The Holodeck is the Ideal Classroom. The wallodeck is closer to reality.

I had never heard of this guy before, but he beat me to the point I want to make today, which is that the holodeck is the platonic ideal of the classroom. In the holodeck, anything is possible*, you can experience virtual reality with all of your senses, it is completely safe to experiment, you can pause, slow down or rewind your experience, and there is a nearly omniscient computer available to answer any question you might have (but it will only do so if you ask or get really badly stuck). You can be in the holodeck alone or with real or virtual companions. The holodeck is so amazing that I can see why it would coexist with a war-less future.

* although the interaction is rule-based, the rules can be different from the usual rules.

Is Microsoft building one? Maybe. Is the CAVE sort of like it?

I’m not sure the 3D-realistic-haptic experience is that close on the horizon. Short of the real deal, here is how I envision a physics education wallodeck (2D and not haptic) within the next 5-10 years with the aid of artificial intelligence. It would take place on a surface (just don’t say SMART board) and enable you to:

  • draw objects or write text, and it would recognize objects, text labels, and equations. Examples of research on this are the now-defunct Microsoft center at Brown U.  and pen-based interactions at ISUE by Joe LaViola (a former graduate of the Brown center). Try this fun handwriting to LaTeX converter, if that means anything to you. I am deliberately glossing over the issue of representing 3D objects in 2D for now.
  • assign rules to the objects you create such as: rigid-body, interacts with gravity, objects that collide with it lose 80% of their energy, has no surface friction, slightly magnetic, etc… thus you can “turn on time” and animate anything. Commercial solid modelers like SolidWorks and Autodesk Inventor already do this. Arriving HD for the iPad uses this kind of thing in a game environment. And PheT simulations do it for objects that are predetermined and physics-topical. NetLogo is an amazing tool for writing code to model very simple dynamical systems.
  • describe the system with equation models and the computer will correct you if you make a mistake (assuming you want this feature on). Solve for unknowns as physics practice. (cf. Andes tutor and other Intelligent Tutoring Systems or ITS)
  • create problems, share them, or solve problems created by anyone (cf. LONCAPA) or created on the fly by the wallodeck program, obviating the need for withholding publication of problems to prevent copying graded assignments.
  • know your skill level, what the holes in your knowledge are, how you stack up, and what are the best next moves to help you improve. This is where more machine learning, educational data mining, cognitive science, applied psychological measurement and ITS research fits in. The problem of assessment still looms large.

If you are an animator and are interested in animating this wallodeck concept collaboratively, get in touch with me!

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