a manufacturing facility or lab. Since it’s a personal device, it will know who you are. As you approach a piece of machinery it could instantly access your records and note that it had been 6 months since you last worked on this type of equipment and offer a quick refresher training. Or perhaps, since it would know if you were a new employee, provide a just in time briefing on its safe operation.

I also can imagine it being very useful for teamwork and collaboration. I know many of my best ideas have been sketched out on the back of a napkin while at lunch with a client. With SixthSense we could easily turn the entire table into an instant whiteboard to share and capture our ideas.

I believe that developments like SixthSense, and other Augmented Reality options for accessing information at the point of need, will accelerate the move from training by courses to discrete just-in-time learning experiences. For years authors have been writing about the need to be a life-long learner in the rapidly changing work environment. When technologies like SixthSense become ubiquitous, I don’t know that we will be talking anymore about life-long learning. The distinction between doing and learning will disappear, as the doing becomes the learning.

What do you think?

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