Augmented reality is a fast-growing space, and nowhere is that truer than in EdTech. Teachers and students alike are eager to use new techniques and experiences to learn, and AR provides them in spades.
With the advent of Apple’s ARKit and Google’s ARCore, high-quality augmented reality education apps are now more achievable than ever. Developers and educators are teaming up to create the next generation of classroom tech.
Here’s a small sampling of what’s available so far.
Using a specially coded t-shirt, the Virtuali-Tee app offers a fun and exciting way to learn about anatomy. When a student or teacher puts on the shirt, others can look at them through their devices and see inside their bodies. Everything from the heart to the skeletal movements to the digestive system is modeled in beautiful 3D.
The abstract design of the shirt doesn’t give a clue as to what will happen when the app turns on, making it a great surprise for kids who don’t know what they’re in for.
Of course, with the future implementation of ARKit or ARCore, the shirt won’t be needed at all. The advanced spatial mapping techniques available in the new SDKs mean the human body alone will be enough to provide reference points.
Vuforia’s flagship app is a new milestone in telecommunications. Designed to serve a broad range of use cases, from education to service calls and even entertainment, Chalk is an AR-enhanced video chat app. A user can call their student, teacher, friend, or family member and see a feed from their device’s camera, just like Skype.
The augmented reality trick is what happens next. By drawing on that video feed, the caller can place digital “chalk marks” viewable by both parties. The marks are fully realized virtual objects that stick where they’re put. A tutor could circle entries in a textbook or on a whiteboard, cross off tasks once they’re completed, or simply draw in thin air to illustrate a point.
Chalk is sure to make telelearning far more effective, changing the game for homeschooled or ill students struggling to keep up with their classmates.
Much like the seminal VR app Tilt Brush, World Brush allows users to paint virtual objects using a variety of colors and tools. Creations tend towards a neon palette and can take the shape of anything from flowers and butterflies to huge, elaborate animals or human figures.
Where World Brush differs is that instead of placing these objects on a blank virtual canvas, they appear in the real world using augmented reality. Walk down any city street and pull up the app, and you’re likely to find at least a few drawings attached to walls, hovering over buildings, or decorating signs. Drawings are public, making using World Brush a journey of discovery each time.
Aside from the obvious applications in teaching artistic expression, World Brush could be fantastically useful in a classroom, museum, or anywhere students might go. A teacher could place their own AR notes around the school or even around town, letting students discover and use them on their own time.
Human Anatomy Atlas 2018
Visible Body has a long line of educational applications to aid in biology education, and for the 2018 edition they’ve integrated ARKit for ah augmented reality experience in iOS, with Android support coming soon via ARCore.
In the new AR mode, bones, organs, muscles, or even the entire body can be laid out on any flat surface in the classroom. The information contained within the app is was created by a team of medical experts, and features several thousand 3D structures, along with a complete reference manual in 7 languages.
It’s both more economical and more effective than physical models. This type of close examination of the human body’s inner workings is typically reserved for medical schools. With modern technology, it’s available to any high school biology class.
Math Ninja AR
The first educational game on the list, Math Ninja AR features a colorful medieval Japanese village under siege from a variety of whimsical monsters, including penguins, cats, and even food items. By solving simple math equations, players help the blue ninja race through the town, slicing and dicing to save the day.
The AR mode allows players to spread the village out on a table, desk, or any flat surface. It’s amazing how much this simple edition enhances the game. Suddenly, that village seems incredibly real and far more engaging.
It’s enough fun with enough of a “wow factor” that kids might not even realize that they’re learning basic math skills as they play.
More than just an app, JigSpace is an entire EdTech AR platform with dozens of “jigs”, annotated virtual objects that illustrate everything from the composition of the Earth to the workings of a mechanical engine.
Looking through their devices, students can browse through a library of experiences and project them into an open area. Walking around a human heart, for example, students can get a close look at how each valve and ventricle works, or they can remove pieces of the Earth to see the different layers of rock and magma within.
Developers JigSpace, Inc. have received rave reviews for their debut outing, and they recently announced the Jig Workshop, a mode in which teachers and others can create their own jigs. This is the first platform for end-user creation of augmented reality learning apps, and it’s very exciting.
Atom Visualizer for ARCore
ARCore, Google’s answer to the powerful ARKit SDK for iOS, was only recently released for public use. Developers are just beginning to integrate the new augmented reality features, but there are already a few strong contenders in the space, especially in the EdTech field.
One such app is Atom Visualizer for ARCore. Touting itself as the very first ARCore app to hit the Play Store, it allows users to explore and manipulate atomic models. Atom Visualizer offers both Bohr and quantum mechanical visualization models, and features the entire periodic table of the elements.
Students can project the element of their choice into any open space, then manipulate the view or walk around it to get a closer look. The app can even model several atoms at once, letting students compare their electron orbits. It’s ideal for physics lessons at all levels, from kindergarten to university.
Aquariums have long been a favorite spot for school field trips. They’re a great opportunity to learn about conservation, marine life, and just give the kids a break from their regular classroom environment.
FishingGO uses the power of augmented reality to turn any room into an aquarium and put the kits inside it, populating the space with a variety of fish, coral, and other ocean creatures. The app was created in conjunction with marine biologists from Barcelona Aquarium, and includes more than 200 species to discover, each with an informational card that teaches the user about their finds.
The developers have gamified the experience as well, challenging players to hunt down those cards, exploring the environment to unearth every last fish. There are even achievements to unlock, a proven technique to keep players’ interest.
Another tool to learn the workings of the human body, Arloon Anatomy is built on ARKit and doesn’t require a t-shirt or other physical objects to work. Simply aim your device at a person, and you’ll see their skeleton and muscles immediately.
The app is designed for school use, and includes a great deal of information about each organ and system. The user can even zoom in on those organs, twisting and turning them to get the best view.
The developers at Arloon have built a portfolio of AR education apps, Anatomy just being the latest one. When students are done learning about the human body, they can move on to botany with Arloon Plants, space with Arloon Solar System, or math with Arloon Geometry and Arloon Chemistry.
There are several astronomy apps available for mobile devices, and even a few that use AR, but SkyORB brings several new features to the table. Thanks to ARKit, and soon ARCore, the app can map planets and stars into any open space, allowing the classroom to become a planetarium. The simulated sky can utilize the user’s geographical location, or show them the view from any point on Earth, or even from other planets.
SkyORB also features a “point-to-sky” feature, allowing users to get information on stars, planets, and constellations by pointing their phone at them. The app even keeps track of comets and satellites, ensuring that you won’t miss the passage of any celestial objects.
It’s more essential than ever for kids to learn coding, to the point where some schools are even considering allowing students to take a coding course in lieu of a foreign language. It’s only natural that these courses would integrate advanced technologies like AR, allowing kids to create the very tools they use to learn.
Apple itself recently made an entry in the field with Swift Playgrounds. Students learn programming concepts by creating and then guiding colorful characters around virtual environments. With the new ARKit features, those characters can even enter the real world, adding another layer to the experience.
By constructing the app as a game rather than a series of dry lessons, Apple ensures that students will stay motivated and interested. Some of them might even end up working for Apple themselves, working on new frontiers of EdTech that we can’t even imagine.
More Every Day
With the release of ARCore 1.0, the race is on between Apple and Google to spread accessible AR as far as they can. It’s the users who benefit most from this, as developers are empowered to create high-quality apps more quickly and easily than ever before.
For the tech-savvy educator, it’s never been a better time to introduce students to AR. We’re finally seeing real, measurable results from integrating this tech into the curriculum, and the selection of educational apps is about to grow exponentially. The EdTech future is here, and it is bright.