On this cold, frosty day, summer can feel like a long time ago. Unlike a lot of the seasonal trends, one phenomenon that’s largely stuck with us is Pokémon Go.
No doubt you’ll have seen countless people walking the streets with their heads down, using their phones to locate their next catch, or congregating together in areas of interest to battle at Pokémon gyms. Perhaps you’re even a top trainer yourself.
As a futures senior innovation developer at Jisc, you might expect that I’d be jumping for joy at seeing augmented reality (AR) make its way into the mainstream. But if I’m honest, I’ve struggled to get excited.
For all the hype around Pokémon Go, the AR component in the game itself is actually a relatively simple construct, using GPS to layer graphics onto the real world. It’s a repeat of the plethora of AR dinosaur experiences we saw before it – interesting, but with little substance.
In my work I’ve seen much more sophisticated and interesting uses of augmented and virtual reality (VR) in education. It can transport you to places and offer exceptional experiences you might otherwise struggle to access. I’d like to share just a few of the wonderful examples being using to immerse, engage and educate learners.
In the operating theatre
2016 saw the world’s first virtual reality, 360-degree operation streamed live. The surgery, on a British cancer patient at Royal London Hospital, was filmed by multiple specialist cameras placed above the operating table, and was available for medical students, trainee surgeons and members of the public to watch, either via their computers or a mobile device and virtual reality headset.
The procedure marked a huge step forward, breaking down barriers in terms of geography and the numbers who could actually be physically present, as well as enabling viewers to position themselves anywhere in the room, to interact with the operation and surgeons from all angles. Incredibly, 13,000 people in more than 100 countries tuned into the live stream – solid evidence of the value VR offers to healthcare training and education.
Archaeology is another discipline where it can be difficult to give students mass access to dig locations, such as sensitive sites.
A research team – made up of academics from the Interdisciplinary Centre in Interactive Technologies, University of São Paulo and Duke Immersive Virtual Environment, Duke University – sought to overcome this by developing a fully-immersive and interactive virtual environment that simulates an archaeological site. They utilised laser scanners and photogrammetry to reconstruct the environment, using this data to create a realistic, interactive 3D space that supports research and exploration.
The experience allows archaeology students to navigate through the virtual scene, visualising the density of artefacts found in core samples via a head-mounted display. It gives them a good understanding as if visiting in person, particularly with respect the aesthetic and spatial elements, such as proportions, scale, textures and colour, in a non-destructive way.
Embarking on any new, technical learning pathway inevitably involves having to get to grips with new equipment. Music production students at Leeds College of Music are able to use an AR app, developed in partnership with Jisc, to support their learning in the recording student environment.
Previously, students were taught in small groups in the studio, and then able to access supporting resources via the virtual learning environment (VLE). The college identified that students would benefit from a more interactive and engaging experience – and that AR was the solution for doing so.
The app developed allows students to scan the mixing desk onto their iPad, which is overlaid with delineated, coloured areas that they can tap on to access instructional information and videos. Importantly they can also use the app outside designated classroom activity, as well as in the studio practical sessions led by academics/ technicians.
The feedback has been very positive, with the college having launched a secondary element this academic year for routing patchbays.
Revealing working worlds
Industrial environments present their own challenges – and potential hazards. For work-based learning and training, augmented reality comes into its own, enabling users to assess and solve problems in the field more efficiently, accurately and safely.
A good example of this sort of emerging technology is the smart helmet, by AR wearable developer Daqri. By wearing the helmet, key job roles including technicians and engineers are able to connect to information that supports their learning and allows them to make better decisions. For example, by employing thermal imaging to record and monitor temperature data, it can highlight any equipment that require maintenance, and provide intuitive augmented instructions. Or it gives experts the ability to remotely assist workers, enabling them to virtually view what their colleague is seeing and advise from afar, to help skills development.
Thinking of taking the step?
If you’d like to learn more about these examples, are thinking of embarking on your own project and need help, or would like to share your own stories, I’d love to hear from you.