Module Two – In plain sight

Smartphone AR and VR technologies on your phone

“Google 3D ribosome” by Heather Oughton (flickr) is licensed under CC BY 4.0

In Module One, you will have noticed from the timeline that Augmented Reality technology has increasingly featured in the last 5 years. In your daily life, do you still consider your smartphone as just a technology for communication or entertainment? Apps such as facebook, Instagram and Snapchat include augmented overlays. Whether this is an enhancement will be down to personal opinion, however it is popular in Social Media!

The purpose of this module is to explore AR activities that can be done either on a smartphone, tablet or a computer using technologies that are ‘in plain sight’ – meaning are not often used or the user was not aware of them at all. The example in the header was created using Google 3D on an iPhone XR and searching for red blood cells. This can be used as class exercise for up to A Level biology. It could be used as ice breaker exercise, a reward system – say as a fun session on occasions or even a gamification activity, getting the learners to search rapidly for a list of resources and certain features. Being made aware of these technologies will suit visual and kinaesthetic learners, where words and flat artwork may not be enough. Being able to turn AR or 3D model can raise the structural or spacial awareness of the object. As Google 3D has no software cost implications as long as there is internet access and a suitable device, it serves as an introduction to AR and as more resources are developed it will become more useful.

Most people may be aware of QR codes, and some objects in the environment can trigger augmented reality such as LeafSnap from Columbia University, the University of Maryland and the Smithsonian Institution that can identify flora. In using these technologies it can be seen as a inexpensive way of making learning fun and fostering an inquisitive nature. As the range of activities expands, this may even be in line with Facer who highlighted the ‘possibility of radical novelty’, allowing learners to explore and discover their own realities (Facer 2016) (p 70.) 

There are built in technologies such as Google3D in Chrome and available libraries of resources such as Sketchfab that allow access to augmented, virtual reality models and 3D objects accessible via desktop or mobile apps. In touching the screen of a mobile phone or tablet, our senses have adapted to accept a relatively new interface in the evolution of personal technology. The mobile phone has almost become an extension of the body as explained by Fortunati who considered the secret of mobile current dominance is that it allows the body to move freely, and that fixed-line internet keeps the learner steady (Fortunati, 2017) (p 184). It is a natural tool for active learning, although it appreciated that use of mobile phones can cause division with the possibility of misuse, addiction and cultural acceptance particularly for a younger audience.

Augmented reality as an effective method for improving individual’s participation in society

Although not currently wide spread the use of multisensory interfaces has great potential and this is one of the reasons for ‘sowing the seeds’ for the near future of adoption of such technologies. In Baragash et al’s research, into the benefit of Augmented Reality in children with special needs it was found that helped them in a variety of skills for different social, living, physical, and learning purposes (Baragash, et al., 2020).  Domains that were found to have seen benefits to individuals were as follows:

Social skills domain – those lacking in intuitive comprehension, social situations, maintaining conversations were able to use innovative tools, and saw improvement in social skills development, positive behaviour, developing recognition of facial expressions, appropriate greetings.

Daily living skills domain – helping to develop skills to control their environment possibly leading to independent living, although this was the lowest effect of all 4 domains.

Physical skills domain – where body motion-related activities, helped those with cognitive and developmental disabilities.

Learning skills domain – in using AR applications for maths, science and new words acquisition vocabulary learning found a significant improvement in motivation and understanding.

These results are promising and that future projects will be enhanced by inclusion of touch, olfactory and taste sensations to help develop an awareness of an environment. In the internet of things, imagine tasting or smelling something that is out of date in simulation without the fear of any harm!

Activity 1

30 minutes

Although not everyone may have accessed to a recent smartphones, Google provide access to 3D and augmented reality resources on Android, Computer, iPhone & iPad. To experience the augmented reality features a front facing camera will be required and specified hardware. It is acknowledged that there is the possibility inequality of access by exclusion to those without the necessary equipment, however in the spirit of investigating the potential of technologies that exist with the use of smartphones and other devices, it is important to demonstrate that potential and it is assumed the audience that this OER is aimed at should have access. If you can not participate in the exercise please review the examples on the padlet created by the author of the OER.

Follow the instructions for a range of devices and then look at the list of resources and make a selection to try out.

Access in the Public Domain to the Google Help Guides for ‘Experience 3D & augmented reality in Search’

Please add your own Augmented Reality examples to the Padlet

What are your thoughts on using VR or AR in training or a classroom situation?

Optional Extension activity – Stretch and Challenge
Outside of the time allowed for this OER!

60 minutes – of your own time

The Merge Cube is a AR/VR spatial learning technology that is commercially available as an educational product and personal use by purchasing the cube for around £20. There are limited free apps and a subscription model for educational materials. This alone may exclude it as tool for a wide audience. The kinaesthetic appeal of the anatomical models of Mr Body, can spark interest as users explore systems, such as the brain, heart and lungs in the free Merge Explorer App. There is also a Free Galactic Explorer to roam the solar system. For those with difficulty reading or communicating, augmented reality brings an almost tactile experience that is impossible to reproduce in print or video or even real life.

In an action research project, the author introduced the Merge Cube and Mr Body to a group of Level 3 Animal Management students. The student were initially impressed by the perception of having a biological system ‘popping up in 3D in their hands’ and it helped them visualise where the biological systems located, and the additional interactive labeling information was beneficial for revision. Veterinary nurse students were shown a paid for, more sophisticated version called Anatomy VR. This was well received for the level of detail, however having to pay did put some off even though it was relatively cheap. The author concluded that in a classroom setting the occasional use of Merge Cube and apps could be used a reward system, ice breaker or a gamification exercise for locating revision information. However as a general tool the use of the apps on learner’s phone or tablet may prohibit use.

This is a public domain link to a printable paper version of the Merge Cube for review purposes. This must not be redistributed.

Access in the Public Domain – Print your own Merge PaperCube