Thursday, September 6, 2012

Augmented Reality & Education

Sorry it has been so long since I have updated my blog, but I hope to make up for it right now!

Augmented reality (A.R.) can and will transform our classrooms. What is augmented reality? It is a live, direct or indirect, view of a physical, real-world environment whose elements are augmented by computer-generated sensory input such as sound, video, graphics or GPS data. And yes, I proudly got that definition from Wikipedia.
Aurasma app
Aurasma is a free app that has been developed so that regular folks like us can begin dabbling in augmented reality. Users create "auras." Auras are videos, animations, audio or webpages that are linked to an image, object or symbol in the real world. People create the auras (content.) Users can then open Aurasma, point their device's camera at the image, object or symbol and the creator's content pops up and replaces the image, object or symbol.

Some of us video game geeks have already seen augmented reality in action, but it wasn't until I saw this video that I realized the tremendous opportunities this technology presents for us in education.



Imagine. Imagine a school where the kids all have iPads or some form of portable device loaded with Aurasma or some similar A.R. app. They point their device at a picture, photo, or object and immediately begin learning. Imagine students CREATING the content that displays for other students. Imagine textbooks or novels that now come to life when the reader points a device at certain pages or images in the book. Imagine a trip to the library where students can preview books simply by pointing their device at the cover. Imagine how this will change the way we read newspapers and magazines. Imagine how field trips to museums, art classes, and open houses could be revolutionized by this technology. This clip shows an early adopter of the technology in the U.K.



You can download Aurasma Lite right now. Android users / Apple users 

I found it to be a little clunky at first, but it is an emerging technology. The lite version allows you and your students to play with the technology and imagine the world of possibilities.

This clip shows you some of what I imagine will happen in the near future.


Students learning through A.R. will first use handheld devices, but soon that will switch to some form of glasses, goggles, or contact lenses. The continued refinement of voice recognition software will make this a hands-free technology. Down the road, the technology in these devices will likely be implanted.

Eventually we will be able look at people, animals, and real life objects and immediately pull up a wealth of information to explain everything we observe except for, perhaps, the popularity of the Kardashians. 

Imagine a trip to the zoo. Imagine never again experiencing the embarrassment of forgetting a former student's name. I would often forget the names of students I had the previous semester.

Imagine never getting lost in a city. Imagine always being able to identify a tree, flower or insect while walking in the woods. Imagine looking into the night sky and being able to point out every planet and star. Imagine pulling up recipes and cooking instructions without ever needing to use your hands. 

This is the world our children will be living in. This is the world our children will be learning in. As I consider the possible evolution of the technology, I wonder if this will turn out to be a bridge to an even more artificial reality. Will AUGMENTING reality be the first step in REPLACING reality with an artificial world that conflicts less with our vision of a perfect world? For example, could someone eventually be able to change the LOOKS of another person they like, but aren't physically attracted to? They would look at the person, but an "aura" of their "perfect" mate would replace what they see...kind of like a technological Shallow Hal. Could we look out our back window and see a Bahamian beach rather than the back side of another vinyl-sided house like our own? Even further, will we be able to replace bad memories with good ones, nightmares with dreams, fears with hopes, and sadness with happiness? Most importantly, will I be able to experience USC winning a National Championship in football?

I have no doubt that augmented reality will soon become embedded in our schools and our lives. Our children will begin by augmenting reality. Their children will likely be able to redefine reality. That definition, and the algorithms used to create it, will largely depend on our ability to pass along the values we cherish to the next generation.

If you've read this far, you might be interested in learning more. Below are a few more clips for you to check out!