Memory Palaces and Arduino Park

A couple years ago I spent some time in Sketchup designing a 3D model of the Arduino Uno. Then I thought, “Why not magnify it a thousand times and have a guided tour?” Hence, Arduino Park:

The video turned out to be somewhat popular. But why? I think it has something to do with Memory Palaces.

I recently came across the concept of a ‘memory palace’ in the book, Moonwalking with Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything. The book contains many techniques about how to improve your memory. Perhaps the most important is known as a ‘memory palace.’

As explained in the wikipedia entry, a Memory Palace (or ‘Method of Loci’) is:

a mnemonic device introduced in ancient Roman and Greek rhetorical treatises (in the anonymous Rhetorica ad Herennium, Cicero’s De Oratore, and Quintilian’s Institutio oratoria). The items to be remembered in this mnemonic system are mentally associated with specific physical locations.[1] The method relies on memorized spatial relationships to establish, order and recollect memorial content.

The Greek poet Simonides of Ceos originated the Memory Palace concept when he attended a banquet and narrowly escaped a roof collapse that killed many of the guests. The bodies pulled from the wreckage were badly mangled, but Simonides found that he could recall where everyone had been sitting and so was able to identify who was who.

Simonides went on to realize that by using his imagination to associate images with physical locations, he could enable himself to remember much more detail than he could otherwise. And ever since, the Memory Palace has been a popular technique of students and scholars.

So why is this technique effective? As explained in Moonwalking, it may have something to do with the evolution of the human brain, which was directed toward remembering where the berries are and the lions aren’t, and not so much toward remembering long sequences of words and numbers.

Anyhow, it occurs to me that virtual worlds could be used as memory palaces. For example, you can read about how a biological cell functions, and you can watch a video about how it functions, but it might be even more memorable to navigate through a giant model of a cell inside a virtual world. Or how about learning a language, where each lesson corresponds to a different part of a castle or magical forest?

The educational software programs that I’ve seen rely on visual images and games but I’ve yet to see one that fully uses 3D navigation as a mnemonic device. Perhaps it’s a frontier that should be explored.

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About engineerzero

Once and future engineer.
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