Augmented Reality – Even Better than the Real Thing?


Augmented Reality has become a buzz word recently in ed-tech circles.The K-12 Horizon Report describes Augmented Reality as  blending — or augmenting — what
we see in the real world with related information,data, media, and even live action.

Although it was once envisaged that the future would be completely virtual, it is now becoming apparent that rather than stepping into entirely computer created worlds, it is better to harness technology to add to our current reality – hence ‘augmented reality’ has become more popular, and ‘virtual reality’ has become less so.

An easy way to understand exactly what the difference between virtual reality and augmented reality is by viewing examples of each:

This is an explanation of Virtual Reality (also known as Virtual Worlds):

Below is an example of Augmented Reality:

The girl is able to see a 3d model of the lego before she purchases it.

Virtual reality has existed for quite some time, however the increasing use of mobile devices equipped with cameras has enabled the development of apps that put this technology into the hands of students and teachers; and the potential for learning is very exciting.

Augmented reality has two major forms; the first is where a printed trigger image initiates an interaction through the camera of the mobile device; there are many examples of this (and they will be elaborated on below), but the one pictured here is ‘Sneaker ID’, where the printed image of a sneaker transforms into a realistic 3d depiction of a sneaker when viewed through the app.

The second form is where the app uses the devices GPS capabilities to ‘layer’ digital data over the location where the user is. A well known example of this is Layar, which provides a huge number of layers which can provide information about the user’s local environment. The photo below shows a Layar view of Museums and Galleries in a 5 kilometre radius from the Brisbane Catholic Education head office in Brisbane.

Although augmented reality as a learning tool is still in its infancy, there are a number of apps that provide an engaging way to stimulate students imaginations, and one app in particular, Aurasma Lite, which moves beyond simple viewing an augmented reality, and provides tools that students and teachers can use to quickly and easily create their own digital layers onto images and items.

The Horizon Report suggests that Augmented reality is very likely to become a powerful teaching tool within the near future for the following reasons:

  • It can be used for visual and highly interactive forms of learning.
  • Students find connections between their lives and their education through the addition of a contextual layer.
  • It is an active, not a passive technology; students can use it to construct new understanding based on interactions with virtual  objects that bring underlying data to life.
  • Dynamic processes, extensive datasets, and objects too large or too small to be manipulated can be brought into a student’s personal space at a scale and in a form easy to understand and work with.

Before looking at using Aurasma though, let’s just explore some of the ‘fun’ ways that augmented reality can be used in the classroom.

1. As a stimulus for creative writing:

Download the String AR app, and using the printouts available from the String website, bring ‘Proto’ to life on a student’s desk, or inspire a story based around a dragon who bursts out of the computer screen and into the classroom.

2. As part of a science unit on Earth and Space Science:

Examine the Mars Rover in a way that was never possible previously; Using the marker downloaded from the NASA 3D spacecraft app, bring the Rover right into the classroom for an interactive experience:

3. Make mental calculations of money fun:

Capture photos of students with money falling from the sky using MoneyVision; add the totals and graph to seewhich student received the most ‘virtual’ cash!

4. Students studying weather patterns can use the Floodlines app and printable markers created by the State Library of Queensland to examine the extent of the flooding in Brisbane during the 2011 floods.

More ideas for these apps can be found in the attached booklet.

Aurasma takes the tools for augmenting reality and gives it to users.

It allows users to connect short movies, animations or still images to items; best explained by the creator of Aurasma himself, Matt Mills

Creating an ‘aura’ is simple – instructions are in this booklet.

Ideas for using Aurasma in a school setting are numerous; here are just a few:

1. Attach a video of a student presenting their project/artwork/writing to the piece, so that those who weren’t in attendance at the presentation can view it later.

2. Attach a student created book trailer to the cover of the actual book, so that others can view the trailer prior to reading.

3. Embed footage of a school event into the printed school newsletter – still photos in the newsletter become video captured on the day.

4. Record a student reading to a photo of the student holding that book; a collation of these images with embedded video taken over time can provide a timeline of student reading development.

5. Embed a video of the teacher reading out an exam/assignment question onto the task sheet for those students who struggle with reading print text.

6. Create a short video orientation of the school and attach to the school emblem/crest – this will provide a multimedia introduction to the school to anyone who scans the emblem using the Aurasma app.

7. Place Location Auras around the school grounds, with video explaining the history/useful information about that part of the school.

8. Attach labels with embedded video to realia in the school library to add additional explanations about use or care of the item.

The list is endless! Please share your ideas in the comments below.

Augmented Reality might still seem futuristic, but it is hardly science fiction. Students will be engaged and challenged by the multimedia and transmedia possibilities augmented reality brings to learning; what an exciting time to be an educator!

Check out more augmented reality information and resources on my PearlTree.

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10 thoughts on “Augmented Reality – Even Better than the Real Thing?

  1. This has endless possibilities. Instead of submitting DVDs to panel of senior student’s multi-modal orals you could simply have a photo of the student on the folio with the video of the presentation in behind. Panel members would just need a smart phone and the app to view if necessary. That’s cool!

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