AR: The future of educational technology

AR Marketing Conference 2014

You may be familiar with eLearning and mLearning but have you ever heard of AR Learning? In short it is learning through augmented reality which, similar to eLearning and mLearning, falls into the educational technology (EdTech) category. Augmented reality is emerging as an exciting form of EdTech that creates graphic visualisation learning scenarios. Some of the possibilities that learning through augmented reality can offer were discussed at an AR conference held in Dublin’s Guinness Storehouse last month.

So what is augmented reality? Simply put it is something added to your view of the world. According to Alex Gibson, Dublin Institute of Technology lecturer and host of The Persuaders, there will be 1 billion augmented reality users by 2020. Augmented reality connects digital content with the real world in a new way using old mechanics and new mediums. The old mechanics are triggers, in the form of symbols or QR codes. The new mediums are the devices that are used to scan a trigger image in order to activate the digital overlay, such as, mobile phones, tablets and AR headsets.

Brian Mullins, CEO and founder of DAQRI, discussed how 4D is considered to be the storytelling medium as it brings narratives into our world. AR can be used to create valuable learning through exploring story based experiences. According to Mullins there are four necessary elements for engaging augmented reality experiences: visualisation, storytelling, knowledge transfer and play. Sound is also really important as it offers more than half of the emotional connection to the experience. The interaction should be as natural as possible so the user is immersed seamlessly.

An example of an educational AR experience is DAQRI’s chemistry app, Elements4D. This app is triggered by the individual designs on each face of the cube DAQRI have designed. Each design represents a chemical element so when a smartphone or tablet using the Elements4D app scans the face of the cube it becomes transparent on screen and a digital visualisation of the element can be seen within. Hitting two cubes, or blocks, together while viewing them through the app on screen will display the chemical reaction of the two elements within the cubes. To get a better idea of how it works watch this short demo. DAQRI have also developed an app called Anatomy 4D that works in a similar way to allow users to explore the human body.

In order to make this technology applicable to learners it must be easy to use, affordable and the content should be educationally valuable. Currently the speed of recognition within devices (i.e. iPad’s, smartphones) is proving to be a hindrance, as well as connectivity issues and device capability. However the technology behind AR is reliable and will continue to improve so that it can meet users expectations to provide them with new interactive ways of learning.