Oct 29, 2011

Interactive Large Displays in Urban Spaces: Communicating Energy Usage through Duke Energy's "Smart Energy Now" Project

On October 28th, the Envision Charlotte project was launched during a celebration at Two Wells Fargo Plaza in uptown Charlotte.  As part of the celebration, interactive displays were turned on as part of an effort to establish Charlotte as the "most sustainable urban core in the country".  Although this is a lofty goal, it is important.

Although I am a little disappointed that I missed the  Envision Charlotte launch party,  I was happy to learn that I how interactive technology will play a role in helping people support the goals of Envision Charlotte and Duke Energy's Smart Energy Now campaign:

According to information from the Smart Energy NowSM blog,  large interactive display kiosks in urban spaces will encourage a large number of people to make simple changes in their daily work lives  by showing the correlation between their actions and energy consumption.  "The kiosks will be in approximately 70 buildings in uptown Charlotte. More than 80,000 employees will be able to visualize real-time energy usage as a single number — a number that could lead to real change in the way Uptown uses energy."  35 buildings were installed with 47-inch displays during the first phase of this endeavor, with more planned for the near future.

 It is possible that this effort might help to decrease energy use within the uptown business section by 20% over the next five years.

Video: Envision Charlotte-Uniting for a Sustainable City

I'll bring my video camera the next time I visit Uptown Charlotte to get a closer view of the interactive displays!

Uptown Workers to be key players in green initiative

The Smart Energy Now program sponsors are Cisco, Verizon, and Duke Energy.
Smart Energy Blog
Envision Charlotte

Oct 22, 2011

What would it be like if pens were "banned" from classrooms every Wednesday? Must-see video clip by Mick Waters, not just for teachers and students!

The Hello Foundation in the UK recently launched a "No Pens on Wednesday" campaign to encourage communication skills- speaking and listening, among primary school children. 

According to the Hello Foundation website, research indicates that the average length of a student's verbal response to a teacher's question is just four words!  Given the number of children in a classroom, there are limited opportunities for children to develop their communication skills through speaking and listening.  Classrooms that adopt the "No Pens Wednesday" will engage in activities such as vocabulary games, podcasting, and debating.  No written homework on Wednesday nights - instead, students will be assigned 'talk' activities.

To get a better understanding of this topic, take a look at the following video of Mick Waters discussing the rationale behind No Pens Wednesday.  (Also take a look at the full press release about this campaign, located at the end of this post.)

No Pens Wednesday

Press Release
More Schools Give Up Pens in the Classroom to Promote Listening and Talking
Communication Trust, 9/28/11

More and more schools are taking part each day this month in No Pens Day  ‐ a national initiative when pupils give up their pens to focus on speaking and listening instead of writing. The event is being orchestrated by The Communication Trust as part of the Hello campaign (national year of communication). 

Hundreds of schools across the country are taking part today (Wednesday 28 th September 2011) in the event, which has never happened in education before. At least another 200,000 pupils at a further 400 schools are expected to outlaw pens for a day before the end of October. 

Teachers at primary and secondary schools will be using lesson plans and activity templates developed by specialist teachers and speech and language therapists to conduct their lessons without pens. Classroom activities will include podcasting, maths games, debating, vocabulary games and ‘talk’ homework, all designed to highlight the importance of language for learning to pupils, parents, carers and school staff.     

Staff at one primary school in Newark, Nottinghamshire dressed up as aliens and invaded the school during morning assembly and stole the pens from everyone there. At another primary school in Covent Garden, London, staff built a large time machine in the school yard, and Community Support Police. Officers were involved to bring the event to life. At I CAN’s Dawn House School, a specialist school in Rainworth for pupils with speech language and communication needs, pupils communicated using Makaton sign language.   

To date, 500 primary schools, 100 secondary schools and 50 special schools have registered to take part in No Pens Day. In addition to this a hospital school, pupil referral unit and even a school in Indonesia will be taking part in the inaugural initiative.       

