With 3.5 Billion users by the year 2022, Augmented Reality or AR is set to dominate various industries in the upcoming days. Going by the numbers, it is predicted that there would be a whopping $2.4 Billion spending on just AR-based ads which will sum up to $15 Billion of total revenue by 2022. Currently, the augmented reality market is of $3.5 Billion and will surpass the total revenue of virtual reality by 2020.
Though it is not considered by many as cool as virtual reality, this technology has significantly proved its usefulness and importance in various sectors affecting our day-to-day lives. From games to surgical procedures to social media, you can find AR applications everywhere.
The main reason behind its popularity is its capabilities to bring elements of virtual reality to our real-world. Ultimately, it enhances the things which we see, feel or hear. Apart from all the benefits, it’s still hanging between the real-world and the world of virtual reality.
In this article, we will be going to cover the augmented reality, how it is different from virtual reality, the types of augmented reality, how AR works, and most importantly, its use and applicability in education.
What Actually Is Augmented Reality?
Augmented comes from the word augment which is defined as “to add or enhance something”. When it comes to AR, the developers add graphics, touch feedback and sounds to our real-world for creating an enhanced user experience.
How AR Is Different From VR?
Unlike AR, where real-world is enhanced by adding different elements; Virtual Reality (VR) gives you the experience of an entirely new virtual environment. In the case of Virtual Reality, both the natural as well as a virtual world can co-exist together, however, in augmented reality, user experiences a new or improved natural world with the use of virtual information as a tool for providing everyday solutions.
Applications of Virtual Reality can be seen mainly in gaming where the user experiences altogether a new world or in the military training for creating virtual environments like a war scenario or learning how to fly the fighter jets. VR has the capability to take you to the world of dinosaurs; it can give you the experience of being in pre-historic times; or help you realize the feeling of being on Mars.
When it comes to AR, the application can be as simple as text-notification or finding the right location in the GPS, or even complicated as performing life-threatening surgery. AR can be used to enhance understanding, can highlight certain features or provide accessible and timely data. Already, several AR-based applications have arrived in the market for different roles.
What Are the Types of Augmented Reality?
AR is divided into various categories depending upon their objectives and applications. These are as follows:
1. Marker-Based AR
It is also called Image Recognition and this type of AR uses a camera or different types of visual markers like QR or 2D codes for generating the result. It works when the marker is sensed by the reader and then displays the outcomes. Here, simple but distinct patterns (QR Code) are used as the markers as they can be easily recognized. It does not require more processing power for analysis.
2. Markerless AR
It is the most widely implemented applications of augmented reality. Markerless AR is also called position-based, location-based, or GPS and it uses GPS, velocity meter, accelerometer or digital compass which is present in the device for providing accurate data of your location. Its heavy uses also because of the wide availability of the smartphones and the location detection features which these phones are providing. This type of AR is heavily used for location tracking, finding nearby places, mapping directions, navigation, and other location-based mobile applications.
3. Projection-Based AR
It is one of the most discussed categories of augmented reality. This type of AR works by projecting artificial light onto real-world surfaces. Projection-based augmented reality enables human interaction by sensing the human touch of the projected light.
User’s interaction is detected by differentiating the known or expected projection and the one which is caused by a user’s interaction or altered projection. Some application of projection-based AR even uses laser-plasma technology for projecting a 3-D hologram into mid-air which is also interactive.
4. Superimposition-Based AR
This can either fully or partially replace the original view of any object with a new augmented or enhanced view of the same object. Here, object recognition plays a very important role as the application won’t be able to replace the original view with augmentation if it cannot determine the object correctly.
You can find its biggest example and applicability in the Ikea AR furniture catalog. Its app allows you to scan the selected pages having furniture from their printed or digital catalog and then place the same virtual furniture in your own house with the help of augmented reality.
How AR Works?
Now the question comes how exactly augmented reality works in real-time. To understand this, you first have to understand the objective of AR i.e. bringing computer-generated objects into the real-world which only its users can experience. The majority of the augmented reality-based applications involve both natural and synthetic light and this is done by overlaying projected images on top of a pair of see-through glasses. This helps interactive virtual objects or images to layer on top of the user’s view of the real world. Often, AR based-devices are self-contained as they do not require any desktops or cable for its functioning.
But How AR Devices Works?
Wide varieties of displays like screens, monitors, glasses or handheld devices can be used for displaying and experiencing augmented realities. You can experience augmented reality directly onto your face by using Google Glass and other HUD or Head-Up Displays. Other than this, handheld devices like tablets or smartphones are also used for employing small displays that can fit in the user’s hand.
