I was mucking about in YouTube today (smacks for me and not doing work) and I came across a project being built at MIT. This project allows folks to draw a physics based diagram which then comes to life on what appears to be a homemade (MIT style) "Smart Board".
Watch the YouTube video below to see how it happens.
I then also came across another video (next in the play list) where a teacher was instructing his students on various laws around what appears to be electronic circuits (I could barely keep up with it - I'm dumb though). I thought to myself what a great contrast the two illustrate.
I say this as when you watch the teacher instruct the students on the lesson, he is using chalk to outline various points in his lecture. In that he'd use arrows to illustrate the flow of a current in a electric circuit. He'd also then add variables to the equation which would in return produce different results.
What if he used a similar technology as the one produced by MIT? What if he was able to draw his electronic circuit in a way that visually came to life, allowing the slow ones (like me) to suddenly see how it's all coming together.
How does RIA play a role you maybe asking (well you are now)?
It gets better, as the picture below indicates; the teacher has just run out of room on his blackboard. Thankfully he has cascading boards which he then makes use of, but what if he continues to grow and grow and needs more room as he decomposes the situation further.
How does the students keep track or have the ability to refer to previous "boards"?
What if that person was to have a device, one that uses some of the RIA technology of today? What if they were able to communicate with the friend next to them - silently - with a Live messenger style query "..I have no idea wtf this means, show me.." their study friend could then overlay some drawing(s) etc on top and since he/she may know their friends learning habits find a better way to illustrate the lesson in terms that the friend understands.
RIA is a concept; it's not really a Flash, Silverlight, WPF or any one thing. It's merely a place in time where technology is able to aggregate data and present in different ways that reduces a footprint on any one person’s nominated platform. A friend once said, "Aggregated View of Disparate Systems".
We at Microsoft are building a UX Platform that is looking to keep these concepts all in perspective and that's essentially what a Platform is all about. Providing a foundation for tomorrows innovation.
In this case, take all of the above technology and look at how it could fit into tomorrow’s learning institutes. Who knows our ramp up to learning a topic maybe shorter?
I once had a great debate with Frank Arrigo's replacement, man at the helm Roger Lawrence about technology makes us smarter. I thought it did, but Roger put it to me that we aren't smarter but technology does help ramp up faster than normal. Our intelligence doesn't grow, simply our understanding.
I love this industry.