Google Goggles will rock m-learning.

8 12 2009

Back in 2006, I made some predictions about where mobile learning might be heading, including the use of augmented reality or “Heads Up” data displays to provide information on a learner’s environment and allow learning “in situ,”.  Augmented reality has recently really taken off during 2009, with a number of apps on various GPS-enabled mobile phones (notably the iPhone) providing information layered over a camera view of the world; one example of this is the Layar application.

I also predicted the use of image recognition that would effectively enable “visual searches” of objects and images in the real world (and indeed, I reiterated this belief in a comment just yesterday on Stephen Downes’ blog).  Want to know more information on that bridge over there?  No worries!  Just point your camera at it, and image recognition will provide some suggestions on appropriate websites to look at.

When I blogged that idea, however, I’m not sure I expected this technology to actually become available quite so fast.  Today, Google announced a new beta application they’ve coined “Google Goggles“.  And guess what?  Their concept illustrations even features a bridge as the subject of their illustrated example – even if it is an American one rather than an Australian one. 🙂


The official Google site for the project (which is still in development) provides a number of ways Goggles can be used to accomplish a “visual search”, including landmarks, books, contact information, artwork, places, logos, and even wine labels (which I anticipate could go much further, to cover product packaging more broadly).

So why is this a significant development for m-learning?  Because this innovation will enable learners to “explore” the physical world without assuming any prior knowledge.  If you know absolutely nothing about an object, Goggles will provide you with a start.  Here’s an example: you’re studying industrial design, and you happen to spot a rather nicely-designed chair.  However, there’s no information on the chair about who designed it.  How do you find out some information about the chair, which you’d like to note as an influence in your own designs?  A textual search is useless, but a visual search would allow you to take a photo of the chair and let Google’s servers offer some suggestions about who might have manufactured, designed, or sold it.  Ditto unusual insects, species of tree, graphic designs, sculptures, or whatever you might happen to by interested in learning.

Just watch this space.  I think Google Goggles is going to rock m-learning…

(via Mobility Site)

Using Animoto to create short videos for mobile

5 12 2007

Animoto is an online site that will automatically analyse your images and music, and then composite them for you into a dynamic video with professional transitions and effects. It supports direct retrieval from other social web tools such as Facebook, Picasa or Flickr, so if you’ve already uploaded your photos, there’s no need to find and upload them again.

The results are stunning – the site has been created by professional video producers, and the transitions are timed nicely with the mood, tempo and beat of each musical accompaniment. Here’s a demonstration of what is produced – this example was put together on-the-fly at a live event, so it’s a good example of what can be done in very little time and without much effort: – a video of photos from the E-Learning 07 event held earlier this year at the University of NSW, created by Jo Kay:

[kml_flashembed movie="" width="449" height="315" wmode="transparent" /]

(Alternate link:

You can make unlimited videos, but with a free account you’re limited to 30 second videos. You can pay for a premium access ($3 per video or $30 per year) and Animoto will generate unlimited-length videos.

The thing is, the best videos on mobile devices are high-impact, short ones! If you or your learners are creating content for mobile devices, 30 seconds is perfect (though I can see myself getting a premium account so I can use this as a presentation tool!). Short videos are engaging to watch on mobile devices, and can be quickly shared or downloaded; and the developers of Animoto are currently working on tools to allow users to download videos directly to mobile devices such as mobile phones an iPods (both “coming soon” according to their FAQs).

This would work really well as a tool for generating learner-created content. Imagine a construction student tasked with creating an item for their e-portfolio, or to start off a class presentation. They may not (and probably do not) have any idea how to put together a video (even if you give them a free video editor). But they probably DO know how to take photos and upload files – which is all they have to do to use Animoto. Because the site does the compositing for them, they don’t need to know video editing to create a terrific presentation or portfolio piece, that they can then take around with them on their mobile phone, USB memory stick or media player.

This is a really cool tool for mobile learning!

(Props to Harriet for sharing!)

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Mobile Blogging + GPS data = Locoblog

13 08 2007

LocoBlog Homepage

Further extending the concept of blogging beyond blogging mobile-ly (moblogging), Locoblog automatically uses embedded GPS data in uploaded images to associate each image with a location as soon as it is uploaded; these locations are then viewable on a Google Maps map embedded in a viewer’s web browser, where they can be browsed sequentially or visually (using the map).