With time, as the technology will progress, augmented reality will eventually require less hardware and might be used with contact lenses or virtual retinal displays.
Major Components of AR Devices
1. Sensors and Cameras
Sensors are located outside the augmented reality devices and are used for gathering any user’s real-world interaction. They are important for communication so that the information can be processed and interpreted.
Similar to sensors, the camera is also present outside the device and is used for visually scanning for data collection regarding surroundings. It helps in gathering the information which helps in determining the location of surrounding objects which is then used for formulating a digital model for determining the correct output.
For instance, in HoloLens by Microsoft, special cameras are designated with specific duties like depth sensing and others. Another common example is the megapixel camera for recording videos, pictures and sometimes information for augmenting reality.
As mentioned earlier, project-based augmented reality is the category in itself, here we are discussing about a miniature projector which is used for the purpose. These are found in an outward or forward-facing position on wearable AR headsets. Projectors are useful for turning any surface into an interactive augmented environment for the users. In the future, progress in AI might make all screens a lesser important component since it will be sufficient enough to show the projection.
AR devices are packed with tiny wearable devices making it a mini-supercomputer. As the name suggests, these devices require significant computer processing power. CPU, GPU, RAM, GPS, flash memory, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi and others are the essential components that are required for any AR device.
Using reflections from mirrors are essential in augmented reality for assisting the way your eye views the virtual image. Some devices may include a simple double-sided mirror or an array of many small curved mirrors.
In a double-sided mirror, a surface can be used for reflecting light from a side-mounted display to the user’s eye while other surfaces can be used for reflecting incoming light to a side-mounted camera.
Augmented Reality Transforming Education
In the next few years, the majority of the global population will be experiencing a technological breakthrough. Billions of the children will be born in the technological era and will be considered the most advanced and technologically advanced to the history of humankind.
Most of them will be exposed to computers, laptops, tablets, smartphones and other smart gadgets naturally. Some will even experience smart homes and will be interacted with several voice assistants.
The whole point is that they will be the generation that can benefit the most from this technology and others like virtual reality, robotics, artificial intelligence. Gone will be the days when learning for children from most parts of the world will be boring, confusing and hectic. For more interactive and enhanced learning, augmented reality will play a crucial role.
It will not only benefit students but also the teachers making a more engaging learning experience. AR will play a key role in making learning efficient, easier to understand, fast and more fun. From biology to mathematics to physics and even understanding all the chemical interactions in chemistry will be easier.
Thanks to several companies, which have already started making AR-based educational content for killing the student’s inattentiveness in any class. The AR-based experiences in education by these companies have really proved effective as they can already mimic Jurassic Park having dinosaurs or scanning any bone and enhancing it by explaining all its parts and roles.
Though this technology still requires further developments and acceptance by the majority of the educational institutions, it serves various benefits and can be used for various purposes.
Learning Benefits of AR in Education
By bridging the gap between the virtual and real-world, augmented reality is providing various unique and new ways for teaching and learning. Some of its super benefits in education which researchers recognized are as follows:
1. Effective and simple explanation of complex or abstract concepts
Without a doubt, augmented reality will be the most effective tool for simplifying the most complicated and confusing concepts. Thanks to its enhanced experience, visual and 3-dimensional model representations, now all the laws of physics, understanding the bones in anatomy, mathematical formulas, chemical bonding and others will become the piece of cake for the students.
2. High student engagement
As the famous saying goes, “Tell me and I forget; show me and I remember; involve me and I understand.” Here augmented reality-based learning can be the game-changer by making lectures more interactive and allowing students to focus more on practice rather than just the theory. The gamified approach of augmented reality in education will transform all the boring lessons into more engaging ultimately making learning fun. Because of this, it will create positive impacts on the students and keeps them engaged.
3. Practical knowledge
Now with the help of augmented reality, students will be able to perform any practical without the need of any lab equipment or guides. It will be more useful for engineering or the medical students where the need for a patient for practicing will be completely eliminated.
4. Accessible learning
As everyone will have smartphones, AR-based learning apps will power all the students to learn anytime from anywhere at any place. It will be the best way to replace all the books, notebooks, posters, physical models, etc.
5. No requirement of any extra tool
The best part of augmented reality-based learning will be that it won’t demand any extra tools as every student will own a smartphone. Now instead of wasting their time on unnecessary apps, they can focus more on learning which will be equally fun, interactive and engaging. Parents or teachers will not spend extra money on buying an extra tool for learning with AR.
