Developing Augmented Reality Resources in Education – Top Tips

The cARe project highlighted a number of considerations that will hopefully be of use to anyone embarking on a Augmented Reality Project:

1. Technology

There are a variety of apps and platforms that you can use to develop an Augmented Reality experience. They all differ in terms of functionality, so inevitably you pick the one you need for what you are trying to achieve. With a healthy competition amongst these platform providers, they often compete with other, regularly evolving with new features. The Augmented Planet website provides a list of Augmented Reality Tools, highlighting which platforms they will work on.  One app that is currently missing from there is Aurasma. Aurasma is gaining popularity in education and that’s possibly because they offer an online, web based interface that makes it simple to create an AR experience.  Another point to be mindful of is the costs associated with the product that you are developing your AR experience with. An app/platform that is currently free, might start adding fees to use certain features, once the user base increases. This was seen recently with Aurasma who are planning to start charging for the use of their platform, they do however intend to continue offer their service free to education.

2 Wifi/Data Roaming

If the app you are working with requires an Internet connection (which is common if you use an AR browser such as Wikitude, Layar, Junaio and Aurasma) then the logistics related to the strength of wifi and data connection fees need to be considered. To make sure there was always a wifi connection to hand during demonstrations, I relied on a mifi connection.


3. Positioning of Augmented Reality triggers/markers are of importance and can sometimes be overlooked. Having triggers that are too high or low and bad lighting can also impact the ability to recognise a trigger. A recent trip to the London Science Museum , to see the James May AR exhibition highlighted this. The picture below shows me having to crouch down to get the AR experience to trigger!  NB. the exhibition is not only aimed at kids!


4. Headphone Splitters
To prevent students from turning their phones/tablets into a ‘boombox’ the use of headphone is a must! We found that most students had headphones with them. To let more than one student interact with an experience headphone splitters worked a treat.

5. Equality/Loan Devices, it is inevitable that not everyone will have access to required mobile devices that make AR experiences possible. Furthermore, since mobile devices are so personal, students might not be so keen to share their own device. A solution we’re taking at City is to offer the option to loan devices.

6. Safety Briefings (if your AR project involves walking around streets)
AR in its nature is very immersive and its easy to forget your surroundings and be distracted by the experience. In initial consultations with lecturers a concern of theirs was related to the safety of students. To help prevent this, the solution has been to give safety briefings and send students out in groups (safety in numbers). Furthermore instead of loaning students the latest iPad to walk around with, we have purchased smaller 7″ Samsung devices with the idea that they are more flexible. It was also considered that these ‘not as cool as iPad devices’  ( as ruled by a judge: will be less attractive to thieves.

Daqri 4D Anatomy App

The Daqri Anatomy App is available in both the Google Play and Apple App store. This Augmented Reality app works by scanning the marker below.

When you do so you will be presented with a 3D body that you can overlay on anything in your surroundings. What is really powerful about this app is the ability to turn off and on different ‘biological systems’. For instance you can choose whether to show skeletal and reproductive systems. You can also decide whether the anatomy shown is for a female or male.

Below is the body overlaid on my colleague Nataša Perović. Whilst you can’t get the body to align accurately with Nataša’s, it does help provide a better insight into where these biological systems lie in relationship to each other; helping to visually develop students’ understanding of anatomy.


You can zoom in and rotate the body around too, so you can view it from the back, upside down, etc. Here’s the 3D body sitting (or rather impressively leaning) on a chair in my office!

The App reminds me of a cut down version of Zygote Body (previously known as Google Body). An advantage of this app, is that unlike Zygote Body it is compatible with Apple and some Android tablets, so offers a mobile alternative to it. This is particularly useful as a number of our lecturers are beginning to use mobile devices as part of their teaching practice. I managed to show this to some students that study Biology and it got real ‘gasps’ of excitement (that of course doesn’t mean it will offer value).  Since we’re currently looking at integrating Augmented Reality into Biology workbooks, this might work well there.  Lecturers here at City University London also think that it will help students to make connections between how treatments work and their impact.

AR in Education Event

Delegate interacting with AR demos

One of the outputs for the JISC funded cARe project was to deliver an event that focused on the use of Augmented Reality in Education. The idea of which was to bring together like-minded people to explore AR and to help establish a community dedicated to educational use of AR. Hosting such an event was particularly important because many of the events that I have been to regarding AR have had a very strong marketing focus.

The event took place at City University London on the 19th October 2012. It quickly sold out and interest was so high that there were almost as many people on the waiting list as there were delegates in attendance, with those delegates coming from institutions across the UK and Ireland, including Edinburgh, Dublin, Manchester.


“… the information presented and the speakers were very interesting, the event was a good experience.”

