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The first week of the Google Expeditions AR Pioneer Programme has come to a close in the US and what are our first thoughts?

Google’s AR technology, Project Tango, gives teachers the opportunity to place 3D objects around the classroom for students to explore. For example, students can observe miniature hurricanes or get up close with a strand of DNA. It sounds amazing but will this have the same impact as Google’s VR Pioneer Programme? I’m not sure.

The AR Pioneer Programme is still very much in its infancy and I’m sure, similar to the VR Pioneer Programme, Google will gather extensive feedback from teachers and schools and make considerable changes throughout the year. Personally, I have a number of concerns about the AR programme.

The first concern I have is how accessible will this AR technology be for schools? I know that as technology develops and as time goes on, prices will continue to fall but at present there are only two phones, Asus Zenfone AR and Lenovo Phab 2 Pro that are ‘Tango ready’ and they retail for $599 and $499 respectively. Based on these prices, a class set of 30 would set your school back $14,970. I’m sure Google are aware of this being such a huge barrier to schools and they are working with hardware partners to make the technology more accessible.

My second concern is about the safety of the equipment. Based on Google’s promo video and videos that I’ve seen on Twitter, students use the devices with a ‘selfie stick’ and walk around the classroom to explore these different objects. This is very much a sweeping statement, but from experience, students are very clumsy (especially when they are overexcited). I would be on edge if my class were walking around the classroom with a $500 smartphone; surely phones will be dropped and cracked on a regular basis?! Whilst working on the Google Expeditions VR Pioneer Programme in the UK, KS1 students (5-7 years old) were required to use 2D mode, where they would explore their surroundings using just the phone (without the VR headset). Without fail, at least one student from every session would drop a phone. However, the big difference is that students were sat down in this situation and they were using smartphones worth half the value of AR phones.

My last thought regarding Google Expeditions AR is does it provide that same “WOW” reaction as Google Expeditions VR does. Whilst I worked on the Google Expeditions VR programme, students would literally scream with excitement. I’ve been keeping track of reactions on Twitter to the AR Programme and from the videos that I’ve seen; students don’t seem as wowed as they did with VR.

It’s too early to be making a judgement on Google Expeditions AR and the Pioneer Programme running this year in the US is a chance to perfect its application in the classroom. I have no doubt that AR will have a significant impact in the classroom and some teachers are already successfully implementing this technology. If the Google Expeditions AR Programme has the same impact as its VR counterpart, it will be huge. From personal experience of visiting over 100 schools with VR, Google Expeditions is transforming the classroom and I have no doubt that Google will be at the forefront of AR in education. At the minute though, I have a few reservations.

What are your thoughts on the Google Expeditions AR Programme currently being launched across the US?

 

Stuart is a qualified teacher and former Google Expeditions associate and now runs a company called PrimeVR in the UK. He would love to hear your thoughts about AR in education and would welcome your comments. Feel free to drop him an email stuart@primevr.co.uk.