Jean Gross, the Government’s Communication Champion for children, said: “Not enough pupil talk goes on in Britain’s classrooms – most of it is teacher talk. What little research has been done on this aspect of classroom behaviour suggests that the average length of a pupil’s response to a teacher’s question is just four words. We want to see more priority being given to speaking and listening skills, because they directly underpin the ability to read and write. Thanks to everyone taking part in No Pens Day for embedding speaking and listening even further into their teaching.”     

Anita Kerwin‐Nye, Director of The Communication Trust, said; “For too long speech and language has existed in the shadow of reading and writing. As recent debates pose questions about what should teachers teach and children learn, we are calling on all schools to place an explicit and structured emphasis on speaking and listening approaches by taking part in No Pens Day. Our materials, lesson plans and resources give the children’s workforce the tools and strategies needed to support speaking and listening and importantly to improve their confidence.  

 “A classroom filled with lots of talk can feel a challenge for teachers, but the benefits for pupils are far reaching. We recognise that teachers do not currently receive a great deal of training in this area and it is a skill set in its own right to weave speaking and listening into all aspects of a lesson. Historically, ensuring all pupils become ‘articulate’ hasn’t been a duty on schools, but the government’s new professional standards for teachers have changed this, and we want teachers to be ready.”   

Schools taking part in No Pens Day are encouraged to give pupils opportunities to think by asking open questions, and to hold back on demonstrations or explanations until the ideas of pupils have been heard. Strategies include using the ’10 second rule’ where teachers wait ten seconds after asking a question before prompting pupils for an answer, and giving pupils opportunities to test out their ideas with a ‘talk partner’ or in a group. 

In the UK today, over 1 million children and young people have some form of speech, language and communication need (SLCN). Hello is the national year of communication – a campaign run by The Communication Trust and Communication Champion, Jean Gross, to make children and young people’s communication development a priority during 2011 and beyond.   

Hello, sponsored by BT and Pearson Assessment, provides information on typical communication development, how to spot if children are struggling and where to go for help and support. www.hello.org.uk 

For more information on No Pens Day and to be in touch with schools in your area which are participating, please contact Laura Smith, Media and Campaigns Manager, at the Communication Trust at ismith@thecommunicationtrust.org.uk or 020 7843 2519/07766651366 Pictures will also be available for use. 

About No Pens Day and the Hello campaign
• No Pens Day is backed by Jean Gross, the government’s Communication Champion for children, and other curriculum experts including Sir Jim Rose, Professor Andrew Pollard, Professor Robin Alexander and Professor Mick Waters. 
• No Pens Day is an initiative for the Hello campaign to tie into the September theme of ‘Back to School’.    
• To launch the month, The Times Educational Supplement (TES) ran a special 8 page Hello supplement with support from BT and the Communication Champion. This featured a number of schools that have developed effective strategies to develop their pupils' speech, language and communication skills.  This can be viewed here http://www.nxtbook.com/nxteu/tescreative/communicationstrust/   
• With the support of Hello sponsor Pearson Assessment, a range of Universally Speaking booklets have been developed for early years, primary (5‐11) and secondary (11‐18). These booklets are for anyone who works with children and young people and show where children should be with their communication skills at any given age. They help you find out if children are on track and what to do if you have concerns about any of their communication abilities. For more information, visit www.hello.org.uk/resources   
• Hello is the national year of communication – a campaign to increase understanding of how important it is for children and young people to develop good communication skills. 
• The campaign is run by The Communication Trust, a coalition of 40 leading voluntary sector organisations; in partnership with Jean Gross, the Government’s Communication Champion. Together we aim to make 2011 the year when children’s communication skills become a priority in schools and homes across the country. 
• The campaign is supported by BT and Pearson Assessment and is backed by the Department for Education and Department for Health. Please visit www.hello.org.uk for further information or to sign up for regular updates.

