CES 2016 and Virtual Reality

I recently followed CES 2016 online – the world’s biggest technology show taking place in Las Vegas, to see what technologies and predictions from big tech brands will unravel in the next year.

Wearable technology and smart homes were the most dominant themes in the show, but among all the exciting tech and gadgets, the one that still ignites my curiosity and excitement is Virtual Reality (VR).

VR technology seems to be gaining momentum everywhere these days, especially in the last year with Facebook buying Oculus and Sony releasing Project Morpheus, expectation is high about 2016 being the year of Virtual Reality!

VR Tech gadgets like the Samsung Gear VR, Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, and PlayStation VR all had crowded rooms in the CES 2016 show with some of them announcing their gadgets’ release into the mainstream.

At this point I think that the technology has matured enough to be released in the market and have a massive potential impact!  VR does not only create incredible 3D environment but also can stimulate your mind bringing you into the experience as an active participant rather than a casual observer.  Being immersed in the virtual world in addition to having audio narration, instructing you to participate in physical gestures such as grabbing, selecting, and moving made possible with gesture controllers allows a sense of greater control of the virtual experience. A good example of that is Sixense STEM system by Samsung offering a full-body controlled presence and experience in Virtual Reality as it provides motion controls, haptic feedback, and additional spatial awareness in VR .


Virtual Reality Lightsaber Demo with Sixense STEM!


So is VR going to be a game changer and will there be any difference in the use of VR after it is made available for public?

I have been captivated by one of the very impressive examples of using VR in CES 2016, NASA giving visitors a virtual “ride on board an Orion spacecraft and a you-are-there perspective of the Kennedy Space Centre”.  Using headsets like Oculus Rift and Microsoft Hololens, people who were there at the show were fortunate to experience NASA’s latest rocket, the experience that people described as “blasting”.  Actually NASA has already started using VR to train astronauts for one of the most dangerous journeys of their lives, it allows astronauts to experience what it feels like to survive problems they might face at work.  The Martian VR Experience can transports users to Mars, a place they have never been to, and let astronauts experience what Watney had to go through to survive alone in Mars.A full  Martian VR experience will be realised later in the year and is expected to be  very compelling and immersive experience,  which is through exploiting the interactive features of any of the Rift, the Vive, or the PSVR, users will be engaged in the different scenarios recreated based on the film in VR . For me, this is game changer. NASA pushes VR to its limits.

“in space, an astronaut’s next, minutes are never guaranteed. They have to adjust to the drastically modified rules of physics and to a calmness and a slowness that makes danger”

Here is the video demo to the Martian VR experience:

For me “experience” is the key to the success of this example as there is no other way on Earth to replicate this experience other than VR.

How this applies to Education?

Let’s take this example and try to think forward how it can benefit our education and students because it is not enough to release these fancy gadgets every year, talk about them, try them, and then say “yea, they are cool”, and end up putting them on the shelf to gather some dust!  What really makes this technology and its function a game changer is the experience having a clear purpose and real context.

Thinking about the example of NASA and astronauts training this could also be applied in classes of astronomy.  For example, astronomy students can learn about the solar system and how it works by physical engagement with the objects within. They can move planets, see around stars and track the progress of a comet. This also enables them to see how abstract concepts work in a three dimensional environment which makes them easier to understand and retain.

I can see a lot of potentialities of VR in education, it can certainly bring value to education and training but what we really need to do is to start creating experiences – both virtual and augmented experiences – ones that are authentic and long lasting, aiming for more than just blowing students’ minds.  In addition, these experiences should be targeted at real problems.

VR experiences are no more for one person at a time!

The possibility of thought-controlled motion is particularly exciting.  VR is not anymore a way to experience environment and situations independently.  You can now invite people to the visual experience that you are in.  The toy box demo developed by Oculus is a way of testing its Touch Controllers and experimenting with the many ways people can interact virtually.


Mark Zuckerberg called the zero-gravity ping-pong “the craziest Oculus experience I’ve had recently.” And, he said, “What’s really amazing is sharing these experiences with your friends.

