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San Diego Pilot: Latest Test of Augmented Reality

An experimental initiative that tests the potential of augmented reality for K12 education has begun in the San Diego Museum of Art.

An experimental initiative that tests the potential of augmented reality for K12 education began in San Diego in April, that equips fourth-graders from city schools on field trips to the San Diego Museum of Art with specially developed smartphones.

The emerging field of augmented reality is in its infancy. In the most general sense, the term "augmented reality" refers to mobile technology that enhances, or augments, the physical environment around the user with digital information.

Funded by a public-private partnership, the San Diego project is the latest experiment with such technology in education by the Handheld Augmented Reality Project (HARP ) research group from the Harvard Graduate School of Education, as well as researchers from MIT and San Diego's School in the Park Project, and funded in part by telecommunications giant Qualcomm.

HARP's previous project developed an augmented reality game for middle and high school students from schools in Boston in 2006. The game, entitled Alien Contact, prompted students to move around their school's playground or sports field using GPS-enabled handheld Dell computers.

After learning from their experience in the Boston pilot, HARP researchers developed a new software program in partnership with the San Diego museum. Samsung smartphones, running the Google Android operating system and loaded with a specifically developed application, entitled The Crane, were distributed to fourth-grade students at the museum. Based around a Chinese folktale, the application tells a story as it guides students around both inside and outside the museum.

Patrick O'Shea, director of HARP, says this is just the beginning of experimentation with augmented reality technology in K12.