Mixed Reality State as metaphor

Back in 2007, Hübler and Gintautas published a paper (also in 2008) on an experiment that I think is fascinating: they coupled a real pendulum to a virtual pendulum and created what they called a mixed reality state.

You probably know what a real pendulum is and can imagine two of them connected somehow by a spring or a string in such a way that the two motions affect each other. Ok, here is help: despite Wikipedia, do not confuse two coupled pendulums

with a double pendulum

Now imagine simulating a pendulum on a computer using Newtonian mechanics and animating it subject to some initial conditions and/or a driving force. What Hübler and Gintautas did was physically couple the two types of pendulum, so that the virtual pendulum receives digital feedback about the position of the real one and the real pendulum received physical feedback depending on the position of the virtual one. This is not a diagram of what they did, but merely an artist’s conception:

Far as I can tell, this work has not triggered a cascade of related research, but I like the idea as a metaphor for use of educational technology and even more broadly for the integration of technology in many aspects of our lives.

Blended learning environments refer to the combined use of online and mobile computer technology with hands-on, peer-to-peer and instructor-guided classwork. Ideally these modes are not independent but coupled. The student receives information and feedback from both physical and virtual learning environments, and both environments respond to the student’s changes. A mixed reality state.

Some critics have imagined online learning as a sad and lonely substitute for social learning in groups. But online social networks and discussion groups suggest other possibilities; in fact they are becoming the subject of intense research on human dynamics. Most of us are responding to feedback from physical and virtual sources everyday through actions we take in the physical and virtual world. Forget the yellow submarine; we all live in a mixed reality state.


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