As discussed in a previous post, augmented reality platforms have been pegged by the 2010 Horizon Report, as up-and-comers in the educational field. “Augmented reality” refers to technology that modifies a user’s “real” view of reality with computer-generated imagery. The amount of reality versus computer-generated imagery will vary with the application and in some applications, the user can interact with computer-generated imagery in a context-sensitive way.
A bit of history
Augmented reality is not a new idea; it’s been used in sports, for example, to show a “first down” line superimposed on a televised football field. It’s also been used to mesh marketing and sporting events, displaying ads behind baseball batters.
Augmented reality and Google
Geotag, an open-source platform, is another example of an application of augmented reality. By Geotagging, you can associate videos, text, audio, or other media to Google Earth views.
Augmented reality in gaming
Augmented reality’s been a part of the gaming industry for some time now as well. Nintendo’s product, Eye Pet, is just one example.
Augmented reality in art
Creating virtual art using the real world as a canvas has also been explored.
Augmented reality’s gone mobile
Smartphones fit well with augmented reality platforms. An augmented reality browser can collect information from a smartphone’s camera and GPS and connect this information to online information. The online information can then be placed over the smart phone’s camera screen.
One AR browser that can be used with both Android phones and iPhones is Layar. As the name implies, computer-generated data (the augmented data) is stacked in layers on visualizations of real-world data. As an example, you might point your camera to a building to get information about who built it.
Wikitude World browser is another AR browser of note.
As noted in the 2010 Horizon Report, augmented reality is extremely well-suited for:
- discovery-based learning applications
- showing relationships and connections between computer-generated information and the learner’s environment
- modeling objects to show how they might appear in a real-world environment and to demonstrate how changes in these objects might affect their interactions with the environment
An example of this latter application is shown here:
Although game developers have recognized the attractions of augmented reality for a long time, mobile AR educational games are likely to become an increasingly common part of the mlearning landscape. Learners will be able to explore an environment by interacting with virtual characters in simulated scenarios.
One game, developed by MIT, called “Environmental Detectives” (ED) allowed players to use a GPS-guided hand-held computer to question virtual characters about a toxic spill and to collect field measurements. MIT offers open-source software to enable educators to develop their own AR simulations for educational, non-profit uses.
Augmented reality has been used for quite some time in the field of medical education, allowing learners to take part in simulated surgeries and other medical procedures. It will be interesting to see how mobile devices will become integrated into medical education. The Vuzix AR Education Group is already exploring and implementing mobile AR approaches in this field.
So while augmented reality has been around for a while, watch for an increased number of mobile educational applications in a variety of contexts. It’s technology that’s a perfect fit for mobile devices.