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Siftables: digital information on our terms

Shiftables Any technology that gets us away from the standard computer monitor and keyboard I'm all for. At TED last week, grad student David Merrill from the Fluid Interfaces Group at MIT's Media Lab, gave a very nice demo (using stills and video clips) of some new technology that allows us to sort of go back to the future in a sense and manipulate the technology in familiar ways. The audience was quite impressed with this short presentation on a promising technology. David did not have much time, but he made a good impression and left people wanting (to learn) more. These are obviously early days for Siftables, but it gets you pretty excited thinking about the possibilities. How, for example, could you use something like this to learn Kanji better? Watch the video below or here in TED.

Note: There was actually a problem with the final video during the live TED presentation (which was not David's fault), so they asked David back later in the segment to demo the final bit.TED did a good job editing this quickly.


Jeff Weir

Great demo. It was kinda weird that the audience goes wild over the math example, and over the music example, but is deathly quiet over the word game example. Was this due to the editing, or are we really that obsessed with math and music at the expense of language?

Eric Tonn

Agreed re: the crowd's reactions. I could see myself being entertained for hours with the word formations. As a former Lego addict, the idea of Siftables is amazingly intriguing. I can't wait to see if/how/when this technology rolls out to the public.

Linda Varone

The Siftables concept is intriguing. But at this point - for creativity - it imposes too many restraints. The charming little boy who was creating the cartoon story was limited by the moon/sun/orange tractor available to him. Some times simple tools like paper and pencil. or even better, paper and crayons open up a world of possibilities. Maybe left to his own imagination the little boy would have added a train to the scene rather than an orange tractor, or a giraffe rather than tow cats. This application may be good to teach reading, but gets in the way of a child's limitless imagination.

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