It’s a pretty neat concept, although I’d like to see several few features added to make it a really *great* tool:

  1. The ability to add text to an uploaded image to provide commentary and context for the images
  2. The ability to add a textual description and sample image for each “journey” and display these chonologically, to allow the various journeys to be browsed like blog posts
  3. The ability to either personalise the presentation and content of each blog; or syndicate/embed the locoblog content in another, customisable blog (e.g. WordPress).
  4. RSS Syndication for each blog.

Despite having some limitations, it’s worth checking out if you have a GPS-enabled mobile or an external Bluetooth GPS receiver.

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Trying out Global Positioning Systems (GPS) for M-Learning

7 08 2007

Global Positioning Systems, or GPS, provide a means of determining a person’s location and altitude on earth to within a metre or so. They are commonly used in car navigation systems to allow the driver to receive instructions to a location, but they have other applications which are being pursued by other mobile device manufacturers such as camera makers (to enable photos to be tagged with location data about where the image was taken) and mobile phone manufactuers.

Nokia, in particular, has recently invested millions of dollars in GPS research as well as buying a number of companies associated with GPS technologies, and have started introducing GPS as a built-in feature in some of their handsets.

I recently acquired a Nokia 6110 Navigator – a slim slider phone with a large screen and built-in 2 megapixel digital camera – for free, when I renewed my A$49-a-month Optus contract, and having now used it for a month or so, it’s probably the best phone I’ve owned for years. This handset features a built-in GPS receiver, which allows me to get free voice directions when I’m driving, cycling, or walking around, as well as a full visual map display. It’s as good as many dedicated in-car GPS systems I’ve played with.

Nokia 6110 Navigator (slide open)___Nokia 6110 Navigator

Because the GPS is built on the Symbian Operating System used in most Nokias, the GPS can also be extended to work with third-party applications… and this is where it starts to get interesting for m-learning. Applications can be developed for this phone which utilise the GPS system for recording location data.

One application I’ve played with is Sports Tracker, a free application from Nokia Research Labs. This allows me to record my workouts – walking, cycling, skiing or jogging, for example – and analyse the data later. The application also displays real-time performance graphs, such as my speed at various points in the route, in both numerical and graphical form. This requires surprisingly little memory to accomplish; a 1-hour session takes only 45kB of data to record on my phone.

SportsTracker___Tracking my journey

An application like this would be immediately useful for learners in any field where analysing location, speed, or altitude over time would be useful; those involved in the Sports/Fitness industries, aviation, or delivery services, for example.

What makes the application even more useful, however, is that the data can be exported in various formats, including the industry-standard GPX format. This means that I can use the GPS data to accurately determine exactly where media I create has been created. For example, using the free progam GPicSync, from Google, I can determine the locations of my photos along my route, and view the context of the images using Google Earth‘s 2D and 3D views, which allow panning, zooming, and rotation.

This application makes GPS useful for many other areas of learning, including sciences such as forestry, botany, zoology, biology, environmental science and forensics; as well as some you might not immediately think of such as marketing and advertising (taking pictures of advertisements and their locations), architecture, and logistics.

2D view in Google Earth, showing my walking route and the locations of the photos I took. Other data can be superimposed such as roads, points of interest, and other locations in Google Earth:

2D view in Google Earth

3D view in Google Earth. 3D is activated using the controls visible in the top right corner of this image. You can pan, zoom, and rotate the image to see “around” 3D objects.

3D view in Google Earth___View can be Rotated and Zoomed

If a number of photos are taken in one location (or close to each other) they can overlap; Google Earth “splits” these when you click on the overlapping icons to make selecting the phto you’re interested in easy:

Handling of Overlapping Photo Icons

Clicking on a photo icon brings up a view of the photo taken at a location:

Viewing images in Google Earth

Update: You can now download a demo of a Google Earth KML file with GPS-tagged photos in my file-sharing box in the right margin: the file is called “Mogo Zoo Google Earth”

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Taking better pictures with camera phones

15 03 2007

Flickr’s camera analysis pages (which uses embedded EXIF information from uploaded images to determine which devices users are taking photos with) have documented the surge in popularity of camera phones.  Camera phones are rapidly improving in quality and functionality, and their ubiquity and capability are making them a popular device for capturing images, even amongst dedicated media afficionados.

