Virtual and Augmented Reality apps are starting to hit the market in force. While most of the buzz for these technologies has been for immersive gaming, many companies are getting involved in realizing the potential that Augmented and Virtual Reality may have as educational tools. The fraction of projected VR and AR market value taken up by education may seem small, but considering how large whole market is, this “small fraction” still represents Billions of Dollars.
This article will discuss 22 virtual and augmented reality apps for education that are already available, in beta, or still in the testing process. Some of the apps are aimed at parents and preschool teachers, while most are for primary school teachers. Others will interest anybody, including higher education students, and even non-students.
1. Discovery VR
This app run by the Discovery Channel allows users, whether for home enjoyment, or for the classroom, to immerse themselves in short experiences. Much of the content is similar to what might usually run as segments in their televised programs, or might only get a picture in one of their magazines, only expanded and made immersive through VR Technology. Available options include watching Discovery Channel programs in a whole new way, along with other adventures like walking in space, roaming through Muir Forest, or swimming with sharks. The App is available on iTunes and Google Play.
2. Google Expeditions
Using their already well known satellite images of Earth and Space, Google launched its Expeditions program to put Virtual Reality in classrooms. The App allows educators to arrange their own tours of places on Earth using images from Google Street View, along with other areas, including Mars and areas of the Ocean. The idea is to give the software and hardware to schools for free, which is foreseeable do to the virtually free Google Cardboard, although the prices of mobile devices are still too high for this to be a reality in many schools.
3. Wizard Academy
An educational app with an aspect for everybody, Wizard Academy incorporates mini games that require thought, and result in increased memory, a better understanding of physics, and quicker math skills. The lessons are built into games involving destroying towers, escaping mazes, and firing arrow volleys. Wizard Academy is available on iTunes and Google Play.
4. Anatomy 4D
This AR mobile app available on iTunes and the Google Play store uses printed targets to display different parts of the human anatomy as interactive models. Seeing how the body fits together, moves, and functions has never been easier.
5. Google Translate
Sometimes it can be difficult to tell the difference between AR apps for practical use and AR apps for education, and that’s okay. Google Translate has released an app for Android phones that instantly translates any text that you can read through your camera into some ninety languages.
6. Corinth Micro Anatomy
Just so that iPhone and Android don’t have all of the fun, this app is for Microsoft Devices. This Augmented Reality app teaches anatomy by displaying 3D interactive 3D models visible through a camera phone, when aimed at printed targets. Organs can be seen individually, at system level, or with several systems together, to ensure understanding of how they body works together. Corinth Micro Anatomy Augmented app is available here.
7. Experience Chemistry
This fun, educational app for iPhone is a sort of puzzle game that requires users to create certain chemical reactions in order to advance through the game. All of the chemical elements are available, but only the right reaction will allow the user to continue, promoting memory of chemicals, and an understanding of the reactions they can undergo.
HP Hardware with software from a company called ZSpace are working on an AR display system that allows a three-dimensional model to be rotated and manipulated by the user, via a small head-set and a stylus. The set is being geared toward education, though it probably won’t be long before engineers and designers get their hands on it as well.
Explore and interact with cells to understand their composition and communication with MoleculE, a VR App for iPhone that makes body cells and biological molecules larger than life. The app includes an introduction to Cellular communication, and two more advanced lessons on enzymes and hormones.
10. Human Heart 3D
Students and people of all ages will become experts on heart anatomy and function with this Augmented reality app. Human Heart 3D shows stunning 3D models of the heart, complete with animations to show its function and actions, along with text descriptions of the heart’s anatomy and workings.
11. Animal Alphabet AR Flashcards
Young children will have fun learning their letters with this fun iPhone app. Just look through the camera at the flashcards to see cute 3D model animals spring up to help your child remember the letters and the sounds that they make.
12. Amazing Space Journey
Have you ever wanted to hold the solar system in the palm of your hand? This app for iPhone or Android holds great potential for education and entertainment for teachers or the at-home enthusiast. By printing out targets from the site linked above, and looking at them through the camera on your mobile device, you can explore the solar system and its motion through the manipulation of 3D models.