In the classroom, a lot of the activities are group work such as gaming activities.  What would make any VR experience unique and immersive for learners is immediacy of feedback and interaction, this can enable them to have control over the learning experiences.  See how Anatomic learning which is central to all areas of medical training or education can find extreme use of VR simulator especially with the use of touch controller.

Here is an example of heart anatomy developed by Leap Motion and is made available for free for users.


However, it is important to know how to make benefit and use of these immersive experiences that these technologies enable. How schools, universities and colleges can find value in these applications within their educational contexts.

Virtual reality has the capacity to support problem based and inquiry based learning enabling performance-based assessment particularly in STEM learning in a safe learning environment.  Encouraging educational institutions to create more room for STEM programs to expose young people to a more active and inquiry-based approach has become essential to me as part of my work at Jisc.  I believe that if we provide students with opportunities to master what they learn and really own what they learn for themselves, we will be better placed to support all students including those with accessibility needs to a high standard. This is the challenge I am currently engaged in as my job as a developer in Jisc Future Technologies, working side by side with universities and colleges, including their staff and students, to make the most out of teaching and learning.

Technology is here all around us and it is changing our lives day by day, however, if we do not embrace it to its fullest and create transformative opportunities, we will end up falling short of its grandiose aspirations.

For those of you who could not make it to CES 2016, here is a VR tour hosted by CNET of the CES show floor that you can watch in VR using Google Cardboard or Samsung Gear VR.


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5 take aways from SIGGRAPH 2015


The annual SIGGRAPH conference is a five-day interdisciplinary educational experience in the latest computer graphics and interactive techniques including an exhibition, technical papers, industry talks and hands-on courses that attracts hundreds of exhibitors from around the world and many thousand delegates.

Having been recommended to attend by several 3D/VR/AR luminaries, it quickly surpassed my inflated expectations, leaving at the end of the week truly inspired and invigorated with fresh perspectives. I thought it would be useful to put together my top five takeaways from the conference and how they could be applied in an educational setting.

  1. Augmented Reality used in Hollywood film making

The director of Jurassic World (Colin Trevorrow) along with camera operators used an iPad app called Cineview developed by ILM (Industrial Light and Magic) to frame shots on location. They used the iPad in combination with a 3D structure sensor (http://structure.io/)  to measure camera depth where there was no visual reference, as most effects were added post production.

Tim Alexander, the Visual Effects Supervisor explains the process further.

“We would load our models into the program and stick them into the live image…The director and director of photography could look at a scene through the iPad camera and see where Indominus would be. They could see how tall she would be 20 feet away. They’d know if they would need to tilt the camera or move her back farther. Its a great tool for previs’ing.”

It is amazing to think that AR is being used in this way in the top production studios and the application for education is endless, imagine a similar tool in such diverse disciplines as theatre direction, lighting or product design, architecture and construction. Not only does it help to quickly present a stunning visualisation but reduces expense by allowing the learner to pre-empt future problems easily in a digital snapshot without  spending time creating complex physical models.

2. Virtual Reality WILL be massive

SIGGRAPH devoted a whole “Village” to the demonstration of bleeding edge Virtual Reality and I was lucky enough to have first hand experience of a few of them. The first experience placed you in the position of a crash test dummy accelerating towards a barrier, simulating crash trauma and the differences between safety features on a modern car and a similar vehicle in the 1980’s. The immersion was breathtaking – on the moment of impact the display went into slow motion with shards of glass flying towards you and your passenger, contorted as the crumple zone concertinaed and air bags deploy before your eyes. Even more frightening was the second experience in the earlier car model without what we would consider to be fundamental safety features. The VR resource was built for the road traffic agency in Australia to dispel the common myth amongst drivers that the old heavier cars were more protective in accidents.


VR Car crash dummy test

One of the other examples was being used by Ford executives, engineers and technicians to experience new car models without having to create expensive Clay Models (Commonly over £250K), a costly process of layering thousands of pounds of clay over a foam core, spending months shaping every curve by hand. Using gesture based controllers, it allows the user to peel back engine components, seeing detailed cross sections, check joins in the shell and run quality assurance testing.


