Monday, September 10, 2012

Augmented Reality is a Reality

Yesterday I went to the Prince of Wales Museum in Mumbai.  I was handed a set of headphones and an audio guide that I could press when I reached various points around the museum so that I could listen to information about what I was looking at.   Without a doubt this service enabled me to enjoy my visit more and to develop a more in-depth understanding of artifacts on display.  Soon, however, this experience may well be replaced by a technology that the Horizon Report in the past couple of years has identified as something on the "far horizon"of 4-5 years away.  Augmented reality is the layering of place-based information over a 3D view of the normal world - in other words the real-world is augmented by computer generated sensory input such as sound, video, graphics or GPS data.

The video below gives a few examples about how augmented reality could be used in the future.  My feeling is that this future could well be nearer than some of the experts have predicted.

Back in April this year Google unveiled its Project Glass - an initiative that it had been working on for a couple of years.    Project Glass goes further than using a mobile device as it involves a wearable device that resembles glasses with a lens that can display text messages, maps, reminders, video chats, notes and so on - and activated through voice commands.  The video below from Google gives an example of a day wearing such glasses:

Since this blog is about how technology can transform education, I was interested to read a blog post from Online Universities today about how such glasses can have a real impact in the classroom.  This post identifies the following possible benefits:

  • immersive educational experiences can change the ways that students learn
  • apps will allow students to interact with visual imagery, text and other educational resources
  • memorization will continue to decline in importance as information is more readily available anywhere
  • text books will be obsolete as text, images and videos can be streamed directly to a student's glasses
  • classes can take place anywhere and students who are unable to be present can participate via Google Hangouts
  • field trips will become richer experiences
  • Using Google Translate through the glasses will enable students to collaborate with others around the globe as they will be able to see and read what someone is saying in another language.  This could have a real impact on international mindedness and cultural understanding.
Currently these glasses are only available to developers - but later this year the intention is to put them on sale.  The price tag of $1500 puts them in the same league as a good laptop.  Personally I think we will start to see students with these devices fairly soon.

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