Virtual and augmented reality have been around for a while now – in specific sectors like gaming or manufacturing – but the advent of smartphones has made these technologies much more accessible and desirable to everyone who owns one. And the market for VR and AR is steadily growing by the billions.
While VR changes a user's environment completely through the use of some hardware like a headset, AR only alters it by overlaying computer generated images onto the user's actual environment that can be viewed through the camera of a smartphone.
It's already being used in retail, allowing customers to “try” products before they buy them; design and manufacturing, using 3D modeling software and reducing prototype expenses; and marketing and advertising, bringing print ads to life by just pointing your smartphone at them. It's also proven to be a great practicing tool for employee training. And in education, it's taken off in a major way.
In the classroom, AR takes things like diagrams, equations, and artifacts and “brings them to life,” through some sort of video or animation that is triggered when a smartphone scans the image. This has the potential to revolutionize education, making difficult concepts easier to grasp and visualize as well as making it more fun and engaging for students.
AR also brings things into the classroom that would otherwise be too expensive or impossible to get, like certain lab tools or ancient artifacts for study.
AR is so beneficial because it not only gives students a better understanding, but also allows them to get involved and create their own digital stories.
When it comes to AR, you can make it as complex or as easy as you like. On the one hand, tech savvy teachers can create their own trigger images through apps like Aurasma Studio, with anything from textbook images to math equations to pictures on the wall that students can scan with their smartphones. Maybe a math problem turns into a video of students solving it, or a page of homework can reveal a video of a teacher explaining some quick tips. You can also use it in science, showing students how to use lab equipment as they scan over the different pieces in the room.
But if that sounds like more than you can chew, not to worry. You can still use AR in the classroom through much easier ready-made AR apps that specialize in education. Some require extra equipment or printable trigger pages, but overall, they're effective and kids find them absolutely fascinating.
Here are a few of the best AR apps for education:
Daqri – This tech company has created two really great AR apps for education. First, there's Anatomy 4D, which allows users to explore and interact with the many systems of the human body. Then, for chemistry, there's Elements 4D that comes with wooden blocks that represent the elements of the periodic table. When pushed together in front of the app's camera, the screen shows the chemical reaction.
Quiver – This app is great for young learners because it specializes in coloring pages, that are actually AR trigger images. So after kids are finished coloring, you can hold a device over the pages and watch as the student's work springs off the page.
Google Sky Map – The vastness of the universe is hard for anyone to grasp, but this app brings students just a bit closer to outer space through the lens of their smartphone camera. By pointing it towards the sky, they can directly identify stars, planets, and constellations, getting a more hands-on experience with astronomy.
Fetch! Lunch Rush – This gamified app teaches elementary school students how to add and subtract through real world challenges. It uses printable cards as triggers that come alive when the smartphone scans them.
Popar Toys – This company creates interactive and educational smart toys for kids. They've got books, puzzles, and toys that come to life through fantastic animations, covering everything from animals to geography to sports.
AR is certain to grow, become more refined, and play a big role in our students' future. Incorporating it into the classroom now gives them a head start and a great foundation in one of the many amazing technologies that are certain to change the way we perform the most complex to the most basic tasks. And if nothing else, AR is sure to up the cool factor in your classroom.