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Augmented Reality (AR) and Mobile Learning

By Jason Haag • December 09, 2013


According to Semico’s report on Augmented Reality, 864 million high-end cell phones will be AR-enabled by 2014 with revenues related to AR technology approaching $600 billion by 2016. While still in its infancy, mobile AR is starting to drive innovation within the education, gaming, medical, mobile, automotive, and manufacturing markets.

AR provides us with an enhanced view of the real world. There are actually many forms of AR and it is not a new phenomenon, but my interest specifically lies with mobile augmented reality as one of the most powerful forms of contextual mobile learning. There are already many examples of mobile AR on smartphones and tablets, but mobile wearables such as Google Glass will soon provide us with additional options for contextual learning in the future mobile AR landscape.

AR App Examples

ADL Initiative’s MoTIF project is exploring new types of learning and design approaches that leverage the affordances of mobile devices. In September we published a mobile learning survey report, and the community has begun to weigh in on some of the findings.

What capabilities are used for mobile augmented reality? The camera, sound, video, graphics, and geolocation data are key capabilities used in many mobile AR Apps today for contextual mobile learning. While there are many examples of mobile AR out there, the following examples were primarily selected because they provide excellent models of using AR for contextual mobile learning experiences or performance support. I hope this list of examples provides some ideas for those looking to get started with using AR for mobile learning.

  1. Dow Day is one of the most widely known AR examples for mobile learning and was developed using the open source Augmented Reality Interactive Storytelling (ARIS) platform.

  2. Word Lens builds on the flash card concept providing real time word translation using AR technology.

  3. Star Walk is an augmented reality astronomy guide and provides a real-time view of the sky’s stars, constellations and satellites by pointing the camera at the sky.

  4. Leafsnap is a free electronic field guide for trees, provides leaf-shape recognition, and has thousands of photos of several species of trees, flowers, fruit, bark and more.

  5. Anatomy 4D allows learners to explore the human anatomy and was built using Qualcomm’s vuforia platform.

  6. DASH® Smart Instrument Technologies is a portable surgical navigation system designed to assist orthopedic surgeons in performing knee and hip joint replacement procedures.

  7. HP Support’s performance support app to help you change the ink cartridges in select HP printers.

  8. Audi’s augmented owner’s manual App shows the range of functions the car offers without having to read the manual. This app was developed using the Metaio platform.

  9. Volkswagen’s Mobile Augmented Reality Technical Assistance (MARTA) App provides service support. This app was developed using the Metaio platform.

  10. Aurasma’s augmented reality App (now discontinued) can be used to create auras for augmenting any object by triggering and loading a 3D object, image, or pre-recorded video, and is ideal for creating learning opportunities for training or performance support. Check out the example using Aurasma below.

  11. Combat Medic is card game that is augmented by Aurasma and was created by the University of Central Florida’s METIL lab for the U.S. Army Research Lab.

The second example is a video captured by a mechanic while using Aurasma to show how this AR technology combined with pre-recorded videos could be used for training novice mechanics as well as providing performance support to more experienced ones.

Mobile AR Content Creation and Development Platforms

In some of the examples above I shared links to the AR creation Apps or development platforms that were used. The following is a list of the AR creation apps, tools and development platforms that I’ve been exploring.

If you would like to share some additional examples of other mobile AR development tools please add a comment to this post or contact us. Also, if you’re interested in getting involved in ADL Initiative’s mobile learning project (MoTIF), then contact us or send an email to