Could 3D GPS Enable Game-like Situated Learning?

27 08 2007

GPS (the Global Positioning System) uses satellites to help users to navigate, with accuracy as good as half a metre or so. But while most of us are happy to have a simple 2D or “tilted” fake 3D GPS display to guide us, Asia is developing GPS systems that look more like first-person video games:

Provia A1 GPS Navigator by HTMS

If this technology becomes more widely available, it could be terrific for educators. Imagine being able to create virtual “learning checkpoints” which exist in a student’s GPS/cellphone/PDA that they can visit to “collect” learning experiences. These checkpoints could show up as different hovering icons in the 3D display, rather like this screenshot from Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, where an “enterable doorway” icon is shown behind the character:

A learner could physically walk around locating checkpoints, which could trigger all kinds of activities on their mobile device: for example, a video or animation (e.g. explaining a feature of their physical location), a link to an internet resource, a discussion (perhaps using video or audio), or an assessment. A learner could also simulate walking around physically – it would be just like walking around in a video game – to visit or preview some of these resources without actually being there.

Even more exciting: perhaps GPS units could also upload location data for each student involved in a particular learning stream , so that you could see the avatar of other learners physically or virtually visiting various checkpoints on your GPS simulation. If you were physically at a site with other learners, you could identify them from their avatar, and could have a real-life discussion about the location you’re visiting; if you’re visiting virtually, you could ask questions of real-life people, actually at the scene, who could upload their own images, videos, or comments from the site to help other learners.

Provia A1 GPS Navigator by HTMS

And unlike a video game, where you run around collecting fake points and accomplish made-up missions, imagine immersive, real-life games where students collect real and authentic learning towards actual qualifications… 🙂

Technabob via Gizmodo

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4 responses

27 08 2007

GPS would suit my real-life GTA lifestyle to a t 🙂

There’s also talk of a GPS add-on being developed for the PSP

27 08 2007
Leonard Low

Absolutely Col – I had you particularly in mind as I wrote this post. 🙂 LoL… The proposed GPS add-on for PSP looks like it’s going to be quite competitively priced, too… well worth a look-in!

29 08 2007
Wolf Luecker

Great ideas and very impressive technology. But when I think through the actual usage of it I’m struggling to see how this could work. Maybe I’m getting this all wrong, so please elaborate on your ideas further. This is where I get stuck:

You’re suggesting that for instance the learner would walk around a physical space, let’s say a historic place of interest, and has a mobile device with GPS and the necessary software to display the location in 3D.

But if they are already in the location, why would they need it to be displayed in 3D? I can see why a driver would need visual help if they’re entering a road system like the one in the promo picture, but the great thing about being in the location where you learn something is that you can actually take in the surroundings! The screen would just duplicate the environment they are in already. And if they’re not there, but in a virtual version of the space in which a 3D representation would be adding something – then they don’t need GPS tracking. The virtual space would just be map-based like any gaming environment.

All the benefits you’re describing (indicating ‘checkpoints’, serving of location-relevant content, collaboration with other users – virtual or in situ) are benefits of having a location-based service available, which is a fantastic way of creating and enhancing mobile learning experiences. But how the 3D-factor fits in with that I’m not sure. Of course it looks cool, but there’s no real need for it.

Am I barking up a wrong tree?


29 08 2007
Leonard Low

Thanks for your input Wolf. Really, my idea is a convergence of 3D gaming (“virtual reality”) with the real space – the GPS device becomes a representation of an augmented reality, a way of “seeing” objects that aren’t really there in real life, and a way of interacting virtually with people who aren’t physically present at a location, but are investigating it or learning about it at the same time as oneself.

If we take Second Life as an example of a “virtual world,” it enables people who are physically not in the same place to come together in a virtual – but imaginary – space.

What’s exciting about a 3D GPS system is that it effectively takes the concept of a virtual world futher, to become a virtual representation of the *real* world. It’s not really useful “studying” a bridge in Second Life for its construction methods or design, because you can make a bridge in a virtual world that can’t possibly be made in the real world.

But if there are a group of real students standing in front of a real bridge, and their location there can be pinpointed by the GPS systems they are carrying, then students who are not physically present can interact with real people standing at the real bridge. The real people could “see” those virtual students at the bridge using their 3D GPS systems, which would render an avatar of those students on screen at the location. The real students would also show up as avatars on screen, identifiable as being on-location.

Such a system would become the ultimate convergence of reality and virtuality. A person on the other side of the earth could request an image or video view of a particular feature of the bridge – perhaps a commemorative plaque with important historical information; or a picture of the rivets to see the joining methods used.

Yes – to some extent, existing 2D GPS technology could be used to simlate this learning activity. However, the interactive nature of such a system predisposes itself to an avatar-based interface, rather than “communicating” with a dot on a map!

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