Improved Realities Part 1: What Is The Convergence?

The Future Technologies team at Pearson researches emerging technologies and trends that can be used for educational purposes. The team has completed over 40 projects and prototypes, including explorations into robotics, brain-computer interfaces, gesture-recognition, and more. Many projects have included individual features or themes that came to be standard in product development, such as responsive web design and elements of gamification.

On taking a more expansive view of Future Technologies’ work, we have identified one major theme that ties many of these prototypes together: an attempt to bridge the virtual and physical worlds. This Convergence of digital and tangible objects and interactions incorporates many different technologies — too many for even one suite of technologies to accurately describe. There are three components key to merging the information existing in parallel in our “real-time” world and in the ever-expanding digital world.

  • Mixed Reality enables us to create new environments in which physical and digital objects and coexist.
  • Artificial Intelligence enables key elements of the virtual world to initiate interactions, react to behavior, and continuously learn.
  • Biosyncing enables seamless, biomechanical communication between the intelligent virtual entities and the physical participants of the newly-created world.

To demonstrate how these three suites of technologies could work together, let’s consider an emergency medical training scenario.

1. In this situation, the learner is the man with the glasses. While this is a stock photo of a real-life simulation, imagine, if you will, that the room, objects and other people are all simulated through mixed reality.

2. Adding in biosyncing, we detect how the learner is responding to the situation through heart rate monitoring, facial recognition, galvanic skin response, and more.

3. Based in part on the learner’s behavior — both his intended actions and his body’s unintentional responses — elements of the training simulation which incorporate artificial intelligence adjust continually.

Mixed reality, artificial intelligence, and biosyncing are powerful suites of technologies. When combined, each one strengthens features of the other two, enabling us to create simulated environments that seamlessly blend the virtual and physical worlds. The specifics of all interactions — real or digital, controlled or unconscious — provide the system with data so that it can continuously adapt, assess, and provide feedback. The resulting reality is therefor greater than the sum of its parts — an improved reality through this convergence.

This is the first of a four part series. Stay tuned for the next post: Why Embrace The Convergence?