Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Virtual and Augmented Reality Devices with Educational Potential

Graphic of many people wearing virtual reality headsets.
Image from Thinkstock.
There were a number of new products with educational potential shown at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show (CES) 2016 held in early January. Popular among them were virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) devices nearing consumer and business-level versions intended for mass adoption. VR typically simulates an entire environment whereas AR supplements a real-world view with computer generated elements. Augmented reality can work particularly well for topics in which it is not possible to expose learners to real-world environments that they will be expected to operate within.

You may already be familiar with the emerging virtual reality headsets from Oculus Rift, Playstation VR, and HTC Vive VR. And you may know of augmented reality devices such as Google Glass and Microsoft’s upcoming Hololens project. An intriguing device that has been in the works, initially intended for industrial workers, called the DAQRI Smart Helmet, straps to one’s head and uses an interface that combines augmented and mixed reality. Data can be overlaid onto a visual heads-up display which presents the user with a real-time modified view of reality. Thermal vision can provide real-world temperature data onscreen. Work instructions can appear directly overtop an item that needs to be manipulated.

Potential educational applications of this kind of augmented reality technology could be realized in fields such as:

  • Medical - Overlay 3D models to aid during surgery
  • Arts - Visually alter paintings and sculptures
  • History - Map locations of famous landmarks and events while on a walking tour
  • Industrial Arts - Overlay design templates onto material to be fabricated
  • Marketing - Scan advertisements that reveal additional information
  • Outdoor Sciences - Overlay information pertaining to parts of trees, flowers, and plants
  • Almost Anything - A set of instructions can be presented through the visor to assist the wearer with almost any task imaginable

These are just a few of the many educational possibilities on the horizon for AR technologies. In the coming years, it will be exciting to see what rises to the forefront and what sort of gear we will all be strapping onto our heads.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

eBooks and Audiobooks Through WVU Libraries

In addition to the many great resources that WVU Libraries offers to students, faculty, and staff at West Virginia University, they also offer access to the online ebook and audiobook service, Overdrive. Overdrive is used by libraries across the country to allow patrons to “check out” digital books. If all of the WVU licenses for a particular book are already checked out, you can digitally “reserve” the book, and get an e-mail as soon as it becomes available.
Screenshot of the WVU Libraries Overdrive page

Apps, Apps, Apps!

The Overdrive service offers apps for most types of tablets, computers, and other devices! These allow you to read your ebook wherever you are. Available apps include Android, Windows 8, Windows Phone, iOS, OSX, Chrome OS, Nook, and Amazon Kindle Fire!

On the right is a view of the Overdrive app on an Android phone.

How Do I Do This?

Just follow these steps:
  • You can read ebooks and listen to audiobooks directly inside your web browser, just by visiting the WVU Libraries Overdrive Link: 
  •  Alternatively, to use an app on your device of choice, first download the app at 
  •  After you have the app installed, choose the “Sign Up” option. 
  •  When you create your account, choose the “option to use e-mail, and create an Overdrive account using your WVU e-mail address. 
  •  After your account has been created, you should get an e-mail message asking you to click a link to verify the account. 
  •  Inside the app, once you are logged into your new account, look for the “Manage Libraries” setting. 
  •  You want to add a new library. When searching, be sure to type in “West Virginia University”. WVU did not work for me.
Screenshot of the app menu.
That’s it! You are now connected to ebooks and audiobooks, courtesy of WVU Libraries! Note that you will spend most of your time in the app switching between the "West Virginia University" library view, where you search for books, and the"Bookshelf" view, where you read your currently checked out and downloaded books.

Also, note that while you use the Overdrive account you created to log into the app, you will still need to enter your WVU ID username and password while you are browsing for books in the "West Virginia University" library section of the app.