6. Affordable learning
In underdeveloped or developed countries, still many find education expensive. Since AR will eliminate the need for all or most educational materials, everyone will find it more affordable. Here students will just require the mobile devices having the AR apps along with the teachers and classrooms. Apart from all this, it will even save costs which are required for staff training.
7. A wide range of fields
Of course, AR will not be just beneficial to biology or physics or any for any particular age group but can be used for any type of learning for students from all age groups. It can even be used for training in the corporate world.
Some other benefits…
- Long-term memory retention
- Increased student motivation
- Learning language associations
- Increased content understanding
- Learning spatial structure and function
- Improved collaboration
- Improved physical task performance
Some researchers have also pointed out a few demerits of learning which augmented reality will help in avoiding successfully. These are as follows:
- Ineffective classroom integration
- Attention tunneling
- Learner differences
- Usability difficulties
Real-Life Use Cases of AR-Based Learning
AR has the capability to turn any ordinary classroom or lecture into an altogether new engaging and exciting experience by enhancing and adding different elements to reality. Already we have discussed that AR can be used in a wide range of fields for learning. Some of the few but highly discussed examples of the use cases of this technology are as follows:
Using AR can literally turn chemistry into a really cool subject from a dreaded subject. Not only this but this technology also has the potential to completely eliminate all the risks of volatile chemical experiments. With augmented reality, difficult to understand scientific concepts from textbooks can be easily understood which otherwise students used to avoid.
Already apps like Elements 4D are using AR for making chemistry fun and engaging for all the students. It uses paper cubes which students are required to make from special element blocks. These cubes are then required to be scanned by the mobile phone’s camera for watching the chemical element’s representations or their atomic weights or names. For exploring more, students can even bring to cubes together to see whether the elements react or not and can even see the chemical reaction.
The use of AR for learning historical events can be nothing less than revolutionary. Imagine a student to learn historical artifacts by exploring Egyptian pyramids in 3-D or understanding different events occurred during World War 2 with 3-D models with which they can interact. It has the potential to take learning to a whole new level.
Google has recently come up with its own app called Google Expeditions which provides both augmented and virtual reality tours to students. It allows teachers to use augmented reality in the most efficient manner for learning. With this app, students can experience 3D objects such as tornados, volcano, DNA, fighter jets and others into the classroom, and then can explore them by walking around them. This app is loaded with several subjects and offers over 100s of AR expeditions ranging from the moon landing to the circulatory system.
For this purpose, users are using a set of a flashcard and an AR-based app called Dinosaur 4D+. This app allows users to see the dinosaurs by scanning the cards. Users get the functionality to zoom in and out or rotate the models, and can even see the dinosaurs in action. Here, you will also get different information about dinosaurs.
4. Medical education
Augmented reality can help medical students to improve both knowledge and skills by enhancing reality. It will be beneficial in training them to perfection. It will assist them by-
– allowing them to practice surgeries on virtual patients
– providing more training with the help of simulations
– creating simulations of human body models for learning anatomy or physiology in detail
There is also a dedicated AR app called Human Anatomy Atlas with which students can explore the human body for understanding the way it functions. With this app, students can interact and rotate with the models for better learning. Human Anatomy Atlas is packed with over 10 thousands of anatomical body models and includes information in 7 different languages. Along with these features, it is also packed with quizzes for assessing the knowledge and improving them with the time.
Another health app is known as ‘Touch Surgery’ is also there for surgical simulations. It has partnered with DAQRI for providing the platform to the students for practicing surgeries on virtual patients.
HoloAnatomy app is another good example of using AR for medical students. It was developed by Cleveland Clinic and Case Western Reserve University and has even won numerous awards. It involves the use of mixed reality smart glass and HoloLens for learning.
Leiden University and Leiden University Medical Center has also created Dynamic Anatomy which again uses HoloLens for learning and training. This allows medical students to learn human anatomy by using their own bodies. In this, medical holograms are used for mirroring their movements.
5. Space industry
Augmented reality has a lot of potential in space exploration and training. Actually, the space industry has been one of the first ones to use this technology. Here, AR has a wide application such as creating the simulation of the space station, visual work instructions, virtual illustrations of complex tasks and so much more. Students can use this tech for tasks like maintaining space stations or using advanced goggles for instructions without requiring any manuals.
Engineers from Lockheed Martin are started using AR headsets for assembling NASA space capsule at fast speeds, as now they don’t have to waste their time by reading manuals and paper instructions. It helps them to watch virtual models of different parts overlaid on real assembled parts and can even view instructions and information on how to complete any particular task.
AR can also be used for preparing or training astronauts and scientists by creating realistic environments. For instance, already AR is being used by NASA for helping experts for Mars exploration by reconstructing the Martian landscape. To do this, this technology is using all the photographs which are taken on the planet’s surface.
