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Augmented reality in PE

Here is a recent piece I wrote for PENZ about innovation in physical education, but it could be adapted to any subject area, AR is an area which can be applied in an interdisciplinary way.  These ideas are inspired by some of the areas we work on at The Mind Lab by Unitec.

My son with an Augmented Reality book.
'When a woman becomes pregnant her breasts augment, they increase in value, and usually size, due to the impending birth and need for sustenance for the new born child. Therefore when something is augmented it has a useful function added to it, and in the instance of augmented reality we are attempting to add value to real life.  I was wondering if this was an inappropriate way to introduce augmented reality, but since we are all PE/Health educators I feel we have a good understanding of the scientific uses of the human body in describing something! Augmented reality (AR) along with virtual reality (VR) are two rapidly evolving disruptive technologies that have the potential to revolutionise teaching and learning in the next decade, or earlier if predictions from the Horizon Report and CORE Education's Ten Trends are accurate. VR has recently had more exposure with Facebook buying up kickstarter funded ‘Occulus Rift’. This technology is also spreading with Google’s interest in developing ‘Google Cardboard’ which allows anyone to have immersive VR experiences with an android phone and what looks like part of a cereal box.

However, AR is more of a fit for physical education as there is still interaction with the physical environment around us. For a potential discussion starter for students it is worth watching a TED talk from ex- NFL player Chris Kluwe about how AR could revolutionise the game of American Football. Players would have heads up displays (HUDs) in their helmets that can identify opposition moving speed, probability of them tackling you and where/when you should release the ball so you score the winning point (is this still sport or merely entertainment?). However, he maintains that an overall benefit is the ability to build empathy and understanding of what other people are experiencing - which is interesting when incorporating hauora and wellbeing through sport. This technology is being developed by AR company Dacquri that has created a helmet to assist industry workers in a variety of fields to reduce errors and enhance productivity. Again, approaches in other fields are having knock-on effects in education.

So at last, 1980s science fiction has finally come to life and Robocop style helmets will soon allow you to scan your class visually and work out who is a potential threat and will need to be eliminated! Maybe not this year, but currently there are several apps and tools that are beginning to leverage off of the power of AR to engage learners in some useful value added learning. Anatomy 4D is the first one that has managed to create an interactive model of the human body, and the heart that you can manipulate through using a mobile device. Another interesting app is Aurasma, which allows you to create ‘auras’ that come to life when scanned with a mobile device. When combined with ‘Aurasma Studio’ this can really bring learning to life. It could be used to showcase student work or create interactive displays. Even treasure hunts or orienteering activities could be built around this tool.
Some schools have started creating interactive newsletters, where instead of simply showing a picture of a student running the 100m in record time, the parent can scan the image and it will be able to show the whole performance! One last app that is quite fun is ‘Zombies, run!’ which places the student in a world that is inhabited by zombies. Through listening to the soundtrack on headphones when running - the app uses your location and speed data to work out how fast you are moving and where you are and adjusts the threat of zombies accordingly. If you are running too slowly the zombies will start catching up with you - this is also a really good example of the gamification of learning.

With investment from large companies, hopefully augmented reality is on track to grow into something quite useful, and when used thoughtfully can be something that really enhances Physical Education and Health - and is not just a tool that is aesthetically pleasing.'

Thanks to Shelly Hunt from Team Solutions at AUT for asking me to write something, the full publication is available here...


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