Some authentic applications of Augmented Reality (AR)

Hsin-Kai Wu (2013) suggests AR should be understood as a concept rather than a specific technology. It is helpful to understand AR as a negotiation between the user and content delivery systems leveraging the power of several technologies to create intuitive and seamless, context-aware interactions between user and content. AR, therefore, is a novel concept for displaying digital information as a meaningful overlay attached to physical objects as viewed through a mobile device (Hsin-Kai Wu, 2013). Where it differs from other online content is spatial positioning of the content and the use of naturally occurring trigger image.

On the surface, it is easy to think of AR as just a fancy QR code – the user scans it and is directed to a web page, application, or a YouTube video. In this regard it is no different than a QR code, or a simple URL. AR is most effectively used when the user accesses relevant information relevant to a particular space or artifact.

A school celebration of the arts day offers a good example. Using an app like Aurasma to create content channels. Each piece on display can serve as a trigger image that, when viewed through a smart device, can overlay content specific to the user’s subscribed channel. It could be a video of the artist explaining the piece, or a clip of the artists’ work in progress, or the teacher pointing out important features. In this way, a single trigger image can simultaneously (though virtually) offer different relevant content to different users .

AR applications would work well with architectural reconstructions. Visitors to the remains of historic spaces could use the SightSpace3D app to walk through virtual recreations of physical structures as though they were in the past and inside the structure. Users could watch a video tour, or manipulate a scale model on a computer but AR connects the users’ movements in physical space to movements in virtual space offering a more immersive experience.

Another effective example of AR is Minecraft Reality. This app uses data (structures and land forms) from the game Minecraft, an immersive 3D virtual space, and displays it in physical space as though attached to the trigger image. Sharing work in 3D spaces is usually done as a projection while the user offers a tour through the space all from one point of view. With Minecraft Reality, several users can view the same structure using the same trigger image through their smart device camera, and tour around and inside the structure by physically moving around the trigger image.

Finally, my favourite example is WordLens which was recently purchased by Google and redistributed as Translate. The user can view a foreign language sign or poster while travelling and, viewing it through their device, have the app replace the foreign text with English text (of whatever the selected language is).

These are what I consider to be authentic uses of AR, or uses that really make use of the technology’s affordances. SightSpace ties physical movement to virtual spaces, Minecraft Reality make 3D spaces explorable outside a computer, and WordLens offers just-in-time translation services by simply pointing the camera at foreign text. Aurasma is a novel way to attach student voice to physical objects, though the novelty effect is short lived and, alone, rarely justifies expensive technology investments  (Juan, 2010). Further, Wrzesien (2010) suggests that some innovations may redirect learner attention from the content to the technology thus detracting from the technology’s effectiveness as a learning support.


Hsin-Kai Wu, S. W.-Y.-Y.-C. (2013, March). Current   status, opportunities and challenges of augmented reality in education. Computers   & Education, 62, 41-49. Retrieved from

Juan, C. L. (2010). Learning Words Using Augmented   Reality. International Conference on Advanced Learning Technologies   (ICALT) (pp. 422-426). Sousse: IEEE. Retrieved from

Wrzesien, M. A. (2010). Learning in serious virtual   worlds: Evaluation of learning effectiveness and appeal to students in the   E-Junior project. Computers & Education, 55(1), 178-187. Retrieved from


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