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Expert column in Times of India on Augmented Reality

In a world deluged by irrelevant information, clarity is power.

Augmented Reality (AR) may very well be the next transformative technology after the internet. Experts predict that AR will bring the 8th mass media revolution after Print, recordings, cinema, radio, television, the internet and the Mobile. AR has the potential and ability to considerably enhance our daily life by making our work quicker, easier and safer than ever before. So, what’s the deal? Is it just a hype or can it really propel humans to achieve the next level of proficiency?


What is AR?

AR means enhancing the physical world around us with a supplementary digital overlay of useful information. Let’s understand this with a real life example. If you are a cricket enthusiast, then you must know DRS (Decision Review System). During an LBW appeal, AR is used to trace the actual path of the ball it travels after it leaves the hand of the bowler. Similarly Iron man does all the 3D manipulation of the virtual objects with his hand and “Jarvis”. But now anyone can experience AR anytime anywhere. You just need a Smart Mobile Phone with camera and an AR app. You might have tried face filters available on social media apps. Thanks to the huge investments in AR technology by tech giants like Google, Apple and Microsoft and the strategic support they provide for developers like us, it became possible to see – and even interact with – the unseen. But the future of AR is not just in the smartphones. In the near future AR will be delivered using AR Glasses which you wear like a pair of regular spectacles to make this interaction seamless.


What is it use for?

Experts are finding myriad interesting utilities and use cases for AR ranging from medical science to engineering to space and even farming. Imagine Doctors during a brain surgery are able to overlay CT scan of the patient on to the skull. It certainly makes their job a little easier to identify the accurate location of the problem. This leads us to what we consider one of the most powerful uses of AR – in the Education. Many systematic researches around the world and field studies conducted by ARious, where almost 800 students participated in an AR experience drive, have proven that AR significantly helps a child understand the concept better.


How to use it: Students

Learning about the intricate structures of an Animal Cell is a basic, but excellent example. Let us compare reading about Animal Cell structures or even watching a video against exploring it intimately using an AR App. While simply reading and looking at a 2D image of an Animal Cell still gives you a decent understanding, watching a video makes the concept clearer. AR takes it one step further by allowing you to interact with a virtual 3D model. A three-dimensional interaction such as this not only enables better understanding of a concept, but also improves information retention by reducing the cognitive load in learning.


How to use it: Teachers

Teachers can use AR to make lessons even more engaging. It can be utilised offline as well as online. Most of the video conferencing solutions have screen sharing option. Teachers can simply turn that option followed by starting an Educational AR app in which he/she has the lesson for the day. So a 2D lecture now suddenly becomes more engaging and immersive for the students. We received many requests from teaching community to help them get acquainted with the technology and reap the benefits. As a result, we have initiated a series of free online webinars entitled “Harnessing the power of AR for Science Education”. Perhaps more importantly, with individualised AR, the student has an infinitely patient guide, capable of endlessly repeating the lesson.


Does this technology generates Employability?

AR is one of the fastest growing and influential technologies right now and its influence will be definitely felt across industries. The World will soon need Developers/Designers for building AR tools. Keeping this in mind few Universities/Colleges have started courses and modules to teach the necessary skills required to build it. If you want to learn it by yourself then start with the programming language C# and Unity 3D. There are many relevant  tutorials available on the YouTube to provide basic knowledge in this area. However, for an in-depth course best place to look for is Coursera and edX. Google too has a free course on Coursera.


Will this affect me?

The ease of accessibility, owing to the near ubiquitous presence of smartphones and with the arrival of AR glasses, providing virtually endless improvement potential in every aspect of education will bring about dramatic change in the way teaching is done. Given the speed of advancements in AR, if stakeholders of education have not started embracing the technology it may place them at a dramatic disadvantage even a few years down the road.


Read it on Times of India

NEWS on Augmented Reality
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