The Possibilities of Augmented Reality in Education

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VR is the new craze sweeping the tech world. In 2017 augmented reality may just be ready to join the ranks of trending and innovative technology to venture into households business and education. Augmented reality differs from VR as it blends the virtual world with the physical world around you. Microsoft recently showed this off with its HoloLens. It is a headset that allows you to interact with virtual objects that take place in your physical setting. Imagine, playing Minecraft on your coffee table with the city you built spanning throughout the landscape of your living room.

The roll-out for AR will be slow and tedious just as it was with VR. First implementations of AR will be limited and most likely not very impressive. The uses for such a platform have a grand cathedral like ceiling however. And although we may not see the more outrageous uses of AR in 2017, the market for it in education is certainly there.

We have already begun to see virtual reality shape classrooms in different ways. Google made its mark on this avenue by creating Google Cardboard. A piece of cardboard with some lenses, it can be ordered for around $10. Younger students have been using Google Cardboard in order to take virtual field trips to museums around the world from the comfort and convenience of their classroom. Creating these experiences gets students excited to learn about such topics. Young minds are captivated by the experience, creating an enthusiasm that powerpoint presentations and YouTube clips simply cannot muster. This simple use of VR in education could be amplified exponentially through AR.

This potential may work its way into higher education as well. Imagine AR being used to dissect frogs and pigs. A once controversial topic could be eliminated simply by using AR. Placing a hologram of a pig on a real biology lab table and having the students dissect it using virtual tools would be groundbreaking. Medical students could very well perform augmented reality operations and procedures which could potentially save lives from malpractice and general inexperience. Granted this is all speculation the possibilities are very real and coming sooner rather than later.

Barriers do exist for AR as they did for and still do for VR. AR will face the negative connotations that come with its appearance. Google Glass, which many consider the first attempt at augmented reality, was met with tremendous setbacks in this regard. People wearing them were often ridiculed for invading others privacy and downright mocked for there somewhat silly appearance. AR implementation in any facet will face these same obstacles if they are to be used in any environments.

It isn’t all such a dark road for AR though. The most common placement of augmented reality will be in the form of mobile applications. For instance, picture students holding up an application to certain bones in a biology lab as the app highlights and labels specific areas of that bone to give the student information. This is a form of AR that will likely make its way into the educational world in the coming year. An easily implemented and highly customizable experience that will generate a new-found interest from students and teachers alike.

Augmented reality on an Ipad shows a skull for educational use
Look for mobile augmented reality to make its way into schools in 2017. Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons
One rumor that has the AR hype train running is that the upcoming iPhone 8 will feature augmented reality capabilities. Tim Cook has expressed his fondness for AR over VR in previous statements. Apple does have a tendency to keep its future prospects hidden away until they are nearing launch. Seeing how Samsung Sony HTC and others have already begun using their mobile devices to create VR experiences I don’t see Apple launching any AR experiences via hardware or software. Apple has a track record for letting other companies test the waters before they swoop in to make it mainstream. The same will hold true for AR I believe. Apple getting into the AR game would certainly propel its implementation into all fields, including education, but AR fields shouldn't hold their breath on this one.

Whereas VR has always had a hindrance on it due to it being tied down by additional and bulky hardware, AR has the potential to alleviate the users virtual experience. That being exactly what technology should due in such a case. Alleviate the user to make an easier, more enjoyable and productive experience. AR has the potential to do just that, whether it does or not, that remains to be seen. Look for AR to make its debut into more and more educational institutions and programs throughout 2017.

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