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Natural Learning Interfaces

Touching, pointing and manipulating objects are among the most elementary forms of interaction. Already babies engage with their environment through gestures and handling objects. These interactions come to us “naturally”. When it comes to interacting with technology, designers are challenged to create user interfaces that make best use of our natural way of interacting with people and environment. Technology tools for learning specifically fall short when it comes to supporting collaboration in the same space, which is also referred to as Co-located Collaboration. The other critical area is inclusive accessibility for learners with no or little computer experience which is also referred to as the Digital Divide. Thanks to more directly mediated interaction via touch, we see toddlers, old and illiterate people finding access to computer technology. Still, we can’t stop here: Future learning tools may be based on voice recognition, gesture, mimics and eye-tracking, all of which are key to natural user interface technology. When looking at South Africa with 11 official languages and a high level of illiteracy, natural user interfaces could provide marginalized communities with access to technology.

Example Virtual Chemistry Lab Table

The Virtual Chemistry Lab Table is an interactive multimedia learning tool, designed by Formula D interactive. This tangible interface utilizes physical objects to navigate and control a simulated chemistry lab. Learners can explore chemical experiments and demonstrations without having access to physical laboratory facilities and equipment. The natural interaction principle, through reference objects, not only makes the learning tool accessible to all audiences, but facilitates collaboration between learners.