By Nicholas Filler
Augmented Reality in eLearning
In this article, you are going to witness the first iteration of a new type of head mounted display that is going to change the way we see the world. It will fundamentally change the way in which we learn about new subjects, and how we apply that knowledge in our everyday lives. The Microsoft HoloLens is the first product of its kind to change the environment around you. This technology is about to radically change the way in which you learn, and will hopefully revolutionize your perspective in regards to how you examine the world.
What is Augmented Reality?
You might be thinking; what is augmented reality? According to Wikipedia, augmented reality is defined as “a live direct or indirect view of a physical, real-world environment whose elements are augmented (or supplemented) by computer-generated sensory input such as sound, video, graphics or GPS data.” So imagine yourself walking down a normal street, looking at buildings or store fronts. These glasses would allow you to see the exact same street, but now it has a more European visual aesthetic. When you took the glasses off, it was just the same street as before, and this in a nutshell is what augmented reality is.
Applications of Augmented Reality in eLearning
Microsoft is the first software company to create and realize a fully augmented consumer device to do just that. But how can this change the face of eLearning? This is where things get very interesting, and the possibilities are quite fascinating.
Imagine that you just bought a new home and you still need to install some fixtures to get the lights working. The only problem is that you have never installed a light switch before, and you would like to do it yourself. This is where eLearning could drastically change the way in which we inherent knowledge, especially online. If you were wearing an augmented reality headset you could get detailed visual instructions regarding the light switch as well as a holographic interface that displays the correct wires and functions. Yet this is just the tip of the iceberg.
If you were an online teacher and your focus was astronomy, you could give your students a virtual tour of Mars without anyone leaving their homes. Your students would be able to put on some augmented reality glasses and be transported to the surface of Mars. This concept would be great for research as well. The more people you have looking at a specific problem in regards to space exploration, the more possible solutions become available. Microsoft has also partnered with NASA to allow the Curiosity rover to visit areas designated by users with the HoloLens for further inspection.
In regards to digital or virtual learning scenarios, is the concept of the virtual classroom. According to an article by Sharon Stoerger a professor at Rutgers University “These virtual world experiences also extend the boundaries of the traditional classroom where collective intelligence, as opposed to individual experience, becomes an important approach.”
Ideally this would allow for a variety of interesting possibilities for students especially in regards to their learning environments. Ideally a student could be sitting at their desk learning about French, and these glasses could project a French classroom setting around them. This would immerse the student not only in the language but in the culture, or to go a step further, these augmented glasses could project a real-time French classroom that they would be able to interact with just like the one they were currently in. With the world around you being digital reimagined almost anything is possible with augmented reality, but one aspect that is truly fascinating is in regards to the medical field.
An interesting area to explore in regards to this technology is the human anatomy. If you were in an accident or any life threatening type scenario this technology has the potential to save your life and those around you. The ability to get real-time live feedback regarding a serious medical situation is quite profound and much better than any viable solution at the moment. You could then see which body part was affected or visualize ways in which to treat or assess the situation.
Another intriguing scenario is if a patient walked into the doctor’s office, and the general physician was wearing this device, he or she might be able to see how many miles you ran, or what you have been eating, just from looking at you. With the rise of electronic health records this idea could easily become a reality. This technology would greatly benefit the medical field and the learning associated with gathering large amounts of data. Giving doctors the ability to see and evaluate real time data derived from EHR’s would greatly benefit the patient as well as making treatment that much easier. Ideally this could be the starting point for new groundbreaking ideas, especially when it comes to learning how we interact with modern medicine and the data associated with it.
Augmented reality is just taking its first steps into the consumer world, and the possibilities associated with this technology are fascinating. Whether it will be a huge commercial success has yet to be seen, but its potential is unavoidable. Microsoft is taking a big gamble, and if all the pieces fall into the right places, then they will truly change the digital landscape. They are reshaping how we see and interact with the world around us. As eLearners we understand the concept of learning online and off, but now there are viable solutions that combine both worlds. Hopefully this will fundamentally change our understanding of eLearning. Only the future will tell how these types of devices will pan out.