This project is funded by JISC under the Learning & Teaching Innovation Grant Programme.


Pilot AR System in Testing

We are now testing a pilot AR system, working on the Layar platform.  The following screenshots show an early user-interface for the AR applications itself.

In its current inception, buttons offer links to more information on specific species as well as campus specific data (both collated by project students from the College of Life and Environmental Sciences) as well as links to further information from sources such as Wikipedia.

This video link also demonstates how the link