What is Augmented Reality?


Augmented reality (AR), a capability that has been around for decades, is shifting from what was once seen as a gimmick to a tool with tremendous potential. The layering of information over 3D space produces a new experience of the world, sometimes referred to as “blended reality,” and is fueling the broader migration of computing from the desktop to the mobile device, bringing with it new expectations regarding access to information and new opportunities for learning. While the most prevalent uses of augmented reality so far have been in the consumer sector (for marketing, social engagement, amusement, or location-based information), new uses seem to emerge almost daily, as tools for creating new applications become even easier to use. A key characteristic of augmented reality is its ability to respond to user input. This interactivity confers significant potential for learning and assessment; with it, students can 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.


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(1) How might this technology be relevant to the educational sector you know best?

  • When the task is chosen carefully, AR puts you into the situation, or lets you see things that were are not possible using other media. Effective information design is increasingly important when users navigate a complex information ecosystem . Information design brings clear meaning to unstructured data. Data, especially from large data sets is considered worthless without this structured context . Information design is contextual design. - john.cook john.cook Nov 7, 2011
  • AR allows for the creation of rich, interactive, immersive learning environments. The use of AR provides students with the ability to experience learning in-context. AR promotes learning that is discovery-based, and simultaneously enables instructors to design technology-rich, kinesthetic learning experiences.- jasonr jasonr Nov 10, 2011
  • A lot of my teaching over the years has been about inspiring creativity, and I can really see how AR could be used as a springboard in terms of student engagement, particularly if students are encouraged to create augmented realities rather than just consume as they do with other, more passive media. I do have some reservations about what we should and should not do with the technology in an educational context - see my notes in section 3. - damian.mcdonald damian.mcdonald Nov 15, 2011agree with all points- helga helga Nov 18, 2011
  • In libraries, AR can allow us to embed tutorials at the point of need, (for example, how to follow call numbers in the stacks) as well as embed virtual materials in the physical world (all ebooks could be "on the shelf" with physical ones allowing for more browsing--or multidisciplinary physical books could "appear" in every relevant section). - lauren.pressley lauren.pressley Nov 19, 2011
  • Part of the confluence of mobile technology, facilitates cross disciplinarity, ambient learning, can I see what is happening in other faculties, in buildings and classrooms? what opportunities are there to work together? provides scalable digital pedagogies which as yet we havent fully explored or realised. Confluence of web, film, gaming, TV, books, comics and software - 91% of kids aged between 2-17 play video games.http://www.npdgroup.com/wps/portal/npd/us/news/pressreleases/pr_111011
    - DaveP DaveP Nov 20, 2011
  • I completely agree with the aforementioned applications regarding creating experiential and in-context learning environments. There are a number of ways in which AR within a mobile or desktop configuration can provide enhancements that deepen the understanding of subject matter, and empower students within the learning environment. These additional tools allow students to directly associate multiple data channels in association with the environment, and also provide interactions based on the specific learning for the assignment or course. The versatility of the technology allows for application within a wide spectrum of disciplines, so the degree in which it is leveraged is pretty much limited only by the imagination and vision of the instructor, and the development resources available. - Dougdar Dougdar Nov 20, 2011
  • AR can also be a powerful expressive tool for students to communicate thinking about knowledge that is embedded in the world - some of the most interesting educational uses place them in the role of active creators, rather than clients to AR environments created for them. - rubenrp rubenrp Nov 21, 2011

(2) What themes are missing from the above description that you think are important?

  • Currently the majority of mobile learning research and mobile app development creates experiences which tie all the requirements of the learner's / user’s attention down to and onto a four inch screen. This includes the majority of augmented reality (AR) applications. To avoid this, new content and new interface’s must be created that take advantage of the physical and digital affordances of each learning situation. The use of (soon to be) cheaply available AR goggles is going to accellerate the uptake. One of the unique affordances of well designed mixed reality environments (as Carl Smith form my group calls it) is that they enable the creation of learning situations and concepts that could not have been realised with just the physical or just the virtual elements. A good example of this is an engineer working with digital overlays to detect potential problems with an engine. See video: http://learning.londonmet.ac.uk/TLTC/carl/bmw.mp4 ) - john.cook john.cook Nov 7, 2011
  • It´s important here to take into account the BYOD (bring your own device) point of view. It will be necessary that people can work with their devices to bring AR learning into life. This is highly connected with mobile learning and it depends profoundly on how the different countries are evolving on smartphone presence among youngers.- dolors.reig dolors.reig Nov 20, 2011

  • Markerless AR systems will eventually help to remove the paper and ink barriers to augmented reality; barriers that are currently required by QR-codes or other similar marker-based approaches. Why, for instance should we have to point to a QR-code of an outdoor sculpture, when we can simply point the phone at the sculpture, take a picture, learn new content--and who knows--maybe even discover that the statue itself is a clue in an otherwise hidden alternate reality game?- jasonr jasonr Nov 10, 2011 good point - helga helga Nov 18, 2011
    • Yes, I really think of QR codes as a stop-gap measure, until it becomes easier to code for "real" AR using GPS/compass/image recognition, etc. - lauren.pressley lauren.pressley Nov 19, 2011
    • The danger of Ambient AR - everything filtered through a lens, philosophical, ethical questions who is labelling, tagging? why? Information Literacy and Digital Literacy key in a digitally tangible world- DaveP DaveP Nov 20, 2011
  • The impacts of AR on IP may broaden the concerns and need for deeper definitions. While this may be a matter better left to the Alternative Licensing discussion, it still appears to be an emerging situation that will have to be dealt with. Do allow for free reign on what we want to do when augmenting the surrounding environment in every application of AR, or do we only address IP and licensing in terms of audience and presentation. The following link demonstrates a use of AR on architecture, but the point is raised as to how the augmentation demonstrated impacts the rights of the architect who designed the building: http://www.arlab.nl/newsitem.php?newsid=0109&cat=05 - Dougdar Dougdar Nov 20, 2011
  • The role of creative tools that work well in mobile environments (i.e. mobile apps) that allow participants to do more than just absorb the information presented to them in AR environments, and instead allow them to operate upon it flexibly at the point where the AR experience exists. - rubenrp rubenrp Nov 21, 2011

