By Valerie Riffaud-Cangelosi, New Markets Development Manager at Epson
Imagine you are back in chemistry class but instead of poring over pages of black and white text books on atomic structure, you put on a pair of glasses and 3D moving images appear in front of you. Augmented Reality (AR), technology that puts a digital layer over the real world is being used to do just that. It can overlay additional information, bring models to life and enhance the overall learning experience and this more engaging, interactive method of teaching will gain momentum in 2016.
Augmented Reality is already transforming a vast range of industries, from healthcare to manufacturing. Education is no different. There are an increasing number of software developers creating applications specifically designed to enhance the way schools and universities are able to teach. The applications of this technology stretch across the whole curriculum and span the entire education system from helping primary school students to visualise mathematical functions, to allowing architecture students at university to interact with 3D models of their own creations. The driving force behind the development of smart glasses doesn’t come from the hardware manufacturers but from independent software developers and end users.
As with all technology that sets out to disrupt education there is always the question: will this be more than a fad?
AR is already being used by huge corporations, for example Volkswagen, to train their staff and those same educational benefits are set to have a huge impact on the classroom. Dáskalos Chemistry, an AR powered science application is already being embraced in Germany as a way to make intangible concepts easier to understand. Dáskalos combines traditional textbooks and physical learning materials with digital technology. For example students can use QR code flashcards representing a chemical element, and when viewed through smart glasses the codes become interactive 3D models of that particular element. This blend of physical and virtual learning offers the chance to transform traditionally ‘dry’ subjects – where engaging students can often prove difficult – into dynamic and interactive lessons.
From interactive whiteboards and projectors to tablets and laptops – when it comes to educational IT budgets there are more and more devices fighting for attention. This leads to the obvious question of where smart glasses fit into this ever growing list. The edge that this technology has is the way it complements the learning experience, personalising it for each child. With an interactive whiteboard, a teacher is limited in how they can alter and adapt a lesson to suit each child as ultimately they all see the same thing. Smart glasses complement existing classroom tools as they allow a teacher to tailor the experience to suit the individual needs of each child.
As with all technology that sets out to disrupt education there is always the question: will this be more than a fad? Of course there is a novelty value to smart glasses being used in schools; it’s a futuristic technology and a completely new way of approaching learning. Yet the value it offers goes beyond that. AR is not just a different vessel for delivering lessons but has the potential to transform the learning experience. There is a real gap in the education market for a tool to deliver personalised, interactive learning to suit individuals. AR is poised to meet this need and it is this key difference that means the technology will transform the education sector for years to come.