Ford Mustang Virtual Reality experience

Being part of these immersive demonstrations really brought home the potential of VR within education for simulated environments (media caves) and interactive worlds. The early laggy, underwhelming graphical representations of VR are slowly being replaced by photorealistic and truly mind-blowing creations. Imagine being able to experience the awe and adventure of following in Howard Carter’s footsteps uncovering Tutankhamum’s tomb as an archaeology student; hearing the wind blow through a crypt sealed for millennia and taking in the priceless artefacts and mysterious hieroglyphs.

3. Pixar is Coming

The core 3D rendering engine used by Pixar in their recent animated films is now available for FREE, integrated into Blender software. It can be downloaded after initial registration at http://renderman.pixar.com/view/renderman and has some great features including a realistic hair renderer, denoiser, enhanced physical cameras simulated the imperfections of real world cameras and visual integrator. This is a real step change from traditional renderer pricing models (often thousands of of pounds per year), meaning that instead of purchasing a costly add-on, educational institutions and schools can now experiment with industry standard software for free.  This is especially useful for making students more employable when they finally graduate.

Render man Walking Teapot

Render man Walking Teapot


4. Science and Maths are cool!

In the latest blockbuster Interstellar, Chris Nolan wanted the main tenets of the film, namely interstellar travel, black holes, wormholes and other dimensions to be grounded in some semblance of theoretical fact. Hiring renowned astro-physisist Kip Thorne, Nolan based the films rich space visualisation on the mathematical algorithms and physical laws present in the universe, keeping it as real as theoretically possible.

Now, if ever students would be inspired to learn more about complex mathematical equations, presenting an authentic example like this would certainly hold their attention. Throughout the conference talks, academics talked through their scientific processes and Algorithms, across such diverse subjects as Multi-resolution Geometric Transfer – allowing animators to switch between high and low polygon dinosaur models and the Procedural Animation Technology behind Microbots in Big Hero 6.

I always struggled as a student of mathematics with pre-concieved notions of it being dry, devoid of excitement, not really relatable to anything my life. Put simply, I had no frame of reference. Hearing how it can move from the theoretical to the visual in an interesting and authentic way should be the template for more Maths and Science teaching to follow. It made a subject that was previously incomprehensible (to me, anyway), at least a little more digestible. We’ve all heard the criticism constantly thrown at the teaching of maths by disenfranchised students – “When will I ever use it in my life?”, this is a perfect instance of being able to point them in a direction that might interest them, after all there are a lot of visual learners out there. If you want to learn more about the Science/ Maths behind the film I would recommend you read Kip Thorne’s book – Science of Interstellar

5. Gamification 

Three of the main game engines – Unreal Engine, Unity and Cryengine were at the conference, much of their focus was on developing games and experiences for the educational community.

One of my earlier posts this year discussed my frustration at Metaio’s acquisition by Apple and the gap this left in the AR developer community. By using platform independent, FREE game engines to output to a variety of devices can help to overcome the fragmentation that currently prevails the AR landscape. Unity, for example has the ability to export AR for a number of different app based solutions including DAQRI, VUFORIA, Wikitude etc. Because the assets and workflow are not solely locked into proprietary AR experiences, it means they can be slightly edited to work within VR or act as standalone learning resources for web browsers/ apps.

One of my current projects (AR-Sci) involves developing an AR experience around Photosynthesis in nature for secondary school students. In parallel with this work, I am developing with Unity/ Unreal to re-use the same assets and storyboards to port a similar resource to a VR environment.

In my view, one of the reasons early educational forays into simulated/ Virtual environments such as Second Life weren’t more successful was because there was a vast chasm between the realism of these constructed worlds and console/ PC games. Students were used to playing graphically polished games such as Return to Castle Wolfenstein (2001) and Unreal (1998) meaning education based resources often fell short of  their high expectations leading to limited adoption. The ability to develop now in Unity for education or Unreal Engine 4 creating photorealistic  and authentic experiences has a huge potential to stimulate students that were brought up on  a diet of console/ pc/ mobile games.

