Augmented Reality (AR) - the Next Big Thing or a flash in the pan? A useful education tool or a fun little distraction? And, more to the point, just what is AR?

Put simply, it is a way of using smart devices to interact with things around you. For example, if I were to go to a gallery and look at a Great Work of Art, I could point my device's camera at the artwork and find out all kinds of interesting bits of information. At present, this would only work if someone had already created the interactive content and if I scanned the item with the right piece of software. For example, nothing would happen if I used the Aurasma app to scan a poster with Layar AR content (and vice versa).

For this Thing, I played around with Aurasma to see what it could do. Fun times! Scan this pixel illustration of my face1 with the Aurasma app to bring me to life2! Tap on my face to be taken to my website3!

A pixel illustration of my face.
Scan with Aurasma to bring me to life.

I didn't quite bring Robbie Burns to life, but I had fun, nevertheless.

So what are some practical uses for this technology in a school library? On a basic level, it would be a great way to get kids excited about, to interact with and to pay attention to displays and material in the library. You could create AR material from books, so the covers literally4 come alive, and link to online resources connected to the text. And, as stated in the Rudaí23 blog post, it is important to get these kids using and getting used to this technology that could be an integral part of their future. Libraries are ideal places to introduce these technologies.

I do have a couple of niggling little reservations about wholeheartedly augmenting the reality of my library. First, as with all new technologies, there are teething problems - I've only had intermittent success with Aurasma5. Second, and more importantly, there is the dreaded specter of the digital divide... Not everyone can afford the latest technology (my phone - about 4 years old - struggled to cope with some of the technologies) and many pupils at my school do not have smart phones. This raises a flag for me over the dangers of a two tier library service - creating useful content that not all my users will be able to access - leading to a situation where those kids without access to 'smart' technology get left further and further behind. I could witter on about the digital divide all day (a large chunk of my MA dissertation was about it), but I will save that for another post, perhaps.

And as to whether AR will be around in 1, 2, 5 or 20 years . . . I dunno.



  1. Pixelated version of me was created at 8 bit icon
  2. To create this piece of AR frippery, I filmed a video of my face on my phone, then converted that video to an animated gif using ezgif - the rest of the magic was done by Aurasma
  3. This only works within the Aurasma app - do NOT tap me on the face if you see me walking down the street.
  4. Not quite literally.
  5. Let me know if you have any problems seeing the AR in the image above - it was temperamental when I was testing it earlier.