Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Who Needs Augmented Reality?

I have written about augmented reality (AR) before when I talked about the Layar app almost 2 years ago. I like Layar. Even though it is a glorified QR code, what you can do with Layar is take an everyday object and make it "clickable". That is pretty cool.

But I don't know if I would consider Layar real augmented reality. In real AR, when you look at an object through a device (iPad/iPhone camera, Google Glass etc) then it actually changes. So for example here is a neat app called Elements 4D that gives you templates of 6 different cubes each with 6 elements on them and when you create those cubes and view them through the app, you see directly the effects of AR. Take a look below.

So that is a pretty good app that really shows some possibilities with AR. A the very least in a "Wow" factor for students. That app was created by a company called Daqri and they have other AR apps like Anatomy 4D. Can you guess what that is about? In both the Elements 4D app and the Anatomy 4D app, you will need to download an image of a template to use in the app. The cubes for Elements can be generated from within the app and the body template is here for Anatomy.

Another chemistry based app is called Chemistry 101. This is made by a company called Zientia (when you go to their site you will note that it is entirely in Spanish. You can click on the English button if you don't want the challenge of reading in that language). Right now the Chemistry app is all they have but it is still pretty good (and they have more on the way). Take a look at the video below to see a brief view of how that app works.


Now these apps are pretty cool but my question is: "Are they needed?". That is, do they provide something that otherwise couldn't be done without the AR. I think in the case of the Elements 4D app, the answer might be yes. The fact that you can hold those cubes in your hand and rotate them to see different views of those elements is something that you may not be able to do in a real class (unless of course you actually had some real samples - which is not out of the realm of possibility)

With the Chemistry 101 app, I am not so sure the AR actually adds to the use of the app. I think most of the stuff that can be done in the app could be done with out the AR focus and still be effective. Don't get me wrong, I really love the testing feature in the app and think that is one of its great strengths. However, as I was using the app, it physically got tiring to continue to hold the iPad above the printouts to see the AR and quickly found that the AR was a novelty and not necessary for the actual function of the app. Maybe I am missing something but that's the way I saw it.

What's the lesson here? "you get what you pay for?" or "AR apps are cool". Maybe "not all AR apps are created equal". Either way, you have some interesting and different ways to introduce topics to students. So why do things the traditional way when instead you can do things the tra-digital way? See what I did there?

Are you using any of these AR apps in your classroom? Do you have some suggestions for good AR apps? If so, please tell us about it in the comment section.

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