Make and Share Your Games Online! Update: Game Creator and the Cartoon Network Website

I came a cross the Cartoon Network's Game Creator website a couple of years ago and thought I'd take a look at how it has grown since my last peek.  If you are a kid, educator, or parent, take a look at the updated links below. 

As I mentioned in a previous post, some educators might frown upon games and cartoon-related content.  The combination of games + cartoons might not be so bad, especially when the activity is something that can be shared in a social context.  By participating in the creation of digital games, young people are provided with skills that might just entice them to consider learning more about STEM-related fields.  (STEM = Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math)

About Game Creator
According to the website, the Cartoon Network's Game Creator is "an application that gives you the power to create your own action games and share them with the world. It leads you through a simple, six-step process and gives you a set of easy-to-use tools to customize your game however you wish. When you finish building a game, you can send it to Cartoon Network's game gallery for other fans to play and rate. The gallery makes it easy for you to play other people's games, rate them, sort them and even share them with your friends."

Ben 10 Game Creator
Parent Information   (Ben 10 Game Creator Website)
Clone Wars Game Creator
Parent Information (Clone Wars Game Creator)
Batman Game Creator
Parent Information (Batman Game Creator)
Game Creator Central

Lynn Marentette, Interactive Multimedia Technology, 4/25/10
Lynn Marentette, Interactive Multimedia Technology, 7/13/09

MIXIT Video Creator  (Cartoon Network)
10 Truths About Books and What They Have to Do With Video Games
James Paul Gee, 5/15/11
"There are 10 key truths we know about books. They happen to be equally true of other "meaning making technologies" like television and video games. Thus, in these 10 ways, books and video games are the same." -James Paul Gee

Oct 20, 2011

T(ether): Next-Gen Data Gloves + iPad - just what I need for the colder weather! (quick post)

"T(ether) is a novel spatial aware display that supports intuitive interaction with volumetric data. The display acts as a window affording users a perspective view of three- dimensional data through tracking of head position and orientation. T(ether) creates a 1:1 mapping between real and virtual coordinate space allowing immersive exploration of the joint domain. Our system creates a shared workspace in which co-located or remote users can collaborate in both the real and virtual worlds. The system allows input through capacitive touch on the display and a motion-tracked glove. When placed behind the display, the user’s hand extends into the virtual world, enabling the user to interact with objects directly." -Vimeo

For more pictures and information, see the following post on the Creative Applications Network website: 
T(ether) [Cinder]
Filip Visnjic

Oct 16, 2011

GOOGLE LABS R.I.P.: My favorite thing about Google is GONE!

RIP GOOGLE LABS      : O     : <        :  (        :  {        :  \        :  [      

I visited Google Labs today and this is what I found:

Here are a few articles and posts about this topic:
Google Labs is Closing? That's Unthinkable - Whether or Not It's a Good Idea
Harry McCracken, Technologizer, 7/20/11
Google Labs shuts down, the end of an era
Ray Walters, ExremeTech, 10/14/11
Google's Clearout Sweeps Away Code Search 
Alex Armstrong, I Programmer, 10/16/11
Google takes the axe to Buzz and others, focuses on Google+
Meghan Kelly, SocialBeat 10/14/11
Why is Google Shuttering Google Labs?
John C. Dvorak, PC Magazine, 7/22/11
More Wood Behind Fewer Arrows
The Official Google Blog 7/20/11
Larry Page's Remarks

I was able to find some links to Google Code Labs at http://code.google.com/intl/en/labs/

Oct 12, 2011

RENCI Update: Combining Gaming and Visualization Technologies to Support Efficient and Effective Decision-Making

        RENCI stands for the Renaissance Computing Institute.  It is a multidisciplinary collaboration between UNC-Chapel Hill, Duke University, and North Carolina State University, with Engagement Sites at UNC Asheville, Duke University, Eastern Carolina University, North Carolina University, UNC Chapel Hill, UNC Charlotte, and the UNC Costal Studies Institute.  
        According to the mission statement, "RENCI develops and deploys advanced technologies to enable research discoveries and practical innovations."  Much of the work of RENCI focuses on large-scale information and data visualization.
        Why is this important?  It provides an effective visual-cognitive means of understanding complex data from a variety of disciplines, and also supports the collaboration of researchers across a variety of disciplines.   It has the potential to support larger-scale decision-making and problem-solving in our technology-dependent, interconnected world.  