13. SkyORB 3D
A mobile app by Realtech, SkyORB provides a 3D star-map with so much more. With a search bar, a feature that tells you the name of whatever you’re looking at, weather features, information on lunar phases, and notifications about upcoming events that will be visible in the actual night sky from your location, this app should keep any hobby stargazer satisfied for ages. SkyORB is available on iTunes and Google Play.
Augmented Reality company Augment has several packages available for use in schools, mainly focusing on allowing users to visualise 3D images. Some uses of these tools include 3D representation of existing objects, the creation of 3D models by the user, and a design course designed at Michigan State University. Augment is available on Google Play and iTunes.
Core Augmented Reality Education, or CARE, for short, has a fleet of available lessons and augmented reality apps for education that specialise in the fields of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics. The app includes animated lessons, and what CARE calls “4D modelling” capabilities, for highly engaging content. apps are available for android phones, and for iPhones.
It’s generally easy to get kids interested in animals. It’s often difficult to really engage kids with this subject matter without taking them to a zoo or aquarium. The Augmented Reality App displays 3D infographics of animals, insects, fish, birds, and dinosaurs, including infographics of facts like the creature’s average height and weight. Perhaps the best part, is that the images are displayed on markers that can be printed from the ZooKazam website, and a bigger marker means a bigger image. ZooKazam is available on iTunes and Google Play.
17. Star Walk
Do you ever wish that you could see stars during the day, or look at the night sky, and see the stars in a constellation connected to help you make out how that cluster is somehow a lion? Star Walk is an augmented reality app by Vito Technology that does just that. Just hold your smartphone up to the sky, and see celestial bodies you can’t make out with the naked eye, or access information about those that you can. The app also allows you to visualise the sped up movement of objects in space. Students with and without smartphones at home will enjoy looking at the sky at home for stars that they learned about at school. Star Walk is available on Google Play and iTunes.
18. Life of a Monarch Butterfly
Did you ever have the “Butterfly Lab” in school, when the company sends eggs and a hanging basket, and the class learned about the life cycle, except not death, because you release all of the butterflies at the end of the year? For parents whose kids didn’t get the experience, or for teachers who won’t be able to do it for time or temperature purposes, the Life of a Monarch Butterfly AR app for iPhone explains the monarch butterfly life-cycle through interactive pop-up style activities and printable activity sheets available online.
19. Augmented Reality Freedom Stories
Teaching children about Harriet Tubman and other figures from the Underground Railroad just got a bit more interesting. This app for iPhone uses the Camera directed at printable flashcards to display new information about pivotal figures in the history of the Underground Railroad.
20. Our Discovery Island: Phonic Tricksters
This fun app by Pearson Education allows students with smartphones to look through the camera search the real world for virtual “Phonic Tricksters”, who are messing up the way that our language sounds. Finding the tricksters isn’t enough though, as they might escape if the student cannot answer a question about what they have learned. This app is available on iTunes, and the Google Play store.
21. Bugs 3D
Learning about bugs doesn’t have to be gross or scary for young ones with this app from Popar Toys. Move around with a smartphone camera to find AR Bugs in your environment. Finding bugs awards the child with not only information about the bug, but also a digital 3D model that they can move and place in other environments. Bugs 3D is available on Google Play and iTunes.
22. Pete the Cat: School Jam
This might qualify as a “pre-educational app” for iPhone. By helping a cat find his guitar, lost somewhere at his school, kids who may be nervous about going to school, or not sure what to expect, can see around Pete the Cat’s School. Once they have found Pete’s guitar they can play guitar along with a 3D Pete. While the app is all you need, students with Pete the Cat Books at home can point the camera at the books to find extra material.
The Bottom Line
What goes into developing an AR app, whether educational or otherwise? Some apps or companies use open source software to collect their models and material. If you use this strategy, collecting the bulk of your material can be fairly simple and cost efficient, but there is still some footwork required in getting to this step. Other styles of AR apps require huge amounts of work at every step, even after the release of the product through the release of software patches, updates etc.
Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality have a huge potential to impact our everyday lives. Education is only one of the ways in which these technologies can help change the ways that we, and our children, live and work.