Augmented reality is a technology system that enhances one’s perceptions and experiences by overlaying digitized images onto real world environments. By looking through the display lenses of special eyewear, the seamless, information-rich, composite view that can be seen enhances understanding of the real world. As the technology that enables augmented reality evolves, auditory and haptic information overlays will be added, making the user’s experience far more vivid. Augmented reality has enormous potential for workplace e-learning and productivity improvement. Prototypes are currently in research and development for military, K-12, and university application. It is anticipated that advances in technology will make augmented reality a common learning tool within the next decade (Azuma, Baillot, Reinhold, Feiner, Julier, & MacIntyre, 2001).
Scenario 1: The Potential Of Augmented Reality In Workplace Learning
Imagine a 30-person Army platoon patrolling an enemy city, wearing camouflage and goggle-like, see-through head mounted displays as seen in Figure 1. As the soldiers approach the center of the city, a warning is broadcast through their headphones from the command center 20 miles away; insurgents have been spotted approaching the American Embassy a half mile to the south. Moving cautiously, the platoon changes course and heads toward the target. Several minutes later, another broadcast warns that the insurgents have entered the embassy. As the soldiers approach, they take a moment to view the building through the eyepieces of their head mounted displays. They can see not only the outside of the building but also the outline of each interior room, doorway, hall, and staircase (Bradt, 1997). It is as if the eyepieces have given them X-ray vision, enabling them to see through the building (Azuma, 2004). Another warning is heard through their headphones, spoken in a much quieter voice: activity has been spotted on the third floor, northwest corner of the embassy. The soldiers scan the outline of the building’s interior layout and plan their entrance strategy. Identifying a path through interior doors, stairs, and hallways that will provide the best cover while allowing quick access to the target, they deploy. Twelve soldiers enter the building; the rest take up positions around the perimeter and wait as those inside move toward the enemy. Gunfire is heard coming from the northwest corner of an upper floor. After several long moments of silence, the sound of heavy footsteps and loud voices is heard coming down the stairs toward the outside doorway. It is time to debrief. Was their strategy successful? Could they have planned a more effective strategy? The soldiers are focused on learning from their mistakes in preparation for their imminent deployment to the war zone.
U.S. Navy wireless head mounted display (HMD) From “Eye on the Fleet Photo Gallery,” by the U.S. Navy, 2006, http://www.news.navy.mil/. (U.S. Navy photo by John F. Williams (Released))
Key Terms in this Chapter
Learning Management System: An online infrastructure platform through which learning content is organized, delivered, and managed. Features include access control, provision of learning content, communication tools, such as e-mail and threaded discussion forums, and assessment of student progress.
Local Area Network (LAN): An enclosed network connecting a collection of computers in a local area, such as an office, building, or college campus.
Contextual Learning: Learning that takes place in a context similar to the context in which it will be applied in the real world.
Wide Area Network (WAN): A group of computer networks connected together over a large geographical distance crossing metropolitan, regional, or national boundaries.
Infrared Beaming: The use of infrared communications to send data between electronic devices.
Avatar: An interactive virtual representation of a person.
Tracking Device/Tracker: Electronic device that records and/or relays information about the position and orientation of a person in motion. It can be worn by the person or attached to a stationary or moving object.
Global Positioning System (GPS): A worldwide system of satellites and corresponding receivers that compute physical locations on the Earth’s surface. Common uses include personal tracking, navigation, and automatic vehicle location technologies.
Virtual Media: The representation, effect, or essence of a real thing produced through technology.
Augmented Reality: The overlay of computer generated images on the physical environment.
Asynchronous: Two-way communication that does not occur simultaneously in real time, allowing people to communicate at their convenience. Examples include e-mail and discussion forums.
Personal Digital Assistant (PDA): Portable handheld computing device that can store, retrieve, and transmit data. Also called a palmtop, handheld computer, and pocket computer.
Head Mounted Display (HMD): An optical device that displays virtual images over the real world. HMDs are often embedded in a helmet or visor.
Situated Learning: Learning that takes place in a setting functionally identical to the setting in which it will be applied.
Synchronous: Two-way communication that occurs with no time delay, allowing interaction in real time.
Marker: A physical object in augmented reality that triggers the display of predefined virtual images.
E-Learning: Learning facilitated through the use of devices based on computer and communications technology such as networked computers, digital television, personal digital assistants, and mobile phones.
Virtual Reality: An artificial 3-D sensory immersive environment created with computer software. The user typically wears headgear with an internal viewing screen, earphones, special gloves, and/or full-body wiring.