At Ohio University’s Athens campus, there’s a room where students can travel virtually anywhere on Earth. Popularly known as the “Holodeck,” it uses projectors, Google Earth, and the Leap Motion Controller to generate 3 interactive walls that create the illusion of standing in cities around the world – and much more.
The Holodeck is part of an experimental lab space where teachers test out new ways to help students learn languages. Created by a group of linguists at Ohio University’s Language Resource Center, it allows them to feel immersed in the places where these languages are spoken. Despite having no formal technology background, the team built the Holodeck by integrating the Leap Motion Controller with 3 projectors and a MaKey MaKey kit.
Besides exploring cities with Google Street View, the Holodeck has been used for everything from a IMAX style chalkboard to Chinese calligraphy practice. Some students are even using a zombie apocalypse mod for Minecraft as a creative foundation for their class essays.
By reaching above the Leap Motion Controller, students can make huge changes in the environment with tiny actions – interacting with learning materials on a life-sized scale. Jeff Kuhn, a visiting lecturer at the Center, envisions the Holodeck as a new way of reaching students through hands-on experiences:
We like to say our goal is to create the impossible for as cheap as possible, so we’ve hobbled the Holodeck together with parts we had lying around. The Holodeck shows what is possible in the classroom with readily available parts, software, and imagination. Everything we used is either already in classrooms or easily purchased.Being able to move around a space and seemingly interact with the walls around them gets the students engaged at a level sitting at a desk does not. There is a power to doing something while you learn that is missing from sitting passively.
We see the Airspace Store as being the bridge to other classrooms. We have already heard from the medical college about coming in to try out Cyber Science – Motion and Molecules. In education, we talk about flow, which is engagement at a level where you lose track of time and space as you are fully invested in the activity. Just because we are in a classroom, we don’t need to be bound to that classroom space.
The Holodeck is continually in development, and we can’t wait to see what comes next. What sorts of learning possibilities can you imagine with a Leap Motion-enabled immersive environment? Let us know on Facebook and Twitter.