Google Glass seems like something out of a Star Trek episode, but, amazingly, this example of augmented reality exists today. Merriam–Webster defines augmented reality as “an enhanced version of reality created by the use of technology to overlay digital information on an image of something being viewed through a device (such as a smartphone camera).” Although Google Glass may have seemed like the only technology of its kind, augmented reality (AR) technology exists in many forms. And it is even finding its way into classrooms across the country thanks to creative developers and smartphone technology.

AR technology is not as ubiquitous as virtual reality, but it is still gaining notoriety. NASA recently released a remarkable app known as Spacecraft 3D, which makes spacecrafts such as the Curiosity rover materialize in fully animated models. All you have to do is print an AR target on a normal piece of paper and aim the camera of your tablet or smartphone. The spacecraft will appear on the device through the app, and you can move the camera to examine every inch of it. With this app, kids can learn how NASA’s robots maneuver on Mars and other alien terrains.

Developers of the app Aurasma want to make homework and other school assignments more interactive and engaging. It’s very simple: use the app to upload a trigger image that, when scanned, will cause a separately uploaded “aura”—essentially an interactive marker that will display on Aurasma users’ screens—to appear on the smartphone screen. Writer Todd Nesloney says Aurasma could be used to display equipment safety tips in laboratories or make vocabulary definitions pop off the page. Kids could have a lot of fun with technology and learn plenty along the way.

Augmented reality is still in its early stages, but it should not be written off as a flashy fad just yet. The applications in classrooms alone are endless. Who knows where the technology could be a year from now?

Did You Know?

AR technology can even be used to make learning more accessible for people who are deaf or hard of hearing. German design group Morphoria is creating a concept magazine that uses AR to demonstrate sign language with a video playing to the left of the articles. It’s a fascinating new way to learn sign language!