6. Military training
In the military, the right training plays a very essential role and can change any scenario completely. Though, it’s not always possible to create a war-like situation for training the soldier or to put them in any specific location just for the training. To tackle this, augmented reality can be used for creating the right environment for the soldiers to train. This tech can add virtual elements that not only save costs but also reduce or eliminate the need for any special equipment.
It’s true that AR can’t completely replace traditional military training but has the potential to train soldiers without putting them in danger of any war zones or remote locations. As an example of the use case in real-life, a few years ago, US Marines used AITT or Augmented Immersive Team Trainer for providing the right environment for the training. It added virtual objects like enemies, buildings or vehicles in the real-world so that soldiers can train effectively without any risks.
Another approach that can be used is known as STE or Synthetic Training Environment which requires AR & VR for simulating a realistic military experience for the soldiers. They can use it for enhancing their skills by training without any threat to their lives. Still, STE is under development but is expected to be completed by the year 2020.
7. Manufacturing training
There are hundreds of research papers and studies that state that each year, millions of positions in the manufacturing sector go unfulfilled mainly because of the skills gap in the applicants. The major solution or the only solution for this situation is to develop the right skills and training which engages employees. With AR as an option, any trainee can start the practice without wasting much time on learning or understanding only theories. Certain AR headsets can be used by them for all the instructions during practice.
Among others, the first famous manufacturer was AGCO who implemented the use of AR and smartglasses for training their workforce. It helped the company to reduce the time required for inspection, training and production. In the company, all the new recruits were asked to use glasses for step-by-step instructions as it was part of their initial training. These glasses can be operated through voice commands and provided all the training videos and images.
Siemens is another big name which is using augmented reality for training purposes. This tech is used by the trainees for learning the welding process. It helps in creating simulated welding by displaying on the screens. As per the trainees, it helped them learned the whole process faster and effectively.
Other AI-Based Applications
This application was initially known as ColAR. It is an easy-to-use and fantastic AR application. Upon downloading the app, you are required to visit its website for downloading all the trigger images. You have to scan the Quiver triggered images for activating and having augmented reality experience. This application includes a set of coloring pages as a trigger which makes cells pop off the page and allow children to spin a globe in midair. By letting students interact with 3-dimensional figures, it takes them beyond their textbooks.
2. Math Alive
This smartphone application requires augmented reality software which you can download to your computer, special cards and a camera. Whether you are a teacher or a student, you just have to place the cards under the camera to practice basic numeracy skills like counting and others. Here the cards act as a trigger for augmented reality.
3. Arloon Plants
It is one of my favorite augmented reality applications developed by Arloon team which allows you to interact with different plants in an interactive manner for learning the plant’s structure, parts and other essential things. It also lets the student see the plant grow and move as an AR experience by using the Arloon trigger. It is beneficial for helping students learn the foundational concepts responsible for plant growth.
4. HP Reveal
It is another cool and very popular app for exploring and creating AR experiences. It was previously known as Aurasma and works by the triggers that students or teachers or anyone can use for augmented reality. With HP Reveal, you can create your own augmented reality, discover the augmented reality and can even share it with your friends. This app literally changes the way you interact with the physical world.
This AR creation tool is integrated with various educational experiences. It helps you in unlocking ar experiences from real-world everyday places and objects by scanning them. For instance, you can scan any logo or even a dog or any drawing to convert it into an AR experience. Using this application will help you to completely transform the reading experience by pushing you to think more and exploring in a different way.
If this all seems fascinating and you yourself want to create a cool Augmented Reality-based application then you can check this “Vuforia Augmented Reality: Create an AR App In Under 2 Hrs“ online course. It will give you step-by-step instructions for creating a great Vuforia AR App in less than 2 hours.
Let’s Wrap It Up!
So, this was it. Now we know the importance of Augmented Reality, What AR is- from its types to the working and of course, about all the essential AR components. Furthermore, we have also learned the importance of this technology and more importantly the need for AR adaptation in education for keeping the student’s engagement level high.
Using AR and give the rights of exploration to the students is enough to see the difference in the interest of the students for learning. Because of this, already numerous apps have been created and conceptualized which some students from all over the world are even using it for more interactive learning. It is true that it might take some more time for the adoption of this technology for learning at large scale but it is also true that it can be the game-changer by providing altogether a completely new learning experience.
Meanwhile, if you are already using AI or used AI in the past then do mention your AR experiences in the comment section below. And also don’t hesitate to comment about the other AR-based applications which we might have missed in our list.