Microsoft’s Project Natal at E3 – Gestural Computing Again!

Microsoft’s research lab impressed the technorati with its E3 Xbox reveal of Project Natal & Milo. It debuted earlier today and presents so many interesting possibilities for a wide variety of applications that it is hard to know where to begin.

Since education seems a fruitful crossover application, imagine for a moment a perfectly programmed 4th grade math teacher with an AI engine that learns student weaknesses and can teach/tutor individuals privately based on perceived needs resulting from student/teacher interactions. The video makes a point of noting that the human interlocutor experiences immersion and steps into the simulated technological reality via the attached camera. From a phenomenological standpoint, this is a huge extension of the experience Heidegger termed being-in-the-world.

Entertainment Weekly’s John Young makes the following claim: “With inventions such as Natal, we’re quickly approaching a future in which humans can partake in a virtual experience that’s nearly indistinguishable from the real thing.” Though the Milo application is impressive, it cannot actually be confused or equivocated with the real. In brief, it lacks a textural element and the interaction does not seem spontaneous insofar as developers will constrain and control the possible sets of interactions.

Please do not misread my view. Gestural computing is a huge step in making the user experience more natural and less technological. To their credit Microsoft seems to have done a nice job of building in rich immersion for human/computer interaction. Nevertheless, we cannot discuss just any topic with Milo or ask him for random information. The possibilities are scripted in Milo’s database. His parameters are always defined and we cannot share spontaneous information that he does not already “understand” as a result of great AI programming. Milo is a very sweet, technologically impressive programmed boy, not at all easily confused with a real 10 year old.

See this impressive, but limited simulation for yourself:

Using Wolfram Alpha for Web 3.0

Wolfram Alpha is an interesting web 3.0 search engine. It can convert currency, provide statistics, recall historical information and provide quick answers to quirky questions on the fly. It also generates an easily downloadable PDF that contains the information retrieved for a particular search. This is a great tool for research or for illustrating complex concepts in the classroom.

OK, I know this sounds like cheerleading, but you just have to play with it to see how much fun it can be. Type in a term in the search box below or visit the examples page to see how robust this tool can be for the classroom.

Web 3.0 Tools and the Semantic Web

General Agenda:

  1. Using the calendar contact functions & options in AIP e-mail
  2. Using open source web tools (e.g., Wikis, Blogs, Google’s gadgets: Docs, Notebook, Scholar &
  3. Using Web 3.0 semantic web for enhancing classroom multimedia, networking and research (Ted Conferences, Twine, Twitter, iTunes, CurrentTV, Vimeo & You Tube)

Questions/Answers: 15 minutes

Semantic Web:

Web 3.0 is a term used to describe interactive/semantically organized applications that are used to generate/share content and connect users based on areas of mutual interest.  The founding web development organization defines it in the following way:

The Semantic Web provides a common framework that allows data to be shared and reused across application, enterprise, and community boundaries. It is a collaborative effort led by W3C with participation from a large number of researchers and industrial partners. It is based on the Resource Description Framework (RDF).”   (WC3)

Cloud Computing – ubiquitous data

This demonstration from the TED Conference (Technology, Entertainment, Design Feb 2009) illustrates the concept of pairing the semantic web with always on technology.

Web 2.0/3.0 Interactive Ingredients/Tools:


  1. 2.0: Tools that allow for information sharing – open source web tools (e.g., Wikis, Blogs, Google’s gadgets: Docs, Notebook, Scholar &
  2. Tools that allow us to interact in real-time/share information (Web 3.0 semantic web) for enhancing classroom multimedia, networking and research (Ted Conferences, Twine, Twitter, Monitter, Skype, iTunes, CurrentTV, Vimeo & You Tube)>