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  1. 1. 7 things you should know about Augmented Reality 1Scenario What is it?Last week, Josie missed a field trip that her botany The goal of augmented reality is to add information and meaningclass took to the Botanical Garden. Today, using a to a real object or place. Unlike virtual reality, augmented realitytechnique called augmented reality, she’s going to does not create a simulation of reality. Instead, it takes a realmake up that field trip on her own using a guided tour object or space as the foundation and incorporates technologiesthat the TA created to help her understand the mate- that add contextual data to deepen a person’s understanding ofrial the class covered. The midterm is coming up, and the subject. For example, by superimposing imaging data fromJosie will need to identify key species in each of nine an MRI onto a patient’s body, augmented reality can help a sur-ecosystems modeled in the garden. geon pinpoint a tumor that is to be removed. In this case, the technology used might include headgear worn by the surgeonJosie heads to the Botanical Garden with her PDA. combined with a computer interface that maps data to the per-Starting from the main gate, she faces east and ob- son lying on the operating table. In other cases, augmented reali-serves a striking cedar, in front of which is a sign that ty might add audio commentary, location data, historical context,tells her the tree is more than 500 years old. Josie or other forms of content that can make a user’s experience of aplugs in her headphones and selects a recording of thing or a place more meaningful.the professor giving his theory about the role that trees 2like this one play in the ecosystem. As she approach-es the cedar, the GPS in her PDA notes her location Who’s doing it?and makes the appropriate files available. Browsing Augmented reality has been put to use in a number of fields,through the notes associated with her current GPS including medical imaging, where doctors can access datacoordinates, Josie discovers that a classmate has about patients; aviation, where tools show pilots important datadecided to do his term project on the skunks making about the landscape they are viewing; training, in which technol-their home in the tree. She also learns from a previous ogy provides students or technicians with necessary data aboutyear’s student project that the skunks living in the tree specific objects they are working with; and in museums, wheredisplaced a young raccoon. As she moves through the artifacts can be tagged with information such as the artifact’sgarden, she selects photos and movies of other trees, historical context or where it was discovered.depicting the history of the garden, seasonal differ- Within the academy, educators are beginning to provide studentsences, and changes that have occurred. with deeper, more meaningful experiences by linking educationalIn addition to the material supplied by the TA, Josie content with specific places and objects. In many disciplines,is able to download the notes, photos, and keywords field trips are part of the course; by supplementing these explo-that the rest of her class recorded when they took the rations with mobile technologies and data-collection devicesfield trip. She adds her own observations, assigning (including digital cameras), the lessons can be extended beyondappropriate keywords so others can find them eas- the field trip. In some cases, augmented reality technologies haveily. She also makes sure to include GPS coordinates. been integrated into educational games. In MIT’s EnvironmentalWhen she is finished with the project, she will include it Detectives, for example, students learn about environmental sci-in her public record to share with her little brother back ences and ecosystems by finding clues and solving a mystery onhome. She plans to bring him to the garden when he the MIT campus using PDAs fitted with GPS devices.visits at Thanksgiving. more ➭After finishing the field trip, Josie feels ready for themidterm. She found studying in the outdoors to beinvigorating, and she is confident that the GPS andWi-Fi technology combined with the course materialas well as her colleagues’ comments and completedassignments have given her the understanding sheneeds to do well. Formerly NLII www.educause.edu/eli
  2. 2. Augmented Reality Find more titles in this series on the ELI Web site www.educause.edu/eli 6How does it work? Where is it going?3A range of technologies can be used for augmented reality. Many Computing devices, especially wireless ones, are becomingaugmented reality projects use headgear or a similar device that more powerful and increasingly widespread. At the same time,projects data into the user’s field of vision, corresponding with costs for these devices are falling. As computing hardware—botha real object or space the user is observing. In the case of a wired and wireless—approaches ubiquity, new opportunitiestechnical course on PC maintenance, for example, augmented emerge to use technology to enrich individuals’ experiences ofreality might overlay a schematic diagram onto the inside of a objects and places. Because all areas of academic inquiry ben-computer, allowing students to identify the various components efit from background and context, augmented reality has theand access technical specifications about them. PDAs or other possibility of enhancing education across the curriculum. Byportable devices can use GPS data to provide users with con- exposing students to an experiential, explorative, and authentictext—including visual, audio, or text-based data—about real model of learning early in their higher education careers, aug-objects or places. Augmented reality is not merely a companion mented reality has the potential to help shift modes of learningtext or multimedia file but a technology designed to “see” a real from students’ simply being recipients of content to their takingobject or place and provide the user with appropriate informa- an active role in gathering and processing information, therebytion at the right time. Augmented reality is designed to blur the creating knowledge. 7line between the reality the user is experiencing and the contentprovided by technology. What are the implications forWhy is it significant? teaching and learning?4Because every object or place has a history and a context, mak- Augmented reality is one way to bring experiential and location-ing that content available to individuals interacting with those based learning to students by supplementing existing worldsplaces or things provides a richer experience. To the extent that rather than creating new ones. Augmented reality installationsinstructors can furnish students with a broad context for under- can be built to take advantage of existing or low-cost infrastruc-standing the real world, students are more likely to comprehend ture. The use of nearly ubiquitous devices such as cell phoneswhat they are learning and to remember it later. Information can may permit rapid experimentation and evolution of augmentedalso come from students themselves. Students in an archeology reality applications.class might use an augmented reality system to capture their By combining technology familiar to students with locations thatthoughts or impressions when working with artifacts. That con- students see as their own, augmented reality has the potentialtent can then be made available to others during subsequent to move learning out of the classrooms and into the spaceslab sessions, allowing them to have a deeper understanding of where students live. Encouraging informal learning that is easilythe subject matter and a richer learning experience. Augmented accessible may prove particularly effective in engaging students,reality might also make higher education and specialized content extending learning to spaces that might help them form connec-more accessible to the general public, transporting lessons from tions with content, the locations that provide the context for it,the campus to the community. and the peers that they share it with.What are the downsides?5Many augmented reality projects rely on specific or custom-ized hardware, and the mechanisms that correlate data addedby technology with the real world are often technically complex.Despite falling costs for hardware overall, augmented reality proj-ects can be expensive to develop and maintain.Today’s augmented reality projects typically focus on individualusers and may not lend themselves to team activities or grouplearning. In addition, augmented reality projects may resembleentertainment, raising questions about their pedagogical value.Educators must be careful to ensure that activities have educa-tional merit and that students do not become infatuated with thetechnology alone. www.educause.edu/eli September 2005