Thursday, November 8, 2012

Augmented Reality: an Alternative to QR Codes?

Over the past year we have seen QR Codes make a mark in the classroom as an easy way to send students to a site, make interactive book talks, share information with parents at Open House, among many other uses.  But what is augmented reality (AR) and how does it match up for classroom use?

augmented reality - noun - an artificial environment created through the combination of real-world and computer-generated data.
String - Free for iPhone and iPad 

Proto - example from String 
My first experience (other than on TV) was seeing a couple of our teachers play with String at our Regional Ed Tech Cadre.  This app works by printing images, called targets, already made by the company from  This is a showcase app for the company but is a great way to demonstrate to students what AR is and the possibilities. Of the four examples, the targets demonstrate some of the more advanced features and capabilities that AR can do. Print a few out and try it!

After seeing this, it lead us to spend time experimenting with a free app called Aurasma Lite.  Aurasma allows you to view ARs in a visual browser - including ones you make yourself with the app or ones that appear with their big A on products, newspaper ads, etc.  More information on Aurasma can be found on their website.  

Aurasma Lite - Free for both iPhone and iPad
Making my own was pretty fast and easy.  The app includes some preloaded (and fun) 3D animations,  but for the classroom the biggest tool was being able to make a target show a video that I created.   While practicing, I made the power outlet in my room into a train depot (from the preloaded choices) and the room number on our door be a target for a video that I had created on my ipad.

Advantages to AR was that I could create a target and upload my own video all within the one app and device.  I didn't have to have an external place (like youtube) or print out my QR code.  I just used the pictures in my room.  AR is more limiting than QR Codes for what I can make it display - only videos and slideshows - unless you have time and expertise to create 3D diagrams and animations.  Possibilities though to add a new intractability with the students' surroundings: 
Interactive word walls with video definitions?  View video instructions at classroom centers?  Reading Rainbow book talks with book cover as target?  Any other ideas?

Check out how students and teachers are using AR:
Augmented Reality in Education:  Shaw Wood Primary School  
Bringing Augmented Reality to Life - in the classroom and the workplace

Other AR Experience Apps:
AR Flashcards - Animal Alphabet   For iPhone and iPad  $0.99 (print off 26 animal flashcards to use with app)
The Amazing Spiderman AR - For iPhone and iPad Free (interacts with targets from their website) 
AR Soccer - for iPhone and iPad $1.99  (play with a virtual soccer ball)

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