Blog Post

CAVE Technology: The Future of Education?

Reblog from: February 18th, 2007:

CAVE technology is really interesting! I first learned about it while at the SC06 High Performance Computing Learning & Physical Challenged Education Program (LPCE). At the Intel/Microsoft gathering, many people who would probably never cross paths such as everyday teachers and brilliant computer scientists from all over the world (many of whom are downright geniuses) got to talk and bowl. That's whats so great about the International Supercomputing Conference. Anyhow, I was talking with one of the computer scientists there by the name of Florian Urmetzer and he was telling me about his research at the University of Reading in the UK.

I was particularly interested in CAVE technology, because at the LPCE program we were learning more about simulation, visualization, and of course supercomputing. When he told me about CAVE technology I set out to learn more so that I can share it with my fellow K-12 teachers and here's what I've learned so far. CAVE stands for Cave Automated Virtual Environment. A CAVE is a 3D visual computing environment that recreates space and allows the educator or researcher to interact and visualize complex shapes in an interactive 3D environment. It is a multi-person, room-sized, high-resolution 3D video and audio environment. my mind, for me to get some of the technology that the computer scientists are talking about I have to reference back to Star Trek...thus, to sum it's similar but not quiet yet like the holodeck on Star Trek. But with Moore's Law of Accelerated Returns that Kurzweil was telling us future grandkids will be attending school in a CAVE....with a CAVE teacher! It's intriguing to think about.  

CAVE technology is already being used by many advertisers to study products and it can hold so much potential for education. CAVE technology has already been used to model functional genomics. Think of the possibilities for students with special needs. For example, though a child may not be able to walk in reality due to a physical impairment, he or she may be able to virtually and feel the sensations of walking, biking, or riding a horse on the beach within the CAVE. Think of how wonderful this could be.

Moreover, let's look at brain development. Wonder with me, if you will. Does virtual simulation produce the same neurotransmitters when a virtual action is taken as when an action in reality is taken? And will educators eventually work hand-in-hand with physicians and computer scientists to tailor simulations to target brain development in areas that may need stimulation for students with special needs (e.g. underdeveloped areas of the linguistic system or help in GABA regulation for students with autism to deter stemming)? Can virtual simulations create new neural pathways based on experiences that aren't "real" so to speak? In other words, can we trick the brain? There are many scenarios that can play out. With that, it is also my contention that CAVE technology will eventually taunt the same philosophical questions as in Plato's Republic and the allegory of the cave. Our very notions of perception, reality, shadow and illusion will certainly come into play. The perils and possibilties are endless...but something worthy for educators to consider.


From Plato's Republic:    

"Any one who has common sense will remember that the bewilderments of the eyes are of two kinds, and arise from two causes, either from coming out of the light or from going into the light, which is true of the mind's eye; and he who remembers this when he sees any one whose vision is perplexed and weak, will not be too ready to laugh; he will first ask whether that soul of man has come out of the brighter life, and is unable to see because unaccustomed to the dark, or having turned from darkness to the day is dazzled by excess of light. And he will count the one happy in his condition and state of being, and he will pity the other; or, if he have a mind to laugh at the soul which comes from below into the light, there will be more reason in this than in the laugh which greets him who returns from above out of the light into the den. That, he said, is a very just distinction.

But then, if I am right, certain professors of education must be wrong when they say that they can put a knowledge into the soul which was not there before, like sight into blind eyes.

They undoubtedly say this, he replied.

Whereas our argument shows that the power and capacity of learning exists in the soul already; and that just as the eye was unable to turn from darkness to light without the whole body, so too the instrument of knowledge can only by the movement of the whole soul be turned from the world of becoming into that of being, and learn by degrees to endure the sight of being and of the brightest and best of being, or in other words, of the good."

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