Augmented Reality

Augmented Reality in Action

According to Davis, “Augmented reality, at its most basic form, is defined by the incorporation of something virtual into something pre-existing, thus amplifying the experience.” Augmented reality offers us an opportunity to enhance natural experiences or static images with virtual experiences and additional information. In other words, the Auras below allow us to link digital content to something physical, which enables the information to be displayed and the story to be told in ways that were previously not possible (Mills, 2012). 

Disclaimer: make sure you follow vmw1925 on Aurasma so that you can view the following Auras! I also recommend you click on the image to enlarge it before viewing it with the Aurasma app.

Map of US national parks, indicated with tree icon

This first image is a map of the location of US National Parks. When you view the image with Aurasma, you’ll see two arrows appear: one for the past, and one for the future. Clicking on the arrows will take you to a YouTube video about the history of the parks, and a Ted Talk video about future potential for the parks.


Vintage poster advertising Grand Canyon National Park; depicts a sweeping canyon and sky.
A short video opens, showing a time-lapse of light coming up over the canyon.


Vintage poster advertising Yellowstone National Park; shows the geyser Old Faithful spewing up into the sky.
Links to “10 Things You May Not Know” about the park, and links to the park’s frequently asked questions.


Vintage poster advertising Great Smoky Mountain National Park.
Links to top attractions in the park, and opens a PDF with hiking trails.


Vintage poster of the American Southwest desert scape, advertising Arches National Park.
Opens a video of the park taken by a visitor to the park, using a drone.


Vintage poster advertising Glacier National Park, shows a mountain reflected in a lake.
Discusses the history of the park; opens images of the building of the Going to the Sun Road and a video with a Park Ranger explaining the road’s construction. Double tap the second icon to view the Park Ranger video.


Vintage poster advertising Mt. McKinley National Park, shows a Dall's sheep in front of a mountain.
Opens two news stories about the park.


As evidenced by the auras above, AR can be used to integrate all kind of digital information into the physical world. User generated content, news stories or current events, hiking guides or visitor information, historical facts, and fun trivia can all be a part of an image with the use of AR technology. I will leave you with this one last aura to end your virtual experience of the story of US National Parks (click on the new image once it appears):

Image that says "Find Your Park."

Deconstructing the Process

Augmented reality is frequently applied to travel experiences (Graham, 2010), and so that is why I decided to explore that concept further in my AR post, just to see what kinds of materials could be integrated. My husband and I have traveled to quite a few US National Parks, and I appreciated their story in the broader story of US history. I noticed that over the past few years, the iconic “vintage” posters of each national park have been more popular, and I think it’s partly because they capture a particular feeling about the park and/or convey the park’s particular story. Since education (along with preservation) was one of the original intentions of the park system, I thought it would be fun to use these vintage posters as the trigger images for my auras. I tried to attach different kinds of information to each trigger image, so that I could practice adding various overlays and actions.

While I think that AR has exciting potential, I struggled with the technology in its current form. As the ASTE Presentation (2012) describes:

The biggest drawbacks to AR, right now, are access to technology and complexity. While there are a handful of platforms that lower barriers for participation, many exciting new applications of AR may be out of reach for many educators due to the level of technical skill required to build on many platforms.

I tend to agree with this quote. I believe that good instructional design seeks to limit extraneous load, but the extraneous load for AR is quite high  for both the creator of the content and the user. I know that I spent much more time learning the technology and trying to overcome glitches than I did developing the educational content, which is not ideal– the educational content, not the technology, should be the star of the show. Similarly, I think AR can also limit what kinds of materials we use. Trigger images have to have specific characteristics, so if the best image educationally doesn’t work technologically, you will have to use Plan B (which again, is not pedagogically ideal). I would also have some accessibility concerns, since it isn’t easily apparent to me how my above auras could be transformed into something equally accessible to all students.

Because of these experiences, I think there is a danger in AR becoming the use of technology for technology’s sake. As with all kinds of design, we must be intentional in our use of technology and in our technological choices to make sure that the technology serves to support and enhance the content and does not make it more difficult to access the content or distract from the objectives of learning.


ASTE 2012 Presentation (2012). Seeing more: Augmented reality. Retrieved from

Davis, M. (n.d.). Augmented reality. Retrieved Aug 20, 2012, from

Graham, S. (2010, Nov 12). 7Scenes: Augmented reality authoring for digital storytelling. Electric Archaeology. Retrieved from

Mills, M. (2012, July 19). Image recognition that triggers augmented reality. Ted Talk. Retrieved from


8 thoughts on “Augmented Reality

  1. Skip Via says:

    I think you’re entirely correct about the scope of AR as it is currently implemented in most cases–it’s potentially powerful and utilitarian, and it’s also not quite at the point that its creation and consumption places it in the mainstream of ways to interact with real world content. Most AR implementations are vertical–that is, they tend to be closed systems requiring a specific app AND the knowledge that there is something out there to be acquired. The fact that you had to instruct viewers to subscribe to your channel and use a specific app is evidence of this. It would be nice if standards evolved to the point that devices had AR built in to their OSs (no need for an app) and that content was created created and delivered in compatible ways. Pokemon Go solved one of these problems–it was clear that there was something out there–but an app was still required.

