What is Augmented Reality?

Augmented reality is when physical reality and the digital world become intermixed. How many of us have yelled at the football ref for measuring what to us seems to be obvious, thanks to that computer generated yellow first down line on our television? This is augmented reality in its simplest form. We also may know AR through video games like Wii, and now Xbox Kinect, which allow us to manipulate our digital selves on a television screen through our physical movements. Today, AR technology is so quickly, it is tough to say what the future holds, but imagine being able to put

on a pair of computer glasses that will fill your "real world" with digital information about everything you look at. Imagine a group of anatomy students gathered around a floating, 3-D representation of human heart that they can turn and even peel away layers to examine, or a virtual strand of DNA that they can pull apart...
No doubt this sounds like something out of Star Wars, but it is indeed just around the corner. This page will explore some resources about augmented reality, what it is, how it is being used, and what it might hold for the future of education.

Here is a video by Common Craft that puts AR into an easy to understand context:

How might this impact education?

This video, although it is a few years old, suggests some educational implications of augmented reality.

What Does it Look Like? Forms of Augmented Reality

  • Gesture Based Computing -- As mentioned, most of us already have experience with this via Wii and now the Xbox Kinect, which allow the user to control a digital avatar in a digital environment using body movement.
  • Geotagging and Geolocation --adds geographical data to a realtime image or video.
  • QR Codes -- Quick Response (QR) codes are user generated barcodes that can be read by Smartphones, Ipods, or webcams. Once scanned, the barcode will lead the device to a specific website or open a specific application. Click here for more information on how to use this in a classroom.
  • Mobile Browser Applications -- These allow you to point your smartphone camera at objects and get information overlays right on your screen. CHeck out this example Ipod app that will map out the constellations just by pointing your camera at the night sky! See even more examples in this article
  • Augmented Reality Glasses --imagine putting on a pair of glasses that could guide you through a surgery, complex computer repair, or auto repair, or even help you solve an complex equation. Check out this video clip from BMW that shows how this is part of their future. . I believe this is the most intriguing application for education. Imagine if we could bring students into a virtual world and have them explore it, or if they opened the page of a book, and it became a 3-d, multimedia representation of whatever they are reading.

Content Specific Examples

Language Arts

World Language


Earth/Moon Orbit example:

Social Studies

3-D Mapmaking example:


With Google SketchUp --allows you to create augmented reality versions of 3-D Google Sketch Up projects.
Google Sketch-Up Application


Other Examples:

How to Create Augmented Reality Apps

WARNING: For advanced users only!!

Additional Resources: