About Me

subramanian chidambaram

I grew up in Chennai, India, and before my Ph.D. I had degrees in Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering with a minor in Computational Science and Engineering. Apart from research, some of my other interests are Science fiction, chess. and more recently working out, but above all else, I love philosophy! I have a hard time working on problems without understanding the underlying philosophy of what makes the problem interesting and how it will be helpful. So, in the following section, I present my philosophical reasoning for my Doctor of “Philosophy” research interest. If you like my reason and are interested in my non-research-related work, please check out my blog, “Symphony of the mind.

Philosophy of Collective learning

Humans collectively as a species have achieved ungodly technological advancements. We have peered into an atom, measured gravitational waves, seen a black hole, cured diseases. We could do all those things because we aspired to intelligence and were informed. Our ability to learn collectively as a species enabled us to push our limits and explore uncharted territory.

To make a case for Collective learning, I would like to borrow a quote from Isaac Newton “If I have seen further than others, it is by standing upon the shoulders of giants.” His work on gravity wouldn’t have been possible without his predecessor Johannes Kepler, whose work was in turn influenced by his predecessor Nicolaus Copernicus.

We get the larger picture when we visualize the historical data; Technological progress has reached exponential growth in the past few centuries in almost every field. Any time the quality and ease of creating instruction/content is achieved, it leads to a better-learned population and consequently growth and technological advancement. This pattern can be observed from the advent of the printing press, photographic camera, video recording devices and will again be observed in the rise of AR technology.

Collective learning in the era of immersive reality

Humans have been using the written language since around 3400 BC and verbal language for much longer than that. For most of our history, these two modes have been used to express thought. While both these forms were sufficient to transfer complex abstract thought, visual demonstration (one-on-one instruction) and apprenticeship were necessary for learning complex spatial skills such as dancing and blacksmithing.

This also meant most of the world’s population had limited access to knowledge. It wasn’t until the invention of the printing press that learning became cheaper and democratized. With further progress, such as photography and videography, it was possible to capture instructional information and deliver it to the rest of our species with another significant advancement, “the internet.” Today we can access all knowledge of humankind in a device that fits in the palm of our hands. But there is still room for growth and progress. The current form of media, such as one-on-one instruction, paper, and video instructions that we rely on, still have gaps to be filled. Especially in areas such as spatial instruction delivery and cognitive demand in information assimilation.

The past few decades have provided us with advancements in hardware such as 3D cameras and immersive reality headsets. This has allowed us to explore and study AR/VR technology in recent decades, but we are only at the beginning. Video tutorials on YouTube and SkillShare have become exponentially popular within the last decade, even questioning our entire higher educational model! Who knows what mass adoption of spatial instructions via immersive reality might provide!

But before that, the current limitation in the mass adoption of these immersive reality systems must be studied and addressed. Similar to how GUI and the mouse led to evolution from command line programming and enabled the general public to adopt computers. The ease of capturing and editing videos has led to exponential growth in creating and consuming video instructions. Thus, only by easing the burden of authoring AR and VR content can we accelerate immersive media's acceptance and mass adoption.

Thus, the focus of my Ph.D. is anthropologically motivated rather than technological. I wish to study how AR/VR authoring can be democratized to the public, so non-media and non-programming experts can contribute. I also want to explore the strengths and weaknesses of immersive media compared to traditional media on a fundamental level in terms of both consumption and content creation. Hopefully, after this journey, my insights will add one more drop to our collectively learned ocean of knowledge.