(Click on photo to enlarge)

"Empath"  was a series of devices and experiments in the 1980's to create very low cost teaching and training devices which could  operate  over phone lines of any type and still provide high quality motion visuals by preparing all visuals prior to presentation to one or more classes.  In operation, the teacher prepared visuals as videotapes, DVDs, VCDs, hard disk files, or even  slides!  All visuals were sent to as many locations as desired before the class took place and when the class began, the teacher set up a conventional phone call to one location or a conference call to many locations.

An Empath device was plugged into the phone line at the socket above the pen and a telephone (speaker or regular phone) was plugged into the other socket.  Each unit could either "teach" or "learn" depending on the position of the black slide switch.  An infrared remote control for the "teaching" device which presents the video  was pointed at the blue box on top of the unit and relayed the command signals over the phone line to the other end where an infrared emitter at the end of the other identical "learning" box relayed the signal to the remote control input of the DVD player or computer at the student's end, thereby operating all teaching and training units in synchronization.

The teacher spoke over the phone line without difficulty and answered questions from the students who operated a speaker phone at the student end.  The phone line was fully available  except for a small fraction of a second during which the sound was suppressed while  a control signal was sent over the phone line.  Since  control signals were only sent when a change of visual was needed, there was insignificant interruption of the conversation.

This unit may be very useful for distance learning situations in developing countries and places where there is no high speed  Internet   for all types of industrial and commercial business training since  units in production should only cost about $30.  The good part is that a class could have full color, full motion, high quality video without concern for bandwidth and costly studios and cameras.  The down side is that a teacher had to prepare all visuals in advance of the class and distribute them to all locations before class time.  Since most classes have a format which allows for prepared visuals in any event, this is generally not a problem.  Gordon taught for nearly 10 years in college and university classes and could have used this type of device were it available.  He also did several experiments with classes and found there was little if any difference in classes which used various types of distance learning as opposed to conventional 'live teacher" classes at the college level.

Advanced versions of this unit are available for license should a client in a third world country be interested  in distance learning which doesn't break the budget and can operate over low bandwidth voice grade lines.  

This is an example of a simple device that can have enormous implications for society in areas outside of high cost, high bandwidth areas. Third world  emerging markets   are becoming very viable and this sort of applications are areas we have a number of abilities in having spent quality learning time in India.  Ask us about it if you  would like a very inexpensive training tool.

Trade your unhappy students for happy ones!