The news from google is that they are creating augmented reality goggles. While the development is secret, they are likely to use the same Android software that powers Android smartphones and tablets. Equipped with GPS, motion sensors, a camera and audio inputs and outputs they will be quite the fashion statement. But I would be surprised if they are the only ones with an augmented reality device in the works. AR is the next big frontier in technology. This is the connected age and the internet is coming out of the box and into our accessories.
Now to be fair, taking the internet out of the box of the computer is not a new idea and many others have been working on prototypes of wearable technology for a few decades or more.
So what is augmented reality? If you are looking at what we affectionately call the "real" world, AND you are also seeing an overlay of information that is not technically there, but is for you, that is augmented reality. Every point on earth has an "address," it can be specified by it's longitude, latitude, and altitude. Information that is "dropped" at a specific addresse can be made visible by anyone with a device that enables them to access the information. Some examples of what this might look like will help.
You are a doctor and you are doing a knee replacement. You have a MRI scan of the leg. But you are not not looking at it on a film or even on a computer. You are looking at the leg but you have a small projector in your glasses that places the MRI image over the leg of your patient. Before you make the cut, you can virtually see inside the body like superman.
You are a member of a firefighting team and when you look at the fire line, you can see the wind direction and speed as swirling colored arrows spinning around giving you valuable information of the future path of the fire. An transparent email floats in the air with a map and directions from the team caption.
You are going home to grandmothers for thanksgiving and you are driving. Your specially equipped sunglasses are projecting a path on road in front of your car. You The virtually signs posted on the side of the road tell you how far and long your travel will be with images of you grandmother cooking the turkey.
You see young students outside on the playground running around like crazy kids, but they are not seeing a playground. They are running in and out of the way of huge prehistoric dinasours searching for the ten things that don't belong in this time period.
While glasses will make use of our nature way of seeing, we can also see augmentations through the lense of a cell phone. But you don't just want to read about augmented reality.. you want to see it and Pattie Maes talks about it as a "6th sense" in this TED talk.
Augmented reality can bring experiential location-based learning to students by taking advantage of existing places while projecting complex learning enviornments. But students will need to have strong problem solving skills, critical thinking skills, and good navigational skills. They will need brains that have designed for higher order skills. Too bad teachers are currently helping students to shape brains that help students rememeber factual information, select among four choices, and drawing perfectly round circles. If only our real, or augmented worlds, needed these skills, we have the next generation of experts ready to excell. If this is the not the case, we should retool and work on firing and wiring brains for kids that will serve their needs in the connected age.