Remember you days at school and your physics class? Wouldn’t it be great if that sketch of a pendular or that hand-drawn solar system magically turns into an animated physics simulation?
Actually this is possible for some time now, as MIT developed ASSIST, an sketch understanding system for whiteboards.
It lets you draw objects like bricks, balls, and springs. Your sketch is interpreted so that the system gets an understanding what is a moveable object which elements should stay in place.
After hitting "Run" your drawing is feed into a physics engine and magically turns into a nice animation on your whiteboard.
The video shows a cup hanged on springs that catches a bunch of balls rolling downhill.
I think tools like this can really boost teaching in school. Just think about possible applications in chemistry or math. Hand drawn molecules that magically turn into 3 dimensional rotating objects, or functions that can be manipulated with your fingertips.
But what use are fancy animations in the eyes of bored pupils? In my opinion igniting interest in physics is the most important part of scientific education and one way to do so may be games like Crayon Physics Deluxe.
It’s a lot like ASSIST, except that you have a clear task to fulfil. Your goal is to make a ball hit a target by building ramps or throwing other objects on it.
I think games like these with more or less correct natural behavior, intuitive user interfaces, and tasks that make you think are a great way to increase interest in science and help kids to playfully explore the world of physics.