Presenters at the event included thought leaders, practitioners, and authors from both Industry and universities. I had the pleasure of hosting the event and kicked it off by welcoming delegates and talking about the JISC cARe project. Matt Ramirez (University of Manchester), Lester Madden (Founder of Augmented Planet), Lee Stott (Microsoft), Luke Robert Mason(Researcher in Technology & Cyberculture), Rob Miles(University of Hull) were amongst the speakers that inspired our delegates throughout the day. The lunch break included interactive demonstrations Continue reading

Augmented Reality Applications in Education

The cARe project explores two examples of how Augmented Reality (AR) could be used to enhance learning. The examples focus on the use of AR with nursing students. Further details of the projects are described below. You can also watch the video that was used to describe the project.

Example 1 – Clinical Skills Laboratory

The first of these projects looked at the use of AR in supporting simulated practice. Within simulated practice students are exposed to a variety of nursing activities in a clinical skills learning laboratory. During these sessions, students work in pairs / small groups and rotate around different clinical skills stations (for example, handwashing, urinalysis, gloves and aprons, blood pressure) or enact scenarios based on patient care, to create an environment that mirrors real life experiences.

In this  example a series of markers were set up around the laboratory. Using the cARe app an iPad (that was loaned to them) and a headphone splitter (so that both students could simultaneously access and listen to a resource), students were able to access interactive resources over relevant to a workstation. The resources that students had access to were adapted, converted and further developed from the CeTL website (a City University resource that offers learning resources related to clinical and communication skills).

The essential resources were accessed before, after and during practicing a skills enabling students to reflect on their learning (experiential learning), work together (promoting collaborative learning and peer feedback)  and at their own pace (self paced learning). This set up has helped move away from a didactic instructor focused laboratory.

To gain some initial student feedback a group of students were filmed as they used the technology and then asked to participate in a focus group. The video below shows how they used the technology in more detail.

Student Feedback

The feedback offered by students was extremely positive, with all participant indicating that the use of this technology is something that would offer value to their learning.

The main insights from the focus group indicated that:

  • The technology was fun and hence added to student motivation
  • The overlaid data could be more interactive (e.g. Include quizzes)
  • Students were willing to use their own devices, but not all students had access to the mobile devices required (as such it is proposed that devices are available on loan)

Example 2 – Public Health Walk

Student nurses at City University are allocated to one community of practice in East London. It is very important that students have an appreciation of the culture, history and social composition of the area they are working in. A public health walk, which involves walking around an area while identifying and experiencing public health-related activities and issues, such as the number of fast food outlets, can help identify public health issues (Bryar and Orr; 2012, p. 102). The AR solution involved developing a route around East London with key points of interest. When students arrive at different points, they can access key resources and data related to their immediate surroundings.

A mosque, synagogue, library, brewery, hospital and a market are points along the route.

The video below provides an introduction to the walk for the students. It highlights the purpose of the walk.

Context specific resources were created that students could access at each spot. Working in groups of approximately 5, the students are set a series of reflective activities that should be completed collaboratively. Since students have mobile devices with them it is the intention that they will be able to tweet comments and pictures, utilising social media.

In order for the resource to have real impact a follow up lecture allows students to discuss or present their findings enabling the lecturer to ensure that the learning of the students is constructively aligned against the learning objectives.
Follow up activities could include the students creating a resource for an additional points on the walk. Another option is that they create their own holistic walk in a different area. This would allow future and current students to complete walks developed by their peers.

Augmented Reality Browsers Aurasma TED Talk

Augmented Reality Browsers include Aurasma, Junaio, Layar and Wikitude. These browsers all offer different features and to set up an AR experience, you have to learn their way of doing things. For the cARe project I have explored using Aurasma, Junaio and Layar.

Whilst Junaio arguably offered more functionality, the final product will use Aurasma. As well as being free to use, Aurasma offers much flexibility when developing AR experiences. Not only can you develop these experiences within the app itself (allowing the non-technical to develop AR experiences), but you can also integrate it into your own bespoke app.

In May I was lucky enough to visit Aurasma’s office in London and was shown some of the exciting projects taking place. The TED talk below, featuring Matt Mills, Global Head of Partnerships and Innovation at Aurasma, highlights that this software which is only a year old is not about to loose momentum.

Ed-Media 2012 Paper and Poster Demonstration

Today (Wednesday 27 June) I presented a paper and poster at Ed-Media 2012 . Ed-media is a World Conference on Educational Media and Technology. It attracts teachers, eduction technologists, researchers and PhD students. The paper titled cARe – Creating Augmented Reality for Education, can be downloaded here. It describes the two cases that are being developed as part of the JISC funded Health cARe project, in further detail.

Link to the poster: Ed-Media 2012 Poster

This is the first time that I have given an in person demonstration to people outside of City University London, let alone to an international audience and to leaders in the field, including one of the conference’s keynote speaker! Overall the response was very positive and the inbuilt augmented reality demonstration created a buzz around it. Many were quick to discuss the pegagogic value and informally I was told that whilst people knew about Augmented Reality, this was the first time that they had seen the technology used in a method that would offer value.