In m-learning, camera phones provide a ubiquitous tool for capturing, sharing, and reflecting on learning experiences, using web 2.0 tools such as moblogs.  They can be used to capture images or video for assessment purposes, or, beyond photography, camera phones can be used to access information and resources through 2D barcodes.

That’s why this article on taking better pictures with a camera phone, is useful for educators interested in utilising camera phones as a learning approach.  Passing these ideas on to learners could help them to maximise the quality of the photos they take using the cameras they’re already carrying around in their pockets.  In summary:

  • use well-lit subjects;
  • get in close;
  • keep the phone still;
  • take the best image first, and edit with special effects later;
  • don’t throw away “mistakes”;
  • avoid using digital zoom;
  • experiment with White balance;
  • take loads of shots and experiments;
  • follow rules of composition – and then break them;
  • keep your lens clean;
  • observe camera phone ettiquette;
  • rename your images; and
  • use the highest available resolution on your camera phone.

Read more at the main article here.


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Cringeworthy Reporting eclipses Decent Product: Aussie Invented iPods in Education? iPod holds State Library?

22 02 2007

In this video clip (30 October 2006), Geoff Elwood of a company called E-Tech appears to accept the credit for inventing the use of iPods as a learning tool. It seems that his company has been working with a group of year 8 students at Heathmont College since late last year, but has also previously beein involved with this kind of technology overseas.

At 3mins 20secs of this footage, Elwood says “thank you” for being called the “inventor” of this “Australian technology”. It almost sounds like he’s taking credit for inventing the use of iPods in schools – though perhaps he really means to take credit for the Studywiz software created by E-Tech that is behind the Victorian implementation. It’s unlikely that anyone (except perhaps Blackboard) would have the audacity to claim “inventing” iPods in education when there are considerably more mature iPod supported programs at a number of educational institutions around the world. For example, several earlier projects of a similar nature are mentioned on Apple’s own iPods in Education page, such as Duke University, since 2004 – not to mention several years of commentary and use of iPods by other educators.

In another clip reporting the Studywiz project in Victoria, there are some unfortunately misguided thoughts on how iPods will “replace” books, as well as an alarming statement that an iPod could store every book in the Victorian State Library. What… er… including diagrams and illustrations? In 80GB? LOL… technology’s come a long way, but we’re not quite there yet, I’m afraid. 🙂

Hmmm, now that I’ve experienced the misconceptions possible in media reporting first hand, I’m going to be taking those sensational reports about cures for cancer with a bit more salt in future…

Anyway, as much as I’m sceptical of the quality of the reporting done on Studywiz, I did a bit of digging, and the product itself does appear to be gaining considerable uptake throughout Australian schools and internationally – including some national and internationally big names such as Cheltenham College in the UK and Presbyterian Ladies College in Victoria – not to mention my own school, Canberra Grammar.

Now at Version 9, Studywiz is an integrated e-learning and m-learning product, featuring web-accessible “lockers” for each learner’s resources, 3D gallery, team folders, RSS feeds, IMS compatibility, edu-gaming, and communication tools among other things. Sounds like it could be a pretty good platform for collaborative online learning, that integrates with students’ ubiquitous mobile digital devices. While both Online Learning Systems and iPods as educational tools are certainly not ideas originated by E-Tech, it’s good to see an Australian educational software company experiencing local and international success.

(via TerenceOnline

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UK Vet Students using Mobile Learning

21 02 2007

From the blog:

Students at UK’s Royal Veterinary College are using smartphones to take video, view diagnostic images and access research while in the field as part of a new project called MyPad. IT Pro reports.

“The pilot project, sponsored by Orange, which began in November 2006, has 30 students trialling M3100 SPV and 15 M500 SPV smartphones and a bespoke database platform, designed to help record and process information from their hands-on training.

…The internet-enabled phones also allow students to cross-reference their notes and check research right away while working with animals.”

The way these vet students are using these mobile devices sounds very similar to the manner in which many medical students and practitioners (doctors and hospitals) are currently utilising mobile technology – to improve the accuracy of diagnosis, and the quality and speed of treatment.

While applying these methods to vet science from medical science may not seem like such a leap of the imagination, I’m aware of teachers here in Australia who are applying these same techniques to other disciplines, such as plumbing, marketing/advertising, and landscaping. In many professions and trades, capturing visual information about a work problem, or retrieving decision-support data in the field, are as valuable as they are to doctors or vets.

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