Pokemon Go brings Augmented Reality to the Mainstream

You would  have  to be living under a rock to not have noticed that in the last week or so, Pokemon Go seems to have taken over the world. It doesn’t matter where you are, these (cute?) creatures are popping up (that is, if you hold your phone at the right angle!)


flickr photo shared by edowoo under a Creative Commons ( BY-SA ) license

Pokemon Go is based on Augmented Reality. I’ve written about this technology before on the ResourceLink blog, and although the technology has been around for a while, it hasn’t been until this week that it has really come to the forefront of the mainstream media.

So while I admit that I have gotten (slightly) hooked on the idea of running around my neighbourhood catching cute creatures (I caught this DoDuo while walking Earl yesterday)Earl, the reason I am blogging about it is because there are heaps of ways you can engage learners by taking advantage of this craze and bringing a little Augmented Reality into your own classroom or library.

There are two types of Augmented Reality. The first is where a printed trigger image initiates an interaction through the camera of the mobile device, and the second is where the app uses the mobile device’s GPS capabilities to ‘layer’ digital data over the location where the user is.

Pokemon Go uses the second type; using the GPS and clock on your device, the app identifies where you are, and creates Pokemon animations (which you view through the camera on your device). As you walk around, the location and time determine whether different Pokemon ‘appear’. The aim is to use the ball on the screen to ‘catch’ each Pokemon, until you catch them all. The video below gets the idea of the game across (although some dramatic liberties are taken!!)

This type of Augmented Reality, which uses GPS and overlays your environment can really engage your students; PlaneFinder allows you to view the sky in a whole new way; you can identify what type of planes are currently flying overhead, and find out their destination and point of origin. Starchart (available on Android and IOS) really brings astronomy lessons to life. Some of the simpler AR apps which overlay without GPS can also be fun; Money Everywhere allows you to capture photos of students with money falling from the sky; make mental calculations of money fun by snapping a range of photos, adding the totals and graphing to see who received the most ‘virtual’ cash! You can change the  currency so that it suits your country, and add just a little bit more excitement to that simple maths lesson.

The real teaching potential comes from the first type of AR app, which requires a marker to trigger the animation or image on screen. This type of AR doesn’t require an IT qualification to create your own experiences; simply create the marker, create the ‘overlay’ (the thing you want the user to view through their device) and use a specially designed app to mash them together!

I’ve written in the past about Aurasma, which is one of the most stable and longest-lived AR apps available. Basically, you sign up, upload your ‘trigger’ image, upload your ‘overlay’ (which is the image or animation you wish to appear) and then create your ‘aura’ (which is the finished product). The process is outlined here. You can do this either on a computer (using the Aurasma Studio app) or on a mobile device (Android or IOS). The process is pretty straight forward. 

Once you (and/or your students) have got your head around it, you are ready to start creating your very own version of Pokemon Go, to capture some of that excitement around your school! Here are some ideas to get you started, but I am sure you will come up with plenty of exciting ones yourselves :).

1. Create a “Your School Name Go” activity, featuring quiz questions which are hidden around the school. Design a range of trigger images, which allow a historical or significant piece of school trivia to be viewed (e.g. a photo of someone wearing a previous version of the school uniform). The question on the marker could be something that is answered by viewing the overlay image or video (e.g. what colour was the girls’ skirt in the old school uniform?). Students must find all markers, view overlays in order to answer trivia questions and first to complete all questions wins a prize! (This is more of a school spirit building activity than a learning activity, but still important!). The same idea could be adapted for getting students to navigate different parts of the library, or for introducing specific tools or equipment in a teaching area such as a Home Ec or Industrial Arts class.

2. Students create videos of themselves talking about a particular artwork they have created, or about a piece of work they have completed. Display the pieces of work/art (which also act as the trigger images), and invite students/parents/community to come and view interactive gallery.

3. Encourage parents to read the newsletter or important messages on school noticeboard by adding a ‘trigger’ which creates an overlay video of a recent school event or positive message. Perhaps include a code word which gamifies the weekly notices, encouraging parents to ‘catch all the messages’! (This may be cheeky, but it might help develop a sense of community or just bring some humour into the bureaucracy of school life!)

4. Embed audio or video explanations onto maths or science tasks, so that students completing them away from the teacher might still access support. Alternatively, encourage students to complete tasks by gamifying the process – instead of catching all the Pokemon, perhaps students need to find trigger images hidden within library books or texts.

5. Have students create a digital story walk, by embedding a narrative into the environment of the school. As characters move around the school telling their story, encourage the reader to travel with them, adding a chapter to each trigger image.

These are just suggestions; the potential is limitless! The creativity required for designing triggers and overlays, and the interactivity brought about by the AR aspect will engage students, and provide many different learning opportunities. Take advantage of the excitement around Pokemon Go, and bring some of that into your context – and if you do, let me know in the comments!

2 thoughts on “Pokemon Go brings Augmented Reality to the Mainstream

  1. GaryB

    In the SAMR context, the most basic use is to retrofit existing textbooks. Insert movies and URL or your google drive file into the existing reference. Always there, no need to go anywhere else…not original, not innovative, however it is just a bit more effective and a bit more efficient that the late adopters the ‘teach to the testers’ and the dinosaur Luddites may finally recognise there just might be a use for this AR thing…they won’t respond to games or engagement. But better results, more effective learning time.

    This method eliminates the notion of ‘flipped classroom’ as there is no need for ‘the classroom’..everywhere is a learning space! Just get on with it.
    Of course it can incorporate innovation and rubrics..ssshhhh! They might hear you…

    1. KayO

      Definitely a fantastic option for AR that might appeal to those more ‘pragmatic’ (?) educators :). Thanks for sharing!

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