Take a few minutes and explore what I've posted below:
Press release from RENCI about the interactive dome, pictured below (photo credit: RENCI-UNC Asheville):  "To understand human-induced global changes, there's no place like domeNancy Foltz, 10/12/11

RENCI: Gaming the Future
        The video below provides an overview of how innovative interactive visualization tools support decision-making across many disciplines.

RENCI: Unity 3D game engine to support immersive information visualization applications:

RENCI Situation Room Multi-touch Table, UNC-Charlotte:

RENCI pioneering the visualization industry with innovative interfaces
Tracy Boyer Clark, Innovative Interactivity (II), 2/8/10
RENCI Visualization Center Update
Lynn Marentette, Interactive Multimedia Technology, 2/9/10
RENCI Tutorial: "Beautiful Code, Compelling Evidence: Functional Programming for Information Visualization and Visual Analytics" (pdf)  J.R. Heard
RENCI: Data to Decisions
Recent Publications from RENCI:
Y. Xin, I. Baldine, A. Mandal, C. Heermann, J. Chase, and A. Yumerefendi. “Embedding Virtual Topologies in Networked Clouds.”The 6th International Conference on Future Internet Technologies (CFI). Seoul, Korean, June 2011 
Y. Xin, I. Baldine, J. Chase, T. Beyene, B. Parkhurst, and A. Chakrabortty. “Virtual Smart Grid Architecture and Control Framework.” 2nd IEEE International Conference on Smart Grid Communications (IEEE SmartGridComm), Brussels, Belgium, Oct. 2011 
X. Ju, H. Zhang, W. Zeng,M. Sridharan, J. Li, A. Arora, R. Ramnath, Y. Xin. “LENS: Resource Specification for Wireless Sensor Network Experimentation Infrastructures. ” The 6th International Workshop on Wireless Network Testbeds, Experimental Evaluation and Characterization (WinTECH), Las Vegas, Nevada, Sep. 2011
RENCI's Facebook Page
Twitter: @RENCI

Oct 11, 2011

Hacking Autism: Touch Technology for Young People with Autism Spectrum Disorders (October 11 is the Hackathon!)

October 11, 2011 is a special day. A number of software programmers will be working to develop "innovative, touch-enabled applications for the autism cimmunity and make this software available for free on HackingAutism.org." Take a moment to watch the following video clip, and then explore the Hacking Autism website!
"When touch-enabled computing was introduced to the world, no one could have anticipated that this technology might help open up a new world of communication, learning and social possibilities for autistic children. Yet it has. Hacking Autism is a story of technology and hope and the difference it's making in the lives of some people who need it most.Hacking Autism doesn't seek to cure autism, but rather it aims to facilitate and accelerate technology-based ideas to help give those with autism a voice." -hackingautism.org
Touch technology + people with autism spectrum disorders = 
One of the reasons why I returned to school to take computer courses and explore natural user interfaces and interaction.   

