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Tech Tuesday: Integrating augmented reality into university life

<p>Rutgers is currently working to implement virtual reality technology into its curriculums, online courses and museum exhibits. The technology is being engineered specifically for the University.</p>

Rutgers is currently working to implement virtual reality technology into its curriculums, online courses and museum exhibits. The technology is being engineered specifically for the University.

For years, people have been studying augmented and virtual reality. Now, Rutgers’ faculty is working towards integrating augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) into a learning environment so that the technology can help individuals study other subjects.

The Rutgers Cyberlearning Innovation and Research Center (CIRC) aims to assimilate contemporary technology into the learning environment at the university. The center has been active for a little over a year now. 

James Chun, the associate director of the center, gave an overview of some of their current projects.

Their projects include gamification tools, a glass board project for better teaching videos, improving the system of online classes and recitations and the integration of AR and VR into university life, Chun said.

Augmented reality is an experience in which synthetic objects are integrated into the surroundings. This requires some sort of lens to view the synthetic item.

Chun, along with others from the center, is working on an augmented reality app specific to Rutgers.

“The concept is that, when you write an augmented reality app, there are two things you need,” he said. “You need a trigger, which could be a picture or even a 3D object. Then you need to put a camera over it. It does a recognition sequence and then it has an action.”

The actions or response to the trigger could be a variety of things including static or mobile 3D objects or even videos.

In the Life Sciences Building on Busch campus, Chun has programmed a sketch of a DNA molecule on the ground floor to act as a trigger. When hovering the app over the image, a giant rotating three-dimensional DNA molecule appeared on the screen of his phone.

“You could make photocopies of the image and it would still appear,” Chun said.

For the most part, if the trigger image were a different size or color, the app would still elicit the same response. The size of the trigger corresponds to the size of the 3D item displayed, Chun said.

Currently, Chun and his team are searching for different areas and ideas in which to use the technology.

“We’re going in a few different directions for this app. We’re trying to figure out how to incorporate it into a lot of cool things. We’re starting to look for partners everywhere,” he said.

One such direction includes applying triggers into textbooks to make them more interactive.

Sometimes people have a hard time understanding what they’re reading in a textbook or are not able to properly understand a 2D image, Chun said. With the app, people would be able to pull up the corresponding video or 3D image to the material on the spot without having to do any extra google search, he said.

Chun is also currently working with the Zimmerli Art Museum to develop an app for museum visitors.

Right now they are working with Honoré Daumier’s collection of terra cotta statues, Celebrities of the Juste Milieu. This exhibit is the only complete set in the United States, according to Zimmerli

“We are going to make 3D scans of [the busts], and the museum will have cards designated to the statues,” Chun said, “You can look at the cards and read the history behind it, and the app will pop up this entire statue in 3D. That way you can take a look around it.”

The CIRC team also has plans to create something interactive for Rutgers’ Day on April 1.

They plan on organizing a puzzle where different booths have different triggers that display certain synthetic clues. The triggers would be on cards where one side of the card is the trigger, and the other has a bit of information about that specific department.

“That’s it, it’s just like a little advertising card. We’re trying to drive traffic through certain places,” he said.

The technology could also be used to help Rutgers Academic Affairs, which gives tours to incoming students. Every building could be turned into a trigger, Chun said.

Virtual reality is another technology the CIRC team is looking into.

“We have 3D cameras and we’re trying to build a scalable VR project. We’re trying to build something that every student could use,” he said. “With google cardboard becoming much more prevalent, anybody with a cellphone can get a headset and have a VR experience.”

One idea for Rutgers Day involves setting up a 3D camera in the center of the field during the setup of stages for the event and making a time lapse, Chun said.

On the day of the event, during the activities, people can put on the headset and see an empty field and see it progress up until the point where they are at on Rutgers Day, he said.

“We’re still trying to come up with ideas of what we can do. Coming up with ways to build immersive environments for people to learn or teach in. How? I’m not exactly sure yet,” he said.

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