The term ‘augmented reality’(AR) refers to information about the real world that our senses can’t give us. But we can receive it electronically in real-time, often using internet-enabled mobile phones: a Commoncraft video gives a simple introduction to the topic.
QR (Quick Response) codes are one example of AR technology. These 2D graphics work in much the same way as bar-codes in supermarkets, and can be attached to buildings, art-works etc to provide information that can be ‘read’ by internet-enabled mobile devices with appropriate software. More information about QR codes, particularly in the context of learning resources, can be found in an RSC Wales Moodle area put together by Sam Oakley, and also a blog by Karl Drinkwater. Andrew Ramsden from the University of Bath has also recently looked at educational uses of QR codes – both those that have worked, and those that haven’t. QR codes also have important accessibility potential, and have featured in JISC Techdis HEAT projects.
QR codes were just one of the topics covered in the presentation given by Steve Rose from the University of Exeter at the recent JISC/Escalate HE in FE conference at Warwick. He also outlined a similar process of image recognition employing MagicSymbol™ technology, but more appropriate for large display screens and/or projection. As with QR codes, a simple monochrome graphic is viewed- eg. by web-cam – and the output is a 3D image or video-sequence that may give the illusion of reality. MagicSymbols have been used to add features to toys – for example buildings growing out of piles of Lego™, and spiders on Top Trumps™ cards! They have also been used to provide information about cars – colours, components, how they look whizzing around bends!
Steve also highlighted the use of AR browsers during his presentation: these are generally designed for mobile devices and create the same sort of effect as a sports results ‘ticker-tape’ on a TV screen, or data on altitude, speed etc superimposed on a pilot’s screen. They often provide location-based information eg. about museums, restaurants, businesses. Some AR browsers, such as Kooaba, rely on image recognition, but there are also examples like Layar which employ GPS and community-generated content.
iPhone applications such as ‘Nearest Tube’ (devised by Acrossair) also employ GPS, and ‘mash’ inputs from the phone’s camera, GPS and digital compass to detect the nearest tube station – this is then shown on the phone’s display.
Because all these examples of AR increase the amount of available information, they provide considerable opportunities for teaching and learning – subject areas such as geography and tourism immediately come to mind, but all areas of study and practice could benefit. This is a rapidly developing area of technology : have you come across any other examples, and/or have suggestions about their use in education?