Unreal Engine VR science resource screenshot

Unreal Engine VR science resource screenshot

Despite being prone to exaggeration when technology and graphics are concerned, I would unequivocally state that SIGGRAPH 2015 was the best conference Ive ever attended; it certainly lived up to its hype. It turned me into that excitable child on Christmas Eve, every morning reading through the conference schedule seeing what gems were on show today. I believe that being able to view CG development through the eyes of other industries can prove priceless in being more open to new approaches that education can truly benefit and learn from. Over the coming months I hope to put into practice what I have learned from SIGGRAPH, not only hoping to inspire those working in education with examples, but illustrating how this wow factor can enthuse and captivate students so their thirst for learning is never satisfied.

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Can 3D Printing Really Revolutionise Your Traditional Lecture?

Over the last few years, there has been a drastic movement within the market towards making things with technologies, and as a result more and more industries started adopting these to compete by producing unique quality and end-to-end solutions.  One of the technologies that is evolving dramaticllay and has  matured to a point where it is expected to be a game changer in various industries is 3D printing. We are all aware that visualisation in 3D is a big step ahead of traditional 2D approaches, but 3D printing does not only enable three-dimensional visualisation, but also adds a dimension of tangibility to our experience. See the updated the news about the  3D printing industry.

So what is a 3D printer?

A 3D printer is a machine that is able to produce objects of any shape by creating layers of materials until the final three-dimensional object is formed.  Although, initially they started printing objects with plastic filament, now it is possible to use metal, ceramics, food, human tissue, and very recently cellulose which is the main constituent in plants.


A photo of the printing head of a FELIX 3D Printer in action by Jonathan Juursema

Looking at the latest development and growth of this futuristic technology field, especially with reduced cost for both machine and materials in the consumer market, a lot of industries like dental, medical, architecture, marketing, jewellery and Science education are seeing the benefit of it.  Have a look at the things being 3D printed so far in different industries.

 The NMC (New Media Consortium) Horizon Report in 2014 stated that 3D is expected to change the way teachers teach and students learn.  However, what 3D printing can bring into libraries, universities, schools and colleges is not yet to be identified.  Teachers and lecturers are experimenting how “making” things adds to the teaching and learning process.  Although these are individual cases, I think bringing more attention to the efforts made by early adopters can be very important at this stage as the technology and its applications seem to be increasingly promising.

This article is a reflection on an attempt made by the lecturer  Dr. David Smith at Sheffield Hallam Univeristy to “revolutionise” his traditional lecture/ classroom of Bioscience which usually relies on a PowerPoint presentation with some kind of multimedia like images and/or videos.

What the lecturer did differently was that he integrated a 3D printed model related to the core content of the lesson into a lecture with a very big number of biochemistry and biology students.

The question that needs to be proposed here is: can a 3D printer revolutionise the  teaching and learning?

In a class of 180 students, the lecturer in the webinar explained that in this attempt, he has been able to make a difference in terms of engaging students more and stimulating them to discuss core content both in groups and with the lecturer. This resulted in enhancing their understanding and retention about complex concepts that were not very easy to digest in a traditional lecture.


A 3D printed model of DNA by the lecturer.

So how was the lecture  delivered differently this time to achieve that?

A generated 3D printed model of DNA was introduced into this lecture through an activity, through which students can handle,  explore, and discuss how the shape of the object and how this shape leads to particular functions.

There is no doubt that the 3D output enables visualisation and conceptualisations in 3D dimensions in teaching and learning; however,  being able to touch and manipulate the object, opens up a new pathway of learning, enabling realistic perspectives of both simple and complex concepts.  3D printing can  be really a powerful tool,  think how this can be potentially realised to enhance spatial awareness in early education, helping to encourage students to pursue STEM careers for example.

Also, think how  influential a 3D model could be in enabling visualization of abstract ideas or say objects/ phenomenon that cannot be seen by the naked eye. This will further benefit the students’ learning more.

I think integrating 3D printing into any educational setting  can result in a pedagogical shift away from thinking about something to working with, tinkering, inventing, touching and sensing things.

3D printing seems to be a very exciting era with its so many possible applications in STEM, visual art and design and other subject areas.  From my point of view, its real power comes from having a purpose for creating a 3D output, a problem to solve through an activity which can involve students and teachers in the process of: designing, visualising, and making.

