Engineering Student Provides a ‘Nayi Disha’ to Education

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Nayi Disha

If you are an engineer, a technology enthusiast or a passionate developer, there is a good probability that you wish and strive to develop some really quirky apps or products mostly with an aim to impress your teachers, peers, celebrated tech bloggers, your job interviewers or to simply make money by selling it. Some don’t sell it and call it open source, but the rest of the motivation stays the same.

Most of us do it. And there is nothing wrong with this, since at the end we are helping the development of new technology.But some of us or actually, a handful of us take a step back and think about those who can greatly benefit from modern technology but have either, no access to such technology, or, are not schooled enough to know how to make the best use of it, and develop something to help those people.

And one such person is Kartik Aneja, a final year engineering undergrad at BITS Pilani KK Birla Goa Campus. Kartik has been working on a Kinect application to help educate the less fortunate using an interactive interface thus making it easier to grasp and fun to learn. He has named the application ‘Nayi Disha’, a Hindi phrase that means ‘A New Direction’.

Kartik says “I made two simple games (which are there in the video), and then spent quite a bit of time on the interface. The interface had to be simple and intuitive. The information density had to be low. The user shouldn’t be expected to do complex or weird gestures;they should come naturally to them. Also, the feedback should be in such a way that the whole experience should seem magical.The whole appeal of technology is that it has a magical feel to it.”

The video that Kartik talks about is the one that follows this text. The video explains and demonstrates the working of ‘Nayi Disha’.

Kartik tested his app with a group of children at an orphanage in Bangalore. He says “I cannot confirm how effectively these games could teach the children without any empirical proof. However, what really blew my mind away was seeing how easily those children could navigate through the environment. The whole concept of ‘input’ -> ‘process’ -> ‘output’ was lost. They reacted on their whim. or whatever their buddies prompted them to do. It was really amazing.”

I also talked to Kartik about his future plans regarding Nayi Disha. The first thing I wanted to know was if he plans to make money out of this to which he replied “Money was never really a part of the plan. The idea always is to make a ripple in the universe. It will definitely be open source for now”. Also his recent plans include setting up a framework where people can create their own games and see if they are compatible with Nayi Disha. He wants more and more people to contribute to this project and to help people contribute, he is also working on written and video-tutorials for those new to programming to the Kinect environment.

Kartik and his Nayi Disha won Kinect Education’s “What Will You Create” contest. They have also received a mention on the official Microsoft Channel9 blog.

Being an evangelist of the use of technology for philanthropy, I congratulate Kartik for his brilliant idea and an equally good execution and sincerely wish that he succeeds in his endeavor. If you want to contribute to the project, or if you have any other queries regarding the same, you can reach Kartik by mailing him at: kartikaneja [at]gmail [dot]com.You can tweet him too @kartikaneja.

Note: A little something about Kinect – Kinect is a motion sensing input device from Microsoft. Unlike other input devices, it doesn’t need a hand-held joystick, instead it uses cameras and microphones to take user inputs in the form of gestures and spoken commands, through a Natural User Interface(NUI) thus making it really easy for people to operate.

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