Ed-Media Demo







During the session, people offered ideas and suggestions on post-it notes. There was interest in applying this technology in a variety of disciplines, including: medicine, e-service delivery/e-gov, maths, engineering. Some of the comments are listed below.

“Excellent poster. Definitely would use in my own pedagogical practice. I am a teacher/trainer so will incorporate this technological tool.”

” Very well done. Has many applications for a variety of presentation, especially for static content. Also the ability to capture the content for later viewing.”

“A very good example of AR technology built in relation to actual use cases.”

You can view the other comments by clicking on the image below:

For me, the opportunity to present, share and collaborate with peers was a valuable one. Furthermore, it has highlighted the relevance of this project on an international level.



After writing this post I was given an outstanding poster award for it!


Augmented Reality Summit

Although there is a reference to Education on the website’s banner the main focus of the Augmented Reality Summit, was on the use of AR in marketing. This was evident in the conference programme, yet I was still keen to attend, in the hope that I would find out how up to date my own knowledge of AR, develop a different perspective and identify who some of the key players were. I also thought I might be able to make contacts/attract guest speakers to the AR in Education event that we will be running in October.

The event attracted somewhere in the region of 200 delegates.  There were a lot of examples of AR that I had read about but not explored, including; Audi, Lego, Lynx, Virgin, Bacardi, Pampers, Angry Birds, Harry Potter Book and many more.

Inevitably some of the highlights for me had no relation to marketing and included:

  • Sander Veenhof new media artist from the Netherlands, who shared with us some of his amazingly innovative projects, which included an augmented gallery and an AR dance. See to find out more about Sandeer’s projects.
  • Julian Harris from Qualcomm spoke about their involvement in the Science Museum’s latest AR app staring James May. You can find out more details about this here:
  • Luke Robert Mason, Director of Virtual Futures and Researcher in Technology & Cyberculture gave a thought provoking talk, titled Perceptual Augmentation; AR For Future Humans. Luke spoke about enhancing our 5 senses through AR and highlighted examples of what goes wrong when we trust technology too much. Luke’s talk from the 2012 annual AR Event held in Santa Clara this year can be found here:

There was a lot of talk around:

  • Standards (or lack of …) – Many people don’t know what Augmented Reality is and there was mention about the need to change the name. Layar explained the decision to brand their new software Layar Creator, in a way that better explain what it does. Another issue with AR is that you don’t always know that its there, unlike QR codes, there is no universal marker. Furthermore there are a number of different AR browsers that you need to download to view an AR experience.
  • It needs to be more than a gimmick – there is little application to demonstrate the use of AR in a manner that offers any practical application. Tomo OHNO Founder, Kudan, Japan, asserted that it is unlikely that an AR app is used more than twice. AR is not “about technology” but instead it is about “enhancing objective and value” and “enabling new ideas”.

The following was also touched upon:

  • Security – who owns the digital space?
  • Are Head Mounted Displays and Contact Lenses the future?
  • The need to become more ‘cloud’ base

Despite the unfortunate hash tag – #arsummit (as some of my colleagues were keen to point out to me) was a very valuable event. It has inspired ideas for future AR projects and as a result I have invited speakers to the AR in education event.

JISC Elevator – Watch the Video

The Health CARE project is currently a short term JISC* funded project being delivered by City University London. As part of the project we’ll be looking at how Augmented Reality(AR) can be used to enhance teaching and learning for students in the School of Health Sciences.

Case 1 – Clinical Skills Laboratory

Clinical skills are an essential component of healthcare education for trainee nurses; simulated practice is used to orientate students to the clinical environment. This example looks at how relevant resources can be overlaid over equipment, dummies and key areas within a clinical skills lab.

Case 2 – Public Health Walk/Locality Project

Student nurses are allocated to a placement in East London and it is important that they gain an appreciation of the culture, history and social composition of the area they are working in. Walking around an area can help identify health issues (Bryar and Orr; 2012, p. 102).

AR in Education Event

We’ll also be organising an event, to share the findings of this project and promote the use of AR for all education disciplines.

The video below was used to bid for and successfully receive JISC* funding.


*JISC elevator is a platform for crowd sourcing ideas that will use technology to improve education and research in UK higher and further education institutions. Ideas are submitted to the site and the community can vote to show their support if they like an idea. When an idea receives the target number of votes then we will decide whether or not to fund the idea. The combination of crowd sourcing and small agile projects enables experimentation with new ideas and technology that appeal to a large group of people while keeping costs and risks low.

See: for more details

Exploring AR at City University LDC Showcase

At the Learning Development Centre (LDC) showcase held on 1st February 2012 at City University London, I demoed a poster that identified how AR can be used for teaching and learning in the School of Health Sciences. The event was well attended and included both staff and students from different schools as well as central services.

Two interactive AR examples were shown.

Example 1 – AR Lungs (using marker technology)

Example 2 – AR Poster (using image recognition)

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