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CAEE Vision is Interactive, Immersive Learning Environment

"I'd like to share with you a vision," Ahmed Noor begins, in a presentation at Old Dominion University's Center for Advanced Engineering Environments (CAEE).

The vision that Noor, an ODU engineering professor, has helped create is one of an interactive, 3D immersive learning, training and work environment - designed to change the way workers train, students learn, teachers teach and engineers create new products.

CAEE hosted on Tuesday, May 12, an open house that demonstrated the potential of technologies such as 3D virtual worlds, immersive environments and intelligent robots.

"The role of the Center for Advanced Engineering Environments is to serve as a sensory hub, or pathfinder, developing technologies which include synergistic couplings of technologies developed by our partners and collaborators from among the lead technology providers," Noor said.

But Noor said it's not the center's job to "reinvent the wheel," working on existing technologies.

"This is part of pushing the value of human boundary, instead of spending our time doing what we shouldn't be doing."

Noor's presentation focused on CAEE's vision for the future digital ecosystems for learning, and accelerated workforce development and virtual product creation.

The center's Intelligent Collaborative Authoring Environment was demonstrated, along with CAEE's immersive classroom concept. Also, Noor demonstrated some virtual world applications, such as simulated or virtual meeting spaces for teams in different locations doing actual work.

Two of CAEE's partner companies participated in Tuesday's open house presentation.

Arizona-based Qwaq demonstrated its real-time virtual meeting room, where participants from around the world can gather and all have access to the same data at the same time.

California-based Eon Reality demonstrated its interactive Coliseum facility, showing how interactive three-dimension and simulation-based learning have the potential to revolutionize the way people are trained or taught.

Marly Bergerud, Eon Reality's vice president of educational development, said the work being done by CAEE is right in line with what needs to happen with education in the United States.

"The use of interaction and immersive visualization are critical to change the way people learn," Bergerud said.

"Today's digital natives (young students) have already learned how to utilize this technology before they ever get to school. They'll go home and say, 'Mom, I had to dumb things down today.'"

Bergerud said in order for the United States to continue to be a leader in innovation, collaborations must be formed between educational institutions like ODU and the prospective employers who will hire future technology graduates. That way, students will be getting the tools they need to succeed when they are at school.

Noor said the CAEE seeks out partnerships with companies that are already working on the leading edge of these technologies.

"As part of our plan for the future digital ecosystem, we look to integrate a number of technologies that have not been integrated before, that can significantly enhance the areas of learning, accelerated workforce development and revolutionize virtual product creation," he said.

"We look for totally innovative ideas that will bring about transformative changes. Those are very significant, deep and positive changes, not incremental changes."

Noor added that one of the keys to making it work is focusing not only on the technology, but having a holistic approach that includes people's interaction with it in an intuitive, human-like way.

This article was posted on: May 14, 2009

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