Augmented Reality Learning Experiences

Augmented reality is growing fast. There are tons of free AR apps and more being released every day. AR has an advantage over virtual reality in that it doesn’t require special hardware besides the mobile device itself. However, older devices may not be able to run AR, and most AR experiences require downloading an app.

Whether a tablet or a phone is used, the device must be equipped with the software to support AR experiences. Newer Android phones and iPhones, from 2016 onwards or so, are ready for use with AR apps. Augmented reality is best used with a tablet because of its larger screen size. Phone AR is a little trickier to use and view.

Check if your phone is AR-ready using Google’s list of Supported Device Models. The page also includes instructions for getting the necessary software.

Tablets vary in their AR ability. iPads are wonderful to use with AR, and the Apple Store is awash with AR apps. Other tablets are much more limited in what they can do.

AR is a great complement for learning experiences. It’s a great strategy to get learners up and moving. It can be an engaging method to illustrate complicated concepts.

Accessing AR

There are a few methods to activate an AR experience. Users might manually launch an app to explore AR on their own (markerless), or they might use physical markers to launch AR experiences (marker-based). AR experiences can also be triggered by the user’s physical location (location-based).

K-12 teachers are likely to use marker-based AR to ensure that students are accessing the correct lesson (see Clever Books example, below). The MERGE cube is an example of a 3D marker that triggers 3D AR experiences.

Pokémon Go or apps that deliver walking directions are examples of location-based AR.

Let’s look at some AR learning experiences to get an idea of what it can do for learning.

Use Cases for AR in Learning

MERGE Cube

The MERGE Cube is a physical foam square with a unique marker on each face, which allows the cube to become a 3D computer-generated object in AR. There are dozens of apps for mobile devices that work with MERGE Cube (some free, most paid). The cube is fun to play with – you can make your own version out of paper. The physical cube runs about $15.

MERGE Cube

Figure 3 – MERGE Cube

Screenshot of user experiencing Mr Body AR app for MERGE cube

Figure 4 – Screenshot of user experiencing Mr. Body. Mr. Body is an app for use with MERGE cube. Users can examine the anatomy of a cartoon figure from all angles.

See a demo of the Mr. Body app:

Clever Books

Clever Books provides a line of K-12 workbooks and worksheets that double as AR markers to launch interactive experiences. For example, say a class is learning about South American’s geography. The teacher might provide the students with AR marker sheets along with a tablet loaded with the Clever Books app. The resulting AR experience is an interactive view of the South American continent – students can explore animals, biomes, weather patterns, etc.

Google Expeditions

Google Expeditions provides both AR and VR experiences. There is a wealth of AR experiences available via the app that allows users to view science and history-related objects in 3D, including space shuttles, dinosaurs, and more.

Users can pin the 3D objects to their own physical space, and they may resize and view the objects from all angles.

Here’s an example of a user viewing dinosaurs in AR:

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