This model of the HIV was printed on the Object Eden 3D printer

This model of the HIV was printed on the Object Eden 3D printer

Some research indicated that 3D printing could be able to transform what the student imagines into a practical visual experience that can enhance the way they approach  problem solving.  Having said that, it does not mean that we can merely saturate schools/ institutions with 3D printers  and expect students to innovate.

Technology in itself cannot not be the main driver of any pedagogical shift.   The lecturer put significant effort on designing what he calls an “active experimentation activity” through which conversation is directed by some simple questions centred around  the object features and functions. These questions worked as prompts to simulate discussion which was then followed by personalised feedback from the teacher. This is an essential aspect, the printer can make the classroom a more engaging and creative space if it is implemented with some thoughtful and pre-planned learning activities facilitated by the teacher.


A 3D printed heart created by Melbourne Scientists to aid in medical education

It is really exciting to involve students in creating a 3D printed model of the human heart in a biology class for example, to learn about the human organs.

Student-centered teaching approaches can be more satisfying for students when they produce things rather than passively sit and observe.  As the 3D printer becomes more affordable, stories of it being used in schools and universities are increasing.  I hope this article  stimulates your creativity when thinking about the relevance of this technology to your subject matter and its potentialities in real wold projects.  Please see this 3D printing & Education Forum which could be very useful to start discussing your ideas and thoughts about any future projects of implementations.

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Thoughts on Apple acquiring Metaio

Apple and Metaio join forces

Apple and Metaio join forces


Since the announcement of Apples acquisition of Metaio (http://techcrunch.com/2015/05/28/apple-metaio/) last Friday I have been onset with a number of thoughts – anger, dejection, pessimism and disbelief to name a few. But the overarching emotion, without wanting to sound dramatic, having existed inside the Metaio ecosystem for the past few years, is hope. Hope that AR could eventually realise the potential, opined in so many aspirational demos such as The Sixth Sense TED talk back in 2009.

Metaio has for so long been ahead of the curve in terms of AR innovation and functionality, think Cad 3D tracking and more recently their research into thermal touch technology,  turning every surface/ object into a potential touch screen. This set them apart from the rest of the AR software community; companies that were often narrowly focused on the non-technical enterprise market achieving great scalability but failing to push the mainstream adoption of AR into something that was beneficial to the user. Of course like other companies, Metaio was also guilty of focusing on marketing/ advertising use cases to create initial buzz around the technology, realising how it could monetise this new form factor into a lucrative business model.

Where it differed, was that it was always looking to push the boundaries in applications of AR –  helping to bring benefits to processes that had previously existed without digital support (e.g. 3d schematics assisting on-site air conditioning engineers). Nowhere is this more relevant than in education. Bringing students in contact with digital support in situated environments such as the Leeds College of Music resource is a USP that ensured students buy into the learning gains AR afforded them, without being led by shiny new technology.

So what impact, if any, will Apples foray into AR have on its mass adoption. Well, if nothing else, the fact that Apple has identified a unique opportunity/ potential in the technology (some are reporting integration with Apple maps and biometrics) to provide innovative new features in their product line can only be positive in terms of bringing it to the headspace of the average user. Even though its first iteration may be largely anecdotal (see Apple Watch), making users aware of new possibilities in their lives (learning, lifestyle, workplace) could add traction to its ubiquity. The obvious disadvantage is that Apples walled garden philosophy will mean that innovation outside these controlled   environments could suffer. Over 150,000 developers including myself worked with the Metaio SDK/ Junaio/ Creator and as previously stated, there is a dearth of suitable replacements in the market. I don’t know what the answer is in the short term (Wikitude are soon launching  SLAM functionality into their SDK) apart from waiting for other vendors to catch up and being more creative in placing the content, rather than style as the focal point.

Having said that, I can see the standards movement being fuelled by renewed interest in the AR/VR area, catalysing the technology to appeal to both the general user AND enterprise. Lack of recognised standards is sometimes the price we pay for working in innovative and  niche spaces with proprietary software, ultimately leading to fragmentation and limited adoption. Aligning AR with a framework may initially have to work to base level functionality and compromise on unreal expectations (HoloLens), evidenced in the 2014 interoperability demo with Metaio, Layar and Wikitude (http://www.wikitude.com/ogc-wikitude-layar-metaio-invite-mobile-world-congress-attendees-ar-interoperability-demo/) but this can only be positive in ensuring the longevity of the technology.

