Christian Long

David Merrill: Demos Siftables – the Smart Blocks

In TED Talks on May 12, 2010 at 2:30 pm

Extra credit reflection by KEITH C.

Original TED page w/ speaker bio, links, comments, etc:

David Merrill:  Demos Siftables – the Smart Blocks

At the beginning of this video David explains how children’s blocks are a way for the child to learn how to problem solve and learn spacial relationships. With his fascination with interactions with physical objects, he and his colleagues decided to invent siftables. These are described as tiny computers that can be easily moved by hand and can sense each other. At this point a video was shown of the siftables being moved around on the table when they came in contact or got very close, an orange line would appear on the sides of the screens that were near each other. To this was amazing, to see these little cubes that were not connected in any way and could be scattered all over the table then as soon as they were brought back together the orange reappeared. David then showed some more siftables that actually had videos playing on them. Once these were put next to each other the people in the videos turned toward each other as if they knew that there was someone next to them. Then another video demonstration was shown where one of the screens had a picture of a paint bucket and on that was blank. Once he tilted the bucket screen towards the blank screen, just as you would if you were pouring paint, the white screen became the color of the paint that was in the bucket. Then he took a different siftable with a different color of paint in a bucket and tilted it towards the screen that had been colored. Just like that, the colors were mixed. I can already see this becoming the new greatest children’s toy. Once they have the capability to do this, there is no limit to the educational possibilities. What not a better way to learn your colors than physically mixing them and learning what colors come together to produce other colors. Also it is probably the most fun and cleanest way to learn your colors.

David then shows another demonstration where the siftables now have addition problems on them. As he moved the numbers around on the left side of the equation the sum changed. Once this is perfected I can see this being used not only for new learning but also being a great learning tool for children a little older. As the videos go on, the siftables become even more amazing. A video is played where the siftables now have a certain letter on them and you have to make words with those given letters. Once you align the screens to where you make a word, the siftable would check the dictionary to see it was a word. Once the siftable recognized that it was a word, not only would it light up, but a voice would also say that it was a word.

At the end of the video David talks about how he interested in inventing new technology that works with your brain and has a more natural learning affect. I think it is technology and advancements like this that we need to progress as a species and grow smarter and smarter over time. It is these new inventions that the children need to be learning with to produce a more educated population. The children that we are educating now are going to be the future and they will be the ones designing and creating these ingenious inventions. If all that is true, wouldn’t it make sense that they should be educated and given technology like this? Forty years ago, the children growing up didn’t have computers and cell phones, and now they are surrounded by a world that is engulfed in the newest technology in which almost every occupation they are in demands that they know how to operate these technologies. I feel that the siftables will give the child that is playing with it a natural sense of technology, just as a child naturally learns their vernacular and all its tenses, which they will be using for the rest of their life.


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