    However, as your project so aptly demonstrates, there is such tremendous potential for delivering content. Once a trigger image is created and published, the content delivered over the internet can be fluid and changeable. (A nice example–a fifth grade class I worked with in North Pole created a trigger image of their classroom door sign and every few days or so attached a new “problem of the day” to the trigger. To discover the new problem, you simply needed to run Aurasma and point at the door sign.) Your park posters are a good example as well. If it were clear to the viewer that there was additional information available, that information could be updated and kept current without changing the trigger image. The idea of a living poster is an appealing one to me. (QR codes at least have the advantage of displaying a visual cue to the viewer alerting them that there is additional information available, and the standards for QR are well established.)

    It’s also the case, I think, that having more time to work with this technology would yield more possibilities as we learned more about it and were able to share more ideas and insights. As it is, your images and auras work very well, especially given the cantankerous nature of the Aurasma app itself.

  2. Carolyn Stice says:

    Hi Valerie,

    I really love these posters! Great choice for a theme.

    When I first looked at your auras, I started with the Mt.McKinley poster. I was confused when it opened because it took me a while to realize that I was supposed to click on the links on my phone. I think this is a problem with my own learning curve and not with your particular adaptation of the tool.

    I appreciate how you have several variations on the types of interactive material. When I was working on mine, I mostly focused on videos because I thought they would be more eye catching. However, I like how you also use more subtle materials.

    I have learned about some other AR programs recently, and I wonder if you might have better luck with a different program. It might be worth exploring.

  3. Krista says:


    I really enjoyed your post about National Parks; I even learned a few things from your trigger images and their links. I thought it was a really neat idea to have the ‘find your park’ quiz at the end of your post. It makes it more interactive with the viewer, and I found myself taking the quiz easily. This aloud me to bring in my own connection and I really liked it. After reading your ‘deconstructing the process’ part I couldn’t help but agree with you. I even wrote about the same thing in my post on how it may be out of reach for educators because of the lack of technology. While it can be for good use, I am also concerned and hope that technology with enhance our learning.

  4. Bob says:


    As always your product is first-rate, both the writing and the AR sequence.

    I wish you had built a tutorial describing the magic you used to create the multiple links in the images. I am suspicious that is the masking tool, and while I am nerding out on that element it did pose a challenge for me here in Dillingham, and that has to do with our bandwidth and speed. I initially selected one of your links and a new browser window opened, and then I thought stuff was broken because it took so long to load that I lost interest and wandered off. Obviously, nowhere else will that be a problem.

    In any case, I wish you had described your process of creation in your deconstruction.

    I resonate as well with your criticism of the current state of AR technology. I suspect that it will get better but for now, it is constrained and constraining.

    • Skip Via says:

      Valerie and Bob — It’s possible to open your Aurasma channel to other users and let them poke around to see what you’re up to. It’s a good way to see how auras are constructed–particularly ones that have multiple layers and actions that trigger other actions. Perhaps you two might want to work out an agreement on that. I’d also be happy to do a Hangout on this topic for those who are interested.

    • Valerie says:

      I actually didn’t use the masking tool- to create the multiple links within the images, I just used multiple overlays. So for example- in the Denali image, I added one overlay, which was a simple newspaper icon/clip art. Then I added an action to that overlay- so when the icon was tapped, the website loaded. THEN I added a second overlay, which was the same simple newspaper icon, and then added another action to that overlay (which again, was when the icon was tapped, the website loaded). The hard part was making sure I had them in the right order (since it seems like Aurasma puts them in backwards..) The hardest Aura was definitely the Glacier aura- I had 6 overlays in that one. (Some overlays stopped previous actions, and some displayed other overlays, etc). I can add a brief description of the use of multiple overlays to my deconstruction section. Thanks for the feedback!

  5. Kevin Klott says:

    Hi Valerie,

    I really enjoyed the juxtaposition of vintage national parks posters with current national park news, videos and other helpful links. The video of the Grand Canyon sunrise timelapse instantly brought back good memories of my visit there long ago. Then it all disappeared to black! Aurasma is an interesting app that has plenty of potential, and I think giving the user more video storage to upload is critical. I thought about uploading a video as an aura myself, but every video I tried to upload was too big. I’m curious if you ran into the same problem? Overall, great topic and good use of augmented reality.

    • admin says:

      I didn’t run into the problem of videos being too big to upload- but honestly, the video I uploaded of the Grand Canyon was so short that that’s probably why I didn’t encounter a problem. I had a hard time finding relevant videos that were available to download, so that’s why all the other videos were just links (instead of actually uploaded videos, if that makes sense).

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