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Augmented reality – from the living room to the classroom

Updated: Feb 16

At rradar, we’re big fans of new technology and hearing of the imminent release of Microsoft’s Hololens really got us excited about augmented reality (AR) again.

To many people, AR is an established technology, often used for toys and novelty items. Even those not familiar with the term will often have seen applications where a computer generated character or information is overlaid onto a printed AR marker and displayed on a smartphone.

AR can be seen as an extension (or alternative) to VR, where instead of replacing the real world with a computer generated alternative, extra layers of information are overlaid on to live, real world scenes. This information could be text, images or 3D models.

Most AR systems that modern consumers will be familiar with run on smartphones. This is largely down to the fact that modern handhelds contain a wide range of sensors that can be used to determine where you are and what you are looking at, such as GPS receivers, accelerometers and compasses.

However, it hasn’t always been that way…

image: wikipedia

AR technology has its roots in military and academic research labs during the 1990s. Indeed, many current implementations are still based around military use cases. However at rradar, we’re more interested in the educational applications.

One of the most commonly available uses of augmented reality technology is books that feature additional, often interactive, content.

Featured pages of the book are setup as recognisable ‘markers’, and a companion app running on a tablet or smartphone can scan these and display relevant information to the reader.

Educational uses for these systems are huge -from adding life to textbooks by showing video related to the current page to displaying discussions taking place online if the page content is updated or contested. There are, of course, obvious advertising opportunities when it becomes possible to engage with an otherwise passive reader.

In the classroom, complex systems can be explained in novel ways. For example, a 3D model of the solar system could be shown inside the room, the trajectories of the planets mapped out around students. A teacher could control the motion of the planets, as well as zoom in or out to help explain a concept.

Engineering students could view a model of a running engine or motor, then use gestures to remove the outer components in order to view the internal movement in a way which would be impossible in reality.

A display of student work could come to life when viewed through AR equipment by showing clips of students explaining how they met specific challenges, teachers notes, or other images related to the work.

Along with education, gaming is a huge, multi-billion pound, growing industry. AR enabled games have been available now for a number of years, high profile titles include “Ingres”, “Zombies, Run!”. Microsoft’s Hololens demos bring these applications to the next level, showing an intriguing way of bringing the game into your living room, literally.

(image: Microsoft)

AR gaming has come on significantly since ARQuake and Human Pacman!


Augmented reality has huge potential to change the way we work, learn and play. Emerging technologies will enable a new level of integration between the real world and the virtual, bringing us one step closer to a world where physical objects are integrated into the digital networks we use on a daily basis.

How you make best use of these tools will depend on the technology companies that you partner with. Working with companies that are fully up-to-date with the latest tools and techniques will help to ensure that you are using the best approach for the task in hand.

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