Introduction – Defining Augmented Reality and Mobile Learning
While augmented reality applications used to be a Sci-Fi myth back in the day, today's technological advances have led to its broader use in different fields and aspects. The rapid development of modern technologies has made augmented reality available to the public, opening up many opportunities for effective implementation. Before we dive into the world of contextual mobile learning through augmented reality, it is important to define the key terms of the topic.
One of the main terms in this article is augmented reality itself, which can be described as an innovative technology designed to provide an interactive experience by combining a real world environment with computer-generated images and elements. The second key term we are going to be focusing on is mobile learning, which can be explained as an educational system that widely supports learning processes on mobile devices.
As such, mobile learning allows people to learn across multiple contexts, using smart phones or tablet devices at any place and any time. While there are many benefits to mobile learning, such as the ability to better visualize the context, gain a deeper understanding or simply access educational content anywhere, there is also the disadvantage of distraction, as such an innovative technology could be distracting users from their primary intention, which is to study a specific matter.
The Importance of Augmented Reality in Mobile Learning
It is safe to say that AR technologies are completely changing the way people are learning and understanding content through the means of mobile devices. One of the major reasons why augmented reality has become such an important part of mobile learning is the fact that it doesn't only aid the student to better understand the content but it also provides the educator with new opportunities and points of view. Through the use of AR technology, educators can better understand the personal context of each mobile learner, understand their preferences and ways of learning, which can eventually lead to better results.
Being an important innovation in the world of education, AR technologies allow students to understand content and information on a whole new level by adding important visualization factors. While many people see augmented reality as a brand new invention, the technology has actually been around for quite a while. The first AR device was invented way back in 1968 by Ivan Sutherand, a Harvard professor and computer scientist and in the recent years the focus of implementing these technologies has switched to education.
Even though the majority of today's educational augmented reality applications are very simple to install and use, some of them might require advanced tech support. When it comes to creating mobile learning applications supported by this kind of technology, developers most commonly come across the obstacle of distraction, as they have to build an educational application based on a technology that can be considered too entertaining. Since AR is so interesting to students of all ages, from adults to children, it can be way too distracting at times.
When it comes to the more technical side of creating technology enhanced reality applications for contextual mobile learning, things are not as complicated as they used to be. Developing tools and platforms are now available to anyone. One such platform is ARIS or the Augmented Reality Interactive Storytelling platform, which allows developers to create location-based stories and games for free. The platform includes manuals, instructions and simple pathways for developing AR applications. In fact, coding AR has become so simplified that AR.js has explained how to write an AR code in only ten HTML lines, as presented below:
<script>THREEx.ArToolkitContext.baseURL = `https://rawgit.com/jeromeetienne/ar.js/master/three.js/’</script>
<body style =’margin : 0px; overflow: hidden; ‘>
<a-scene embedded artoolkit=’sourceType: webcam; ‘>
<a-box position=’0 0.5 0’ material=’opacity: 0.5; ‘></a-box>
Different Fields of Application and AR Mobile Learning App Examples
Augmented reality technologies certainly have a lot of potential when it comes to enhancing mobile learning experiences. The use of AR extends to different fields of education, from basic education for children to the more complex matters. Other fields of application include aiding visually-impaired students through haptic interfaces, as well as enhancing campus maps and navigation systems to help new students get around more easily.
Speaking of navigation, another innovative application of AR technology includes SLAM, which stands for Simultaneous Localization and Mapping. This type of technology allows devices and vehicles to map out their surroundings and successfully navigate through the environment. SLAM algorithms are constantly being improved and used for various purposes. One of the biggest advances in this field of technology are the popular self-driving cars that operate on SLAM. For a detailed review and tutorial of SLAM technologies, head over to a related post on Imaginghub.
The best way to illustrate the wide application of augmented reality in mobile learning is by providing examples of commonly used AR apps.
One of the most popular AR examples when it comes to learning and education is Anatomy 4D, an application used in the field of medicine. This app allows users to explore and study the human anatomy from a whole new perspective, allowing better understanding and visualization of the content. It is important to mention that this app was built on the popular Vuforia platform by Qualcomm, that helps developers bring new AR innovations to the market.
Another popular augmented reality solution for mobile learning is an application called Star Walk, which we are going to focus on in detail below. The application serves as an advanced, AR astronomy guide by providing accurate overlays of stars and other objects in the sky.
Besides medicine and astronomy, AR is used in other important fields, such as chemistry. The most popular augmented reality application in the field of chemistry is Elements 4D, which allows users to combine different elements in a virtual world in order to create a chemical reaction.
A Brief Overview of an Augmented Reality Application for Mobile Learning
When it comes to a brief overview of an application that integrates augmented reality for the purpose of mobile learning, our choice was Star Walk 2. Developed by Vito Technologies, Star Walks 2 is a newer and more advanced version of the application, featuring a better interface and design compared to the original version. The application can easily be installed and set up through the App Store or Google Play Store, depending on which operating system you own. Downloaded and installed just like any other app, Star Walks 2 is very easy to use.
The application provides an accurate, real-time view of stars, planets and other bodies in the sky by overlaying digital images over what your camera can see. All you have to do is point the camera to the sky to get an accurate display of the position of stars and other objects in space. The AR technology is integrated to such a high level that the application adjusts the picture as you move around, providing real and accurate representation of the stars, as if you were using a telescope.
While this may seem like an entertaining application for any astronomy enthusiasts, those who are seriously studying this field will benefit from a large database of valuable information. Simply tapping on planets or other objects in the sky will open up articles, including the history and the facts about the chosen object. Another fun feature of the Star Walk application is Time Machine, which allows you to explore the sky map from years ago or even in the future. Other features include a search option, real-time statistic and advanced details.
The application also features several display options, allowing you to change the way constellations appear on the screen, as they can either be presented as drawing lines or as 3D-like, animated objects. On top of it all, the application features soothing sound effects suitable for stargazing and studying astronomy. Most importantly, it is easy to install and use, meaning there is no need to seek advanced tech support in most cases.
In the recent years, augmented reality has become a relevant part of mobile learning experiences. It is used to not only enhance the learning experience but also to motivate students and spark up their interest in a specific topic. While this type of technology has gone a long way in the past decade, we can only imagine how far it will go in the future. When it comes to the future of augmented reality and its integration in mobile learning applications, we can only expect the technologies to become more advanced, easier to use and more available to everyone around the globe.