Interacting with HP TouchSmart Notes: Photo, Video, Audio and More
Interactive Visual Supports for Children with Autism:  Gillian Hayes' Work at the Social and Technology Action Research Group
Open Source Multi-touch Software for Young People with Autism
Interactive iPad Apps for Kids with Autism: Could some of these be transformed for multi-touch tabletop activities?
iPad Apps: Supporting Communication for Young People with Autism (links to Moms with Apps)
Reflections about interactivity in my present world (Aug. 2010)
Interactive Multi-touch for Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders: Research and Apps by Juan Paplo Hourcade, Thomas Hanson, and Natasha Bullock-Rest, University of Iowa
Open Autism Software "Where Social Skills and Interest in Computers Meet"
Sen H. Hirano, Michael T. Yeganyan, Gabriela Marcu, David H. Nguyen, Lou Anne Boyd, Gillian R. Hayes vSked: Evaluation of a System to Support Classroom Activities for Children with Autism. In CHI 2010 (Atlanta, GA, 2010).(pdf) Gillian R. Hayes, Sen Hirano, Gabriela 
Marcu, Mohamad Monibi, David H. Nguyen, and Michael Yeganyan. Interactive Visual Supports for Children with Autism. Personal and Ubiquitous Computing. April 2010. 
Monibi, M., Hayes, G.R. Mocotos: Mobile Communication Tools for Children with Special Needs. Proceedings of Interaction Design and Children, pages 121-124 ACM, 2008 
Hope Technology School
Do2Learn JobTips
Autism Research Group at Georgia Tech
Immersive Cocoon Interaction"  "It's people who are now the interface"
Today I hooked up a Will to the IWB in the school's therapy room.  Next, a Kinect? 
(IWBs + Games + Social Skills)

Oct 1, 2011

Stantum's Multi-Modal, Multi-Touch Technology: Looks Great for 21st Century Learners, Supports Creative, Collaborative Knowledge-Sharing

Not long a go I had the opportunity to participate in a phone conference with Guillaume Largillier, of Stantum,  to learn more about the company's work in developing multi-touch technology, and how this technology can support a wide range of uses.  

What is exciting is that the tablet technology was designed from the beginning with content-creation in mind, unlike the iPad and similar Android-based tablets.  Although Stantum's tablet technology supports  passive "entertainment" and Internet content viewing, it offers so much more.  

I agree with Guillaume that this technology will be ideal for use in education. It is ideal for 21st Century teaching and learning.   In the very near future,  I'm sure we'll see fewer students lugging heavy  backpacks as this technology transforms textbooks to multi-modal, interactive experience platforms!

Stantum' IVSM multi-touch technology (IVSM = Interpolated Voltage Sensing Matrix) enables 10 finger touches with stylus input.  The goal is to enable content creation via tablets, for educational and office settings. This technology provides reliable palm rejection and contact discrimination,  a useful feature for students or anyone else who might have the need for a versatile tablet.  A multi-touch tablet is demoed in the video below:

Intel-Quanta Redvale Tablet featuring Stantum's Digital Resistive Technology
Add Ambidexterity and Multi-modality to your Touch-enabled Devices
Guillaume Largillier, Electronic Design, 7/14/11
 "In South Korea, the government recently confirmed its plan to replace all printed textbooks nationwide by electronic counterparts by 2015, a move that will benefit from now available multi-touch technologies with precision and stylus input that enable handwriting recognition, making them especially suitable for products sold into Asian markets." 
About Guillaume Largillier:
"Guillaume Largillier’s background with the company includes seven years of entrepreneurship – co-founding JazzMutant and serving as CEO as it evolved into Stantum. Largillier has a broad knowledge of human-machine interface technologies, with strong expertise in multi-modal user interfaces. He has participated in major industry conferences (including SIGGRAPH, Microsoft Summit, SID Mobile Display Conference, Microsoft TechDays, and Interactive Displays Conference). Largillier earned an MA degree in audio-visual studies at the University of Bordeaux." -Stantum

Post: Multi-touch Update from Stantum
2010 Demo: MeeGo Tablet on Intel Moorestown 
Stantum's TouchPoints Newsletter (July 2011)
Stantum Whitepapers:
How to Evaluate Multi-Touch While Standing in a Store (pdf) - a great source of information.
Jim Meador, Pascal Auriel, Gauthier Chastan, Stantum
Specifying and Characterizing Tactile Performances for Multi-touch Panels: Toward a User-Centric Metrology (pdf) - outlines some important points!
Guillaume Largillier, Pascal Joguet, Cyril Recoquillon, Pascal Auriel, Axel Balley, Jim Meador, Julien Olivier, Gauthier Chastan