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Aurasma: a retrospective

Like anyone interested in augmented reality, I have been closely following the launch of iOS11 and the debut of the much heralded ARKit apps. Like many other educators though, I’m not in a position to harness them in school as our devices are not powerful enough to actually run them. The buzz around AR has made me reflect on my own experiences with augmented reality though and in the five years I’ve been using AR in education, one platform has definitely been harnessed more consistently and more broadly than any other - Aurasma.

I was first shown Aurasma in 2012 by my friend and colleague Luke Rees. I remember saying to him that it was going to transform my classroom. As someone with a background in film, it’d always been a struggle to integrate video in a classroom setting as you couldn’t share the content as easily as you could an photo or image, which could be printed. Aurasma gave me a platform to share videos by tagging them to images on my classroom walls and then viewing them in augmented reality. It was a bit of a faff though back then and the process quite cumbersome. Fortunately Aurasma is now far more user-friendly!

We had a corridor that lead into Year 4 (where I was working at the time) and on the wall was a display board where photos of the four classes were fixed. That year we enriched them with Aurasma – recording accompanying videos that matched the angle and perspective of the photos. When people scanned the images, the videos would play and the pictures seemed to come to life like something out of Harry Potter. During our annual school inspection we had a couple of students demo this to a visiting inspector and it blew her mind (they even showed her how to install the app on her phone).

Digging through an old hard-drive last week I actually found a video from back then that showcases this exact thing as well as a couple of other ways we were using Aurasma back then. This is the first time that the clip has been shared beyond the conference that it was produced for in 2012.

The one stumbling block I would hit with Aurasma was the fact that some staff found the process to use it quite time-consuming. Later updates to the app made it far easier to upload and create the AR content though. In 2014 I discovered the Aurasma Studio platform and that opened up another dimension for the app. The web-based Studio meant that content not on our iPads could be tagged to displays. It also made the process of creating multiple auras far quicker and allowed for more control in the way the overlays were lined up to the images. For me this was always crucial. The illusion of an image coming to life or morphing into a video only works effectively if they are lined up precisely.

I actually used the Aurasma Studio with the FS2 team in our other primary school last year to tag talking videos made with Chatterpix to their counterpart images. The clips were ferried off multiple iPads and I created 15 auras in little more than 15 minutes.

One tip I would give to anyone looking to embed something like Aurasma across a whole school is to use a consistent label for your triggers. I took the Aurasma butterly icon and made a set of labels of varying sizes which identified that a piece of work (or even a whole display board) had AR content tagged to it. This way, senior leaders or other visitors would know where to find Aurasma content quickly and without needing to ask.

After five years, I’ve used Aurasma in a stack of different ways. Here are ten of my favourite ideas for using the app:

1. Bringing classroom displays to life

The obvious place to start and probably the most common use for the app – especially since many students will now collate and share multimedia content using platforms like Showbie, Seesaw or OneNote. The example that springs to mind that I have always loved is using Aurasma to tag videos of book reviews to images of their covers.

2. Independent learning zones

You may have spotted this in the first video above. Much like QR codes, Aurasma can be used to set up independent learning zones in a classroom. Students can be directed to scan an image and this then triggers an instructional video of the teacher explaining the task.

3. Personal hotspots

Another one from the video above. Create each student a unique hotspot that becomes their Aurasma trigger image. They can then use this to tag videos of favourite pieces of work to, creating a unique, multimedia showcase of learning. A word of caution – make sure that the hotspots are distinct enough. I remember that we used to have some students’ videos pop up on others’ hotspots from time to time!

4. Augmented Reality treasure hunts

Treasure hunts can be enriched with augmented reality content (wifi permitting) with students hunting for the relevant clue then scanning it to reveal the next task in the hunt. The great thing about using AR for something like this is that players can’t stumble across any physical evidence as they hunt.

5. AR enriched school tours

Have prospective parents download the app in advance of a school tour and use consistent triggers around the campus to signal where relevant content can be found. This could be students explaining the history of the site or staff giving more detail about the ethos of the school. Recently iBeacons have become quite popular in this regard but as most people who have worked with them will tell you, they can be quite inconsistent and the process of uploading content to them is far more cumbersome than using something like Aurasma.

6. The video wall

During the last Rugby World Cup, a colleague had an excellent maths display focused on the stats of the competition. To inspire the start of the project, he wanted to show the class the promotional trailer for the event. Rather than just play it once, we downloaded it in high definition and used Aurasma Studio to tag it to the display board… the ENTIRE board. The effect was quite impressive as it was framed perfectly within the skirting of the board and gave the effect of this regular board turning into a giant HDTV!

7. Interactive learning resources

One fun way I helped a French teacher embed Aurasma a couple of years back was to create a set of AR flashcards using it. We created images of the French words for various sports and hobbies then tagged these to images of each activity. Students could then move around the room practising their vocabulary and self-assess by scanning the image to see the word appear.

8. Use the built-in 3D content as a stimulus

Mostly people focus on using Aurasma as a creation tool to tag their own content to trigger images. The app does include a bank of animated 3D models that can be tagged to images as well though. Many of these are just for fun but there are some great examples which could be used as a resource or stimulus for a classroom project. Examples of these include the Harry Potter station number, a 3D map of London and the Roman centurion. Best of all are the collection of famous art works which can be tagged to the matching image to make it come to life before students’ eyes.

9. Embellish artwork in AR

Sticking with the Art focus., Aurasma can be a powerful tool for creating cutting-edge, augmented works of art. Students can use animation packages to generate moving or morphing elements on an image of their work and then tag it to the original piece. Perhaps a bust opens its eyes or speaks to tell its story? Maybe a painting changes tone or colour scheme to create a different effect? Another simpler idea is to have the artist reflect/introduce their work and tag a video of this onto a phto of them next to the piece in a school gallery.

10. The x-ray effect

One of my favourite AR applications right now is the VirtualiTee by Curiscope. I love how it gives the impression of actually seeing inside a person’s body to learn more about their organs. Aurasma can be used to create this AR x-ray effect. When I was working in a computer lab a couple of years ago, I lined up an image of the inside of a monitor and tagged it to the logon screen. I did a similar thing with the actual desktop PCs. Students could then scan them and see through the screen/casings. You can actually design a simple but unique version of the VirtualiTee by generating a trigger that reveals the organs within.

#AR #iOS #create

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