Try Augmented Reality out for yourself using your computer’s web cam

– details at the end of the post.

This is just around the corner. According to the 2011 Horizon Report, this technology will take a further two to three years before widespread adoption, but it’s well worth getting interested in it right now.

Augmented Reality (A.R.) has actually been around a long time but with today’s technology it means we can hold up our smart phone / tablet / any other camera-enabled device and view the real world surrounding us through the device’s screen as taken by its camera. This real view of the world around us, however, will be enhanced (augmented) with layers of digital information added on top.

So you are on a Geography field trip, you hold your smart phone up to the high street, and you view the types of shop and office in front of you as text labels overlaid on top of the real buildings. This video demonstrates a similar scenario to the one I have just described, explaining how a Dutch A.R. web browser called Layar works.

I considered installing Layar on to my android phone but the comments are loud in saying that it isn’t really ready yet (unless you live in Times Square New York, where a lot of augmented data already exists). Most folk who have commented live somewhere which lacks useful data layers at present and so I just know that this app won’t yield anything meaningful for me at this stage, living as I do in in Thailand.

But that’s the thing – this is an emerging technology – for most of us, it’s just around the corner (give or take a year or two) – not quite there yet for the mainstream. But when it fully arrives, I think it’s going to be huge and will need to be embraced in education. The young people we help to learn will be using this technology regardless of whether we bring it into their learning opportunities. Social networking will be all over this stuff, and here’s a current example of where it’s going with this …

Viewdle – Photo and Video Face Tagging from Viewdle on Vimeo.

Within education there will be countless opportunities to enhance learning. The thing that really excites me about this is that technology is already being developed to allow users to create the layers themselves, which has huge potential for education. Imagine if it is the learners who are creating the labels on top of the high street buildings, collaborating on layers they can share and compare with one another. And this need not be limited to text. Video, photographs and other images, maps, sounds, and 3D objects can all be augmented to our reality in this way.

Daqri is a new Internet start-up (which I came across via Richard Byrne’s blog) busy developing an online app to allow users to create Augmented Reality layers associated with “daqri codes” (which are basically QR Codes that could be printed and attached to any real surface). I’ve just requested and received a beta invite to this app, and am looking forward to some time to explore its potential first-hand. This video outlines what it involves:

And to see how this could actually work, Daqri have produced this short clip. Imagine these codes printed as cards placed around a classroom for students to explore:

And once you factor in 3D layers as in the above video, it will be possible for students to create and access 3D models and images layered on top of anything, whether it is their school surrounds or an image on a display board. And the 3D imagery could be fully animated. Taking this a little further, check out the so called ‘i-magic’ books in this (now dated) documentary clip from 2007 to see just how far this could be headed …

Interested? Why not try some Augmented Reality out for yourself? While writing this post I was led via youtube to the amazing Smart Grid site. If you have a webcam and printer, I hope it works for you, because I was seriously impressed:

Smart Grid Augmented Reality


To find out more, a great place to start is the section on A.R. in the above-mentioned 2011 Horizon Report, which includes some subject-specific examples (the report is primarily focused on tertiary education, but this seems just as relevant to primary and secondary education too).