In May, Mark Zuckerberg heralded that VR/AR will facilitate the next technological paradigm shift in how we consume/ deliver information, he is rarely wrong especially given Facebook’s investment in Oculus Rift and Googles development of Project Tango and Magicleap.

So, in conclusion, while it is personally disappointing that Metaio have been subsumed by Apple, as an AR advocate for many years it appears, that finally, it is emerging from the primordial soup, escaping the shackles of the trough of disillusionment, to evolve into a technology that can finally realise its potential and go beyond the trivial to revolutionise the user experience.

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AR for Science Education Webinar References – 11th May 2015

For all attending the AR-Sci – AR for Science Education webinar, references and media can be found below.

About the Delphi method:

Hsu, C., & Sandford, B.A. (2007). The Delphi technique: Making sense of consensus. Practical Assessment, Research & Evaluation 12(10), 1-7McDermott J.H. et al. (1995). A Delphi survey to identify the components of a community pharmacy clerkship. American journal of Pharmaceutical Education, 59(4), 334-341

Osborne, J., Ratcliffe, M., Collins, S., Millar, R. & Duschl, R. (2001). What should we teach about science? A Delphi study. Report from the EPSE research Network.


* Osborne, J., Collins, S., Ratcliffe, M., Millar, R. & Duschl, R. (2003). What “ideas-about-science” should be taught in school science? A Delphi-study of the expert community. Journal of research in Science Education, 40(7), 692-720

Two reviews about learning technology/AR in science:

Krajcik, J.S. & Mun, K. (2014). Promises and challenges of using learning technology to promote student learning of science. N. Lederman & S. Abell (eds.)Handbook of Research in Science Education, Vol II, p. 337-360

Wu, H., Lee, S.W., Chang, H. & Liang, J. (2013). Current status, opportunities and challenges of augmented reality in education. Computers & Education, 62, 41-49


Matt Ramirez - Jisc

Matt Ramirez – Jisc


Augmented Reality technology


“Hud on the cat” by Rama  Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons –






Håkon Swensen - HiOA

Håkon Swensen – HiOA










Benefits of Augmented Reality in Science Education


BBC Frozen Planet Augmented Reality

Augmented Reality Sandbox

Anatomy 4D

Elements 4D


Cheng, K. H., & Tsai, C. C. (2013). Affordances of augmented reality in science learning: suggestions for future research. Journal of Science Education and Technology22(4), 449-462.

FitzGerald, E., Ferguson, R., Adams, A., Gaved, M., Mor, Y., & Thomas, R. (2013). Augmented reality and mobile learning: the state of the art. International Journal of Mobile and Blended Learning5(4), 43-58.

Radu, I. (2014). Augmented reality in education: a meta-review and cross-media analysis. Personal and Ubiquitous Computing18(6), 1533-1543.

Wu, H. K., Lee, S. W. Y., Chang, H. Y., & Liang, J. C. (2013). Current status, opportunities and challenges of augmented reality in education. Computers & Education62, 41-49.

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AR Digest

Leeds College of Music AR screenshot

Leeds College of Music AR screenshot

A lot has happened in the past six months in the world of AR at Jisc and I thought it would be useful to include some links to news stories and videos that may be interesting.

Recently, I was lucky enough to film for Computerphile (YouTube channel specialising in computing and other highly technical subjects) about AR in education and the recent Leeds College of Music project I have been working on. The first of these videos is below and gives a broad definition of AR, demonstrating content developed specifically for education and future directions with other technology such as wearables.

If you want to learn more about the Leeds College of Music project there will shortly be another video released on the Computerphile channel in the next few weeks. Until then, there is a great live web stream recording describing the workflow, pedagogy and demonstrating the content available at http://lcmpanopto1.lcm.ac.uk/Panopto/Pages/Viewer.aspx?id=7e4a28ea-59f3-465c-87a5-7bb7d2725672 

For those people thinking of developing AR content there a few things you might want to consider discussed in detail in the following Times Higher Education article.

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Reflection on Digifest2015

Digifest2015, where we connect, explore, and learn.

