Augmented reality (AR) is a term that’s been flying around for a while now but only recently has it really started to gain traction, away from the niche to the mainstream.
What is it?
AR is a technology that applies computer generated images onto a real world live environment. This is AR in its simplest form, but in reality it can do so much more.
The use of AR in the mainstream has exploded over the last couple of years first with the brilliant but flawed Google Glass to the innovative and highly addictive Pokémon Go.
Google Glass is an interactive AR device which is incorporated into glasses. The glasses are connected to the internet to give the user real-time information based on their surroundings. For example, consider that you are on holiday and you something to eat. As you are walking down a street you look at a particular restaurant and you are able to see its reviews, opening hours, menu and availability all through the glasses. If you like the look of the restaurant you can tell the glasses to phone the restaurant via your smartphone and book a reservation! Sounds amazing doesn’t it?
Unfortunately the product was plagued with controversy right from the offset with concerns about privacy and safety until it was finally discontinued in Jan 2015. Was the world not ready for such a huge technological leap forward? Perhaps not… Fortunately this didn’t spell the end for mainstream AR.
Pokémon Go was released in 2016 and has taken the mobile gaming world by storm. The purpose of the game is to capture different Pokémon based around real life surroundings. The game utilises your smartphone’s GPS and camera to enable Pokémon to appear on screen as if they were in the same real-world location as the player. This has allowed developers of the game to position “rare” Pokémon in popular public places which has, at times, led to an obscene amount of people gathered in the same place capturing Pokémon!
Like Google Glass, Pokémon Go has also had its fair share of controversies but, unlike Glass, Pokémon Go has proven to be a massive success story which proves what can happen when great technology and innovation come together. Perhaps part of the Pokémon Go’s success is also down to its accessibility. According to a survey 68% of adults in the US own a smartphone and a large percent of those people have a smartphone capable of running Pokémon Go. This immediately makes a large number of people accessible to AR, unlike Google Glass which requires a proprietary device.
The success story of Pokémon Go is something that can’t be ignored, which is why AR can have a massive impact on the future and practices of L&D.
Examples of AR in learning
Despite ARs relatively new popularity some companies are already using it in learning.
RTS Group are no strangers when comes to using technology in the automotive industry. They have utilised AR as a convenience tool to help customers find out information about different car models via the use of their smartphones. An AR activated vehicle contains 10 trigger points pla ced in key points which allow the customer to move around the vehicle and get key information on the car presented by a 3D chroma keyed service advisor through the app. For example a customer could point their phones at the tyres and find out the pressures and sizes and then open the bonnet to find where the washer fluid goes, replacing the need to use an instruction manual which can be time consuming for someone requiring an instant answer. This type of tool could also be used internally by assisting a new starter learn about the various models and features on cars.
Universities and colleges have never been institutions to shy away from new emerging technologies and AR has been at the forefront of some of their most innovative creations.
Manchester Metropolitan University found many students were attending open days just for financial information. The university printed a batch of postcards which were given to students and parents. They were then able to use postcard to access the information and watch videos from the university in their own time. Out of 200 students only three didn’t have a compatible device to view the information, proving AR to be a viable solution within learning institutions.
The University of Manchester has also been involved in another project called SCARLET. Original medieval manuscripts were made available to students. The manuscripts were enhanced by surrounding them with digitised content, images, texts, online learning and resources. This would enable a student to access supporting materials, to turn the page of a digital facsimile, zoom into details unseen to the naked eye and hear text spoken in Middle English all through the use of a compatible mobile device.
According to the Digi-Capital, AR is forecast to hit $120 billion revenue by 2020 up from $1 billion in 2016, that’s increase of 11900%! Although this figure counts for all AR sectors, this shows as a whole just how big the AR is due to become.
How it has/will impact the industry
From the examples and forecast it’s clear to see the benefits AR can bring to Learning, such as improving induction processes, increasing engagement and anytime learning. Like it or not AR is here to stay and its potential to enhance L&D is not to be ignored. With its increasing popularity combined with technological advances, I truly believe something that was once described as a niche or gimmick will soon become part of everyday life. The technology is here and it’s down to us to embrace it.
Phil Eagles, Senior eLearning Developer, Bray Leino Learning
In my series of blogs I’ll talk about the components of eLearning design and development.
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