Augmented Reality In Nutshell
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Augmented Reality in Nutshell

Director (Digital Healthcare & Regulatory Compliance)
What is it?The goal of augmented reality is to add information and meaning to a real object or place. Unlike virtual reality, augmented reality does not create a simulation of reality. Instead, it takes a real object or space as the foundation and incorporates technologies that add contextual data to deepen a person’s understanding of the subject. For example, by superimposing imaging data from an MRI onto a patient’s body, augmented reality can help a surgeon pinpoint a tumor that is to be removed. In this case, the technology used might include headgear worn by the surgeon combined with a computer interface that maps data to the person lying on the operating table. In other cases, augmented reality might add audio commentary, location data, historical context, or other forms of content that can make a user’s experience of a thing or a place more meaningful. Who’s doing it?Augmented reality has been put to use in a number of fields, including medical imaging, where doctors can access data about patients; aviation, where tools show pilots important data about the landscape they are viewing; training, in which technology provides students or technicians with necessary data about specific objects they are working with; and in museums, where artefacts' can be tagged with information such as the artefact's historical context or where it was discovered. Within the academy, educators are beginning to provide students with deeper, more meaningful experiences by linking educational content with specific places and objects. In many disciplines, field trips are part of the course; by supplementing these explorations with mobile technologies and data-collection devices (including digital cameras), the lessons can be extended beyond the field trip. In some cases, augmented reality technologies have been integrated into educational games. In MIT’s Environmental Detectives, for example, students learn about environmental sciences and ecosystems by finding clues and solving a mystery on the MIT campus using PDAs fitted with GPS devices. How does it work?A range of technologies can be used for augmented reality. Many augmented reality projects use headgear or a similar device that projects data into the user’s field of vision, corresponding with a real object or space the user is observing. In the case of a technical course on PC maintenance, for example, augmented reality might overlay a schematic diagram onto the inside of a computer, allowing students to identify the various components and access technical specifications about them. PDAs or other portable devices can use GPS data to provide users with context— including visual, audio, or text-based data—about real objects or places. Augmented reality is not merely a companion text or multimedia file but a technology designed to “see” a real object or place and provide the user with appropriate information at the right time. Augmented reality is designed to blur the line between the reality the user is experiencing and the content provided by technology.  Why is it significant?Because every object or place has a history and a context, making that content available to individuals interacting with those places or things provides a richer experience. To the extent that instructors can furnish students with a broad context for understanding the real world, students are more likely to comprehend what they are learning and to remember it later. Information can also come from students themselves. Students in an archaeology class might use an augmented reality system to capture their thoughts or impressions when working with artefacts. That content can then be made available to others during subsequent lab sessions, allowing them to have a deeper understanding of the subject matter and a richer learning experience. Augmented reality might also make higher education and specialized content more accessible to the general public, transporting lessons from the campus to the community.  What are the downsides?Many augmented reality projects rely on specific or customized hardware, and the mechanisms that correlate data added by technology with the real world are often technically complex. Despite falling costs for hardware overall, augmented reality projects can be expensive to develop and maintain. Today’s augmented reality projects typically focus on individual users and may not lend themselves to team activities or group learning. In addition, augmented reality projects may resemble entertainment, raising questions about their pedagogical value. Educators must be careful to ensure that activities have educational merit and that students do not become infatuated with the technology alone. Where is it going?  Computing devices, especially wireless ones, are becoming more powerful and increasingly widespread. At the same time, costs for these devices are falling. As computing hardware—both wired and wireless—approaches ubiquity, new opportunities emerge to use technology to enrich individuals’ experiences of objects and places. Because all areas of academic inquiry benefit from background and context, augmented reality has the possibility of enhancing education across the curriculum. By exposing students to an experiential, explorative, and authentic model of learning early in their higher education careers, augmented reality has the potential to help shift modes of learning from students’ simply being recipients of content to their taking an active role in gathering and processing information, thereby creating knowledge. What are the implications for teaching and learning?Augmented reality is one way to bring experiential and location based learning to students by supplementing existing worlds rather than creating new ones. Augmented reality installations can be built to take advantage of existing or low-cost infrastructure. The use of nearly ubiquitous devices such as cell phones may permit rapid experimentation and evolution of augmented reality applications. By combining technology familiar to students with locations that students see as their own, augmented reality has the potentialto move learning out of the classrooms and into the spaces where students live. Encouraging informal learning that is easily accessible may prove particularly effective in engaging students, extending learning to spaces that might help them form connections with content, the locations that provide the context for it, and the peers that they share it with.