UBC Reports | Vol. 48 | No. 7 | May
Technology for the Art of Talking
Science grad makes computer learning fun.
By Helen Lewis
When 10-year-old James Dai arrived in Canada, he couldn't speak
a word of English. Ten years later, the BSc graduate is set to use
technology to teach literacy to kids through MIT Media Lab's Gesture
and Narrative Language Group.
Born in tiny Qin Huang Dao, where the Great Wall of China begins,
Dai moved to Vancouver in 1990. Within five years he had completed
elementary school and high school and enrolled at UBC.
Studying Computer Science from age 15, Dai broadened his horizons
by joining a touring musical, taking UBC fine arts courses and performing
with theatre groups.
Dai, 20, hopes to use his passion for the arts to "bridge
the gap between the raw power of computers and their human audience."
Through UBC's Co-op program Dai worked at Microsoft on X-Box NBA
Inside Drive 2002, Panasonic Research Labs in Japan, and UBC's Electronic
Games for Education in Math and Science (E-GEMS) lab.
With fellow student Michael Wu, Dai designed and researched PrimeClimb,
a collaborative educational computer game to be exhibited at the
prestigious SIGGRAPH 2002 Conference in Texas. Dai and Wu were also
invited to present at ED-MEDIA 2002 and CSCL 2002.
In PrimeClimb, two players work together to climb a mountain of
numbers. It is notable among human-computer interaction re-search
for its focus on social rather than digital aspects of the interaction.
Dai and Wu used sociology methodology to develop the game and analyse
resulting social interactions in classroom studies.
"We're proud we built a game that gets kids to talk to each
other excitedly in a mathematical context. Technology should help
people to interact with each other, otherwise it's just bells and
Dai starts at MIT this summer.