(3) What do you see as the potential impact of this technology on teaching, learning, or creative expression?

  • Markerless AR. It is now becoming possible to use 2d photographs and 3d objects themselves as markers. A good example of this is ‘The Augmented City’ from metaio: (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ACu6rehFXBM&feature=player_embedded. The potential application of these approaches in HE are substantial - john.cook john.cook Nov 7, 2011
  • Metaio Software has also partnered with Lego to create the 'Lego Digital Box': http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=mUuVvY4c4-A, an AR kiosk system (which has been deployed in all Lego stores) that supports markerless AR and facetracking to enable customers to see how the toy in the box is supposed to work. Their authoring tool is called Unifeye Design: (http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=Z--OYjgB-JQ) has the potential to help educators design everything from AR-enabled textbooks to AR support of science education.- jasonr jasonr Nov 10, 2011
  • In a markerless AR system, the object itself becomes the marker. In this example, Marius Hügli and Martin Kovacovsky, visual communication designers from Switzerland, have produced the world's first AR e-book edition of "Jekyll and Hyde": http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=PGrqp1LXKSg and http://martinkovacovsky.ch/jekyll-hyde. Their system enables the book to spring to life, not only with visuals and animation--but with sound. Finally--an innovation that redefines the e--book.- jasonr jasonr Nov 10, 2011
  • I can really see the use of AR in real world situations being a wonderful way of presenting information e.g. it would be amazing to visit the beaches of Normandy and see the horrific events of D-Day played out, with AR bringing history to life in front of your very eyes. Having said that, I do worry when I see examples like the AR book above - whilst books are admittedly "old" technology, I feel they already succeed admirably in augmenting reality without the need for such gimmickry, and that such developments are a step backwards rather than forwards in educational terms. Don't get me wrong - I am all in favour of creative uses of technology (I wouldn't be on the board if I wasn't!), but I feel it is important to separate education and entertainment - edutainment is a dirty word in my (non-augmented) book. Just because we can, doesn't necessarily mean we should. - damian.mcdonald damian.mcdonald Nov 15, 2011 agree - I furthermore see a danger of killing imagination and creativity at least to some extent - helga helga Nov 18, 2011At the risk of being labeled a technology enthusiast for new forms of AR, I will argue the opposite - I think we are still in early stages of the potential for AR hardware/software and novel uses of the technology to actually improve learning and comprehension afforded by today's simple 2D printed books which only use text and graphics. All new technologies are often viewed as the enemy of established delivery modes (think radio, TV, and the Internet as recent examples).- paul.turner paul.turner Nov 20, 2011
  • AR has the potential to support deeper learning through surfacing many aspects of an object or activity that are typically invisible – this could be data,, visuaizations of processes, etc- that allow fthe learner to have more detailed and explicit information. With greater capabilities of technology – learners can develp and share their own augmentations to annotate the phenomenon being studied. Th ecoMobil project (see below) where students use digital devices to overlay/interate information on the ecosystem that they are observing provides a vivid example - vkumar vkumar Nov 20, 2011vkumar
  • Augmented reality can offer a potential wealth of new tools for students in a number of fields of study and situations. For instance, a student studying a new language could get assistance in learning by being able to place objects within the field of view of the AR program to help provide the identify in the language of study. Recognition using depth-assisted object detection (http://www.wired.com/beyond_the_beyond/2011/11/augmented-reality-depth-assisted-real-time-3d-object-detection/) is allowing for better accuracy in distinguishing differentiating details without having to accommodate the environmental sensitivities that have previous limited viewing and interaction. Also, in terms of being an asset for study abroad or when working with "on location" learning, there is the opportunity to provide GPS assisted guidance around (http://www.mvs.net/index.html), provide real-time translation (http://tokao.com/tag/augmented-reality/), and presentation of relevant content associated with the real-world environments recognized during an activity (http://wttfuture.wordpress.com/2011/08/02/breaking-layar-vision-recognises-real-world-objects-and-displays-ar-objects-on-top/) or visit (http://freshome.com/2010/01/19/world’s-first-augmented-reality-architecture-application-sara/). - Dougdar Dougdar Nov 20, 2011
  • AR provides unique opportunities for digital storytelling that is embedded in the world, particularly if the tools to create AR narratives are available on mobile devices. In turn, this can be coupled to the domain of ARGs (Alternate Reality Games) to create new educational gaming experiences - think of how some of the ideas embodied in Jane McGonigal's EVOKE (http://www.urgentevoke.com/) might play out in an AR environment. - rubenrp rubenrp Nov 21, 2011

(4) Do you have or know of a project working in this area?

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