Sometimes it just takes one breakout hit to highlight the potential of a new tech concept, and augmented reality (AR)’s moment came during the Pokémon Go mania of 2016. However, although college kids were avid and enthusiastic participants, the game wasn’t the only way that AR has become a player on college campuses.
According to Goldman Sachs, about $700 million will be invested in AR/VR technology for the educational market by 2025, in an attempt to harness tech’s power to revolutionize the learning experience.
While AR and VR are often grouped together as one category, they are actually quite different. With virtual reality you become immersed in an artificial digital environment, typically through donning glasses or a headset. In AR, actual reality is enhanced (thus, the term “augmented”) by overlaying virtual objects on the real-world environment, often through the use of a smartphone.
Here are some ways colleges and universities are already using and developing AR experiences, thus creating new ways to interact with educational material beyond the written word.
1. Diving into anatomy at Case Western Reserve
Human bodies are complex, so more information will always create better comprehension—particularly when presented using rich media. That’s why Case Western Reserve University has deployed AR technology to allow students to observe and isolate physiological events in three dimensions as they view a life-size 3D human figure. For example, via the magic of AR, viewers can track blood as it moves through the chambers of the heart into arteries and veins.
2. Hitting the right notes at Leeds College of Music
Learning to use a recording console can be confusing, but an AR app in use at Leeds College of Music in the UK adds context for students learning new recording technology. The app overlays information about the console and how to navigate the many buttons and features over the surface as a primer to students who are using the school’s studios to record.
3. Becoming part of history at The University of Wisconsin—Madison
Through an AR “situated documentary” developed by the Field Day Lab at University of Wisconsin-Madison, visitors to the campus can relive a 1967 Vietnam protest that drew a national spotlight. The AR game “Dow Day” shows historical footage and other multi-media content relevant to the 1967 Dow Day Protest at the exact locations on campus where the events took place. Leveraging AR technology to create these kinds of immersive educational experiences can help students feel more connected to milestone historic events, and retain information better.
4. Hacking into new tech solutions at Oklahoma State University
The goal of Oklahoma State University’s Virtual + Augmented Reality Hackathon was to assemble teams of students and community members to tackle a real-world problem—how to enhance retail training at Walmart—using AR and VR tools. During the two-day conference, multi-disciplinary teams of students from a wide variety of departments that included engineering, computer science, business, education technology, graphic design, architecture, interior design and civil engineering, explored creative ways to use these tech solutions, with results expected to be shared in fall of 2018.
“As faculty, we wanted to expose a wide range of students and community members to AR and VR tools—and as researchers we wanted to address the question of how multidisciplinary teams and people from different domains approach a problem, using digital media, and work together,” explained Tilanka Chandrasekera, an assistant professor in the department of Design, Housing and Merchandising at Oklahoma State University.
5. Exploring the earth’s topography at Western Michigan University
A sandbox is more than child’s play at Western Michigan University, which has deployed an AR sandbox that combines a physical sandbox with a 3D camera and data projector to help students understand complex geological concepts. The AR sandbox allows them to create topography models with real sand that is augmented by an elevation colormap, topographic contour lines and simulated water.
6. Learning more about the campus at Cal Poly Pomona
Virtual reality campus tours might be all the rage, but Cal Poly Pomona has another high-tech treat for visitors to its campus—an AR tour where participants learn more about the significance and history of various points on campus. The app uses a smartphone’s compass, GPS and camera to show pictures, videos and text that offer insight into notable school landmarks, no live tour guide needed.
As higher ed continually evolves its curriculum to keep up with the latest in cutting-edge tech, AR is destined to become the new reality for forward-thinking universities everywhere.
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