Augmented Reality

Time-to-Adoption: Four to Five Years
The term augmented reality (AR) was first coined in 1990 by former Boeing researcher Tom Caudell. The idea is to blend, or augment, primarily location-based data accessed on the web with what we see in the real world. While the capability to deliver augmented reality experiences has been around for decades, it is only very recently that those experiences have become easy and portable. Advances in mobile devices as well as in the different technologies that combine the real world with virtual information have led to augmented reality applications that are as near to hand as any other application on a laptop or a smart phone. New uses for augmented reality are being explored and new experiments undertaken now that it is easy to do so. Emerging augmented reality tools to date have been mainly designed for marketing, social purposes, amusement, or location-based information, but new ones continue to appear as the technology becomes more popular. Augmented reality has become simple, and is now poised to enter the mainstream in the consumer sector.

Relevance for Teaching, Learning, or Creative Inquiry

  • Augmented reality has strong potential to provide both powerful contextual, in situ learning experiences and serendipitous exploration and discovery of the connected nature of information in the real world.
  • Students visiting historic sites can access AR applications that overlay maps and information about how the location looked at different points of history.
  • Games that are based in the real world and augmented with networked data can give educators powerful new ways to show relationships and connections.

Augmented Reality in Practice

  • ARIS is an alternate reality gaming engine created by the University of Wisconsin’s Games, Learning and Society research group. Virtual objects and characters can be placed at certain locations in the physical world; players can interact with them using their mobile devices:
  • With the Wikitude World Browser, users can view their surroundings through the camera on a mobile device, seeing historical information, nearby landmarks, and points of interest:
  • This video demonstrates an augmented reality game played with a table board and a mobile device, created at Georgia Tech Augmented Environments Lab and the Savannah College of Art and Design Atlanta:

For Further Reading

If You Are Not Seeing Data, You Are Not Seeing
(Brian Chen, Wired Gadget Lab, 25 August 2009.) This article gives a good overview of augmented reality, including where it currently is situated and what to expect in the future.

Map/Territory: augmented reality without the Phone
(Brady Forrest, O’Reilly Radar, 17 August 2009.) This brief interview discusses what forms augmented reality might take beyond its application for mobile devices.

Visual Time Machine Offers Tourists a Glimpse of the Past
(ScienceDaily, 17 August 2009.) New apps for smartphones offer augmented reality on the go. While on location, users view historical sites as they were hundreds of years ago.