After two months of joining Jisc as an Augmented Reality intern, I was fortunate to attend the Jisc Digital Festival conference (Digifest2015) in Birmingham and take part in one of the sessions presenting about Future Applications of AR and the Evolution of Wearable Technology. I was really looking forward to our session in addition to attending some of the interesting presentations concerning mobile learning and practices, open access, 3D technologies, e-assessment and adaptive learning.

Needless to say that the event was a great opportunity for me to communicate with people from Jisc who are located in different offices as well as visitors and exhibitors. The Jisc event app had a great impact on this experience, being able to share my excitement and preparation with everybody before and throughout the event was a source of motivation.

What’s more, we had a lot of interested people in our session as people kept popping in and attending it until the very end. This was very encouraging and rewarding for me.

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During the two-day event, some buzzwords were evident – open access, mobile learning, wearables, 3D, digitisation, student engagement, enhancement, augmented reality etc. There was a good number of sessions that showcased best practice for technology in education/ research, with focus on pedagogy and enhancement in education. This wasn’t a surprise as Jisc tries to always ensure that the pedagogy is the driving force, not the technology.

Although sharing best practices can be extremely useful to provide audiences with shared frameworks, what I found more useful was bringing focus to the problems and challenges they encountered in their projects and discussing them with the audiences. For me this type of session, such as the one I attended about “Electronic Management of Assessment”, was very inspiring as it stimulated dialogue between presenters and the audiences who came from different backgrounds, rather than just disseminating their outputs. This discussion resulted in exploring more realistic and applicable solutions for any initiative of integrating technologies in education.

Throughout the event two words stuck with me as they were very often mentioned in most of the sessions; while “Enhancement” and “transformation” are used by a lot of us there is a lot of variations in how we relate to them and what they mean. While it was very exciting to see all the new innovations and technologies around us in the event, I was trying to explore what these technologies can bring to education and to the learning. I think the last keynote talk was brilliant to close digifest2015 as it answered some of these questions in my mind!


Digital vs Human

Richard Watson was able to bring us back to the role that technology should have in our life, “enhancement” for him means supporting and not replacing our human attributes.

“Digital technologies need to enhance human communication, not replace them”.

Richard Watson

Mentioning so many examples about how digital technologies is impacting our day-to-day life and interaction with each other feels like technology is a negative thing. For me it is not. However, I realize that it is essential to be aware of how technology is changing our lives, as we are all involved in some capacity in enhancing learning experiences for learners. When students are also aware of how technology is influencing how they think and interact, we will be able minimise its downfalls and maximise its potentialities.

“Enhancement” in that sense can be achieved when technologies are being used to engage learners as active partners in the process of their continuous improvement and development.

 Students like to see the benefit of technology, i.e. not being used for the sake of it.

This is exactly our goal when planning any of our augmented reality development for FE and HE; involving students as early as possible in the planning process has been key to the success of our projects. The more effort we place in getting the students’ voice heard early in the project, the more robust the learning experience, leading to a resource students will deem credible and ultimately use.

This closing talk in the Digifest2015 makes me feel really proud to be part of Jisc, an organisation that aims to establish the UK as the most digitally advanced nation in the world, as well as unleashing the extraordinary potential of our minds.

Posted in Augmented Reality, Digifest2015, Enhancement, Higher Education, Jisc, Suhad Aljundi, Wearbale | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Introducing a new staff member

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Suhad Aljundi, Augmented Reality Intern

I am  Suhad Aljundi


My passion for new innovations and ideas, and their applications to enhance education drove me to pursue Higher Education at the University of Manchester studying Digital Technologies, Communication, and Education (MA DTCE) graduating with merit.

Throughout my learning, I studied various theoretical methodologies and research in addition to creating educational websites and multimedia resources for practical projects. I have built up a substantial knowledge about how to use, implement, test and evaluate technology in an educational setting, making sure it is firmly aligned to pedagogical principles.

Working on a project with the director of the DTCE programme to implement an e-portfolio system within one of the programme’s core units was a great opportunity for me to apply the knowledge, theories and recommendations that I researched and developed throughout my dissertation study into a real practical project.



