Your New Textbook, Brought to You by Bill Gates

Bill Gates and Nathan Myhrvold have filed a new patent that could change the way we read textbooks, and possibly the way we learn, forever.

textbook patentBored of reading the same textbooks, the same old way? Well, Bill Gates and Nathan Myhrvold, the duo behind an invention that can actually slow hurricanes, are looking to change that. In 2012 they filed a patent for a device that will have the capability to “automatically create a customized video snippet from any random selection of text,” according to GeekWire. That means that as you read a textbook on, say, a tablet or your phone, that device could generate a video based on the content of the textbook–turning a boring old piece of text into essentially a short film.

This new patent, titled “Autogenerating Video from Text,” would certainly be a game changer in the educational community. While interactive instruction has been on the scene for some time, never before has any technology been able to show a human sort of understanding of the text at hand, let alone an understanding of how best to teach it to a student. In one of the scenarios the patent poses, a student could theoretically snap a picture of a textbook page and watch a video rendering of the facts therein; as opposed to (or perhaps we should say in addition to) reading paragraphs of names and dates, the student could watch a video of “soldiers running across a battlefield.”

In yet another possible application outlined by the patent, the app/device’s personalization features could really make the information hit home:

Someone reading Shakespeare could scan a section of text to create a video depicting one of the scenes — and the system could be set to “insert family members into the video clip instead of the typical characters.”

Because it wouldn’t be at all creepy to see your family members tragic roles. My advice: stay away from Oedipus Rex, kids.

If the idea does indeed come to fruition, the capability to generate video and images from texts could greatly aid the visual learners among us, or maybe just better engage students with shorter attention spans. It’s likely that this technology is a long way off, but with the rapid changes technology constantly brings to the field of education, I wouldn’t discount it as a possibility. The question is, what do you think of this new way to read texts? Foul or fair?

For their part, the geeks seem none too impressed: