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What Is Augmented Reality (AR) and How Does It Work?

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Augmented Reality (AR) consists of a wide range of technologies that integrate computer generated content such as images, texts, 3D objects and videos into the real-world perception of the user. Simply put, AR is the integration of digital content with surrounding environment in real-time.

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The term AR was first coined by Thomas Caudell in 1990 to describe the head-mounted displays used by electricians to assemble complex wiring harnesses. The technology was first applied commercially in 1998 in NFL football games and featured a yellow “first down” line.

AR has travelled a long way since then to become widespread in different applications in the current time. We have a number of mobile applications such as Pokémon Go which seamlessly integrates the real world and virtual elements. Research has been going on to adapt the technology to various sectors and currently it is being used in education, public safety, healthcare, tourism, gas and oil and marketing.

AR is going to take on a leading role whether it is education or any other industry to provide interactive and simulated environments that facilitate learning. In a few years, it can become a mainstream technology in schools and campuses around the world fuelled by the wide adoption of mobile technologies.

The value of AR in education was $398.78 million in 2016, and estimated to reach $8.017 billion by 2021. It is also predicted to grow at a CAGR of 82% by 2021.

AR in Education

Augmented Reality

The use of AR in education can give rise to endless possibilities and enable the students to learn in a meaningful and fun way. The implementation of AR in formal education is still in its nascent stage but provides significant advantages over the traditional ways of teaching. Various studies have compared between AR assisted teaching methods and traditional teaching methods to highlight the probable applications of AR in education.

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Till now, students had to depend on their textbooks, models and blackboard diagrams to learn about a new thing like rotation of the earth. Such a process makes it boring for the students and often they are not able to fully grasp the concept. Using AR can be a suitable alternative as objects in AR have a 3D appeal and can be manipulated through personal interaction.

Researchers used an AR model to teach undergraduate students about earth-sun relationships related to solstices and axial tilt. The students who gained most understanding of the subject were those who moved the virtual image and explored it from different perspectives.

They are able to challenge their misconceptions and form better understanding due to the 3D nature and high control of the AR model. The researchers concluded that AR technology provides better cognitive access to complex visualizations compared to traditional teaching methods.

Traditional teaching methods lack the interactivity offered by AR which can be used to bring mundane subjects to life. It can be an automobile emerging from a flash card or school textbook or an unfolding wiring diagram from technical manual- the students get a more realistic way to learn about their environment, can manipulate and explore the models and solve problems.

The interactivity offered by AR enables the students to learn by doing which is a more effective way of knowledge retention than using eyes, ears or memory.

Use of AR in education helps the students understand the principles of cause and effect which is not always possible with established ways of teaching. Students can move, change or manipulate objects using predefined commands. They can visualize the changes in real-life and are able to grasp the concept of cause and effect more successfully.

The technology also offers contextual relevancy as educators can use interactive models to explain concepts such as the working principles of a machine. In case of books, the students have to depend on diagrams and images which leave room for assumptions.

AR has significant advantage over traditional teaching in case of subjects which the students cannot gain first-hand experience in the real world. It can help the students to form a better understanding of concepts and enable them to retain knowledge effectively. AR has the potential to make learning more engaging and transformational.

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