Visitors in museums using ArtLens App on iPad to navigate throughout the museum, both physically and virtually from off site, providing far-reaching access to media-rich stories for CMA’s treasured works of art.

Since then, my enthusiasm for exploring innovative ideas and technologies in education has grown, especially employing my knowledge and expertise to develop resources focused on supporting students. The Augmented Reality and Online Resources Development internship at Jisc presented me with the perfect opportunity to put this into practice. I believe that Augmented Reality has enormous potential to impact on current teaching and learning practices, if it is implemented well. During this internship, I will be working collaboratively with my line manager on developing Augmented Reality resources and online learning materials that focus on enhancing the learner experience in FE, HE and the Skills sector. This will include working on various projects including AR-Sci, an ERASMUS+ funded European project aimed at engaging students studying STEM based subjects with AR content.

In addition, I will be involved in disseminating good practice in AR to user communities at conferences, workshops and webinars; contributing to horizon scanning for ways of exploiting future technology opportunities in education such as wearables. Therefore, I intend to make the most of every opportunity afforded to me in turning my creativity and knowledge into practice.

In recent years there has been enormous growth in the use of technology in education, impacting on how students communicate, access resources and curate information. Understanding the changing needs of learners will be a critical aspect to help investigate new ways to better engage students and provide them with a more personalised learning experience.

With this in mind, I intend to respond to these trends through developing innovative learning resources and activities using AR.

Ultimately, being able to drive innovation and support the Jisc user communities is my goal, promoting the effective use of innovative technologies such as AR.

I am looking forward to the challenge of learning new skills and contributing to the success of AR within Jisc; it is exciting to have the opportunity to show how innovation can help engage and inspire students across the UK, making their learner experience more valuable.

Posted in AR-Sci, Augmented Reality, e-portfolio, Erasmus+, learner experience, STEM, Suhad Aljundi | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

AR in the City – Its finished!


We are delighted to announce that the learning resource developed in the AR in the City project is now available for use. The content (best viewed on iPads), developed in collaboration with the HEA, BSA, BSC and Jisc encourages the user to explore three fictitious parts of London; guided by a classroom activity to uncover correlations and stimulate discussion using socio-economic data (Census and Police). It also provides interesting facts about the different data sets – Housing, Crime and Family. While it is primarily aimed at sociology students, it could also be used more widely for both A-Level students and first year undergraduates.

Initial feedback was positive with one respondent indicating that is was a“…Really good overview and intro to stats;” and  “could work really well on focused topic.”

Explore or utilise this resource by downloading Junaio from the iPad App store and scanning the QR code in the postcard below (this can be printed out for ease of use). When the channel has loaded, hold the iPad over the map of London to display models from three fictitious areas – Forestminster, Pinkham and Cobalt Wharf. Clicking on each building reveals illustrated data snapshots relating to Housing, Crime and Family.

AR in the city postcard V2.0

A set of worked learning activities can be downloaded below to use with students  in the classroom environment in conjunction with traditional group tasks.

Learning Materials

Exercise Proforma_crime

Exercise Proforma_WorkedExample

An instructional video on how to use the resource can be viewed below:

It is hoped that the resource can act to inspire similar examples in other disciplines, repurposing the idea and demonstrating multiple applications. Already, Dr Susanne Boyle in collaboration with Glasgow Caledonian university has developed an IPE (Interprofessional Education) resource around Cochlear Implants that was recently presented at Thomas Jefferson University IPE Conference


Posted in ARinthecity, Content Development, Dissemination | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Leeds College of Music AR Project

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Over the past couple of months Jisc Mimas have been involved in leading the technical development of a new Augmented Reality resource around the music production studios in Leeds College of Music working with Craig Golding and Ruth Clark. It hopes to support students  working/studying in the music studios by displaying 3D visual overlays, technical documentation and other media assets, linking them to the physical production equipment in front of them. Using iPads, students stand in front of the production desk and the Augmented Reality software tracks the 3d object before snapping different coloured content accurately over it providing the user with a way to interact with different parts, surfacing contextual material. More information about the content and student feedback will appear here in the following few weeks.

Posted in Matthew Ramirez, MimasAR, mobile research, Student Experience, User Testing | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments