The good doctor knows what you’re thinking at this very moment:

OH GAWD! NOT ANOTHER STORY ABOUT STEVE JOBS AND HIS GOSH DARNED TOUCHY FEELY MAGICAL MYSTERY WIRELESS APP THINGY!!!

(Cue: The sound of panic stricken readers screaming in terror as they flee from their monitors).

Once more, the great turtle necked Creator of all things Apple focuses his will and fashions into existence a device of awe and wonder, consternation and controversy, bouquets and brickbats. The geeky multitudes around the world try to discern the mind of Steve and understand the meaning of it all.

Is it a bird? Is it a plane?

Is it an iPhone with a glandular condition?

Is it a Macbook cloning experiment gone horribly wrong?

Perhaps it’s some sort of mutant iPod Touch?

By now, everyone knows this latest creation is called the ‘iPad’, a flat touch screen computer that fits into a perceived product gap between the iPhone and Apple’s Macbook computers. The good doctor won’t go into a blow by blow description of the iPad – I won’t make you suffer through another orgiastic regurgitation of techie facts and figures 🙂

What tweaks the Doctor’s interest about the iPad is how this device is going to affect playing video games. I pointed out in ‘Is Nintendo Losing its ‘Touch’ to Apple?’ that company president Satoru Iwata admitted to game app purchases from the iTunes store having a direct impact on Super Mario’s bottom line. Both the iPhone and iPod Touch use built in accelerometers. During the iPad keynote presentation on January 27th, Electronic Arts showed off Need for Speed: Shift. Gameloft demonstrated their first person shooter Nova. The Doctor’s jaw dropped when I saw both of these three dimensional action video games being played on the iPadwithout a hand held video game controller!

Let me say that one more time…without a hand held video game controller!

The iPad’s release in 2010 sounds the death knell for hand held video game controllers. The era of the bulky controller with massive built in cooling refrigeration systems and ultra tremor inducing vibrations is well and truly finished. By simply touching the screen and physically moving the iPad, players can participate in many different types of game experiences. This is an important step forward in making video games more accessible to everyone. The Nintendo DS stylus and touch screen in 2004 defied everyone’s expectations; the system was a hit. There was much scoffing about the Nintendo Wii and the remote sensor controller technology in 2006 (we all know who got the last laugh). The good doctor can see wireless multi-player iPad games taking place in the same room, or competing with others in different locations.

Another benefit the iPad brings to video games is that it lets budding game developers create their own original titles. There is a low barrier to entry in downloading the software development kit (SDK) from Apple’s website and developing a game app. Ten years ago, it was very difficult to find employment in the video game industry except in large game studios. The evolution of casual online games, mobile games, and the introduction of the Nintendo DS  created new opportunities for talented artists, level designers, musicians, and programmers to strike out on their own and develop a diverse range of game experiences for players of all ages.

From an educational point of view, the iPad shows great promise to assist with learning. Its perception is a  ‘cool’, engaging device. The interface is easy to understand, it’s reasonably priced, and there are many useful game and learning apps available for it. The ability to read books electronically in a way that resembles how we naturally do it (and turn the pages!) is promising. When is that last time you curled up in your favourite chair with a computer monitor in your lap?

The iPad doesn’t require educators to be computer scientists to master its use. It could help to bridge the knowledge gap that exists between teachers and technology. It presents the opportunity for educators and students to collaborate together. You can’t break it or make it explode by touching your finger to the screen.

But then again…maybe there’s an app for that 🙂

Doctor Arkanoid

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