Electronic Chalk: A tool for live and remote teaching

Raul Rojas, Freie Universitaet Berlin

Seminar on People, Computers, and Design
Stanford University December 6, 2002

E-Chalk is a system to record live lectures and transmit them over the Internet. The lecturer writes directly on a large touch sensitive surface (whiteboard or retro projection system) talking directly to the class. Three streams are transmitted over the Internet: audio, video, and board contents. The system is completely written in Java, therefore the potential audience needs only an Internet browser for receiving the three streams. It is possible to do postproduction of the lectures by erasing, rearranging, or recording new segments. 

The philosophy of E-Chalk is to provide "smart" tools for enhancing the classroom experience. The lecturer can paste images on the board directly from bookmarks. He or she can also call an algebraic server to solve equations or plot functions (Mathematica from Wolfram Research). It is also possible to access web sites directly, send a textual query, and get a textual answer. It is possible, for example, to ask for a translation, a calender, or any information provided by Web sites and integrate this into the board contents on the fly . E-Chalk is intended to be controlled using handwriting recognition. A first prototype of mathematical handwriting recognition has been written.

E-Chalk can be used with a variety of hardware: touch sensitive whiteboards, large touch screens, ultrasound digitizers, PDAs and the new tablet PCs. It is also possible to use E-Chalk in combination with video conferencing systems. In the talk, I will explain what is our vision for the future and how pen based computing fits into that picture.

For more information, see http://www.e-chalk.de/

Raul Rojas is a Professor of Artificial Intelligence at the Department of Mathematics and Computer Science, Freie Universitaet Berlin He is the author of several books about Neural Networks and the History of Computing. He is also a member of the editorial board of several journals and has published extensively about theory and applications of Neural Networks. Rojas received his PhD and "Habilitation" (an additional German degree after the PhD) from Freie Universitaet Berlin. He was a Professor of Computer Science at the Technical University of Vienna and at the University of Halle, before moving to the FU Berlin in 1997. His research interests include topics in AI, robotics, and multimedia tools for the classroom. Prof. Rojas is the team leader of the FU-Fighters, a robotic soccer team that has won three times second place at the RoboCup robotic soccer world championship (www.fu-fighters.de). He was also advisor to the team that developed the handwriting recognition system for the Bundespost. The Bundespost mail-sorting machines are now handling several million letters a day. The E-Chalk system won the Entrepreneurs Multimedia Prize 2001 from the Ministry of Economics and Research in Germany.


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