Yesterday, Google’s Vice President of Virtual Reality, Clay Bavor announced at the annual I/O keynote event that their educational Expeditions application will be expanded to include an Augmented Reality (AR) mode. The Expeditions app allows students to experience virtual reality field trips, by using Google Cardboard headsets, which first launched across Europe, Canada and the United States in May 2016. It gives the ability to tour many virtual locations and spaces, such as Buckingham Palace in the UK, Antartica, and the International Space Station. Google first announced the launch of the application two years ago at their annual event, and up until now, it has been used by over 2 million students worldwide. The application was then opened up to anyone who wished to try it out at the end of June last year.
The new AR mode uses Tango technology from Google’s Pioneer program. Tango, known as Project Tango while in the testing phase, is an augmented reality computer platform. It allows various devices, such as smartphones and tablets, to detect their position relative to everything around them through the use of positional tracking, instead of GPS. Tango uses this ability to map the areas of each individual classroom and place the 3D objects at certain points. Students can then use Tango-compatible smartphones, including the Lenovo Phab 2 Pro to view 3D models of objects such as the Statue of David, volcanoes, DNA molecules, and others. Users can simply point the AR-ready device at the assigned points within the classroom to be able to view the fully interactive objects. It’s possible to walk around the objects, step back to view them fully or view them up close through the use of positional tracking. It is hoped that this technology will assist teachers in a variety of educational settings and especially when they are explaining concepts and ideas that may be hard for students to simply visualize.
The new features will be launched later this year, through Google’s Pioneer program and it is hoped that it will help students to collectively enjoy the power of interactive learning. There is currently an application form available for teachers who wish to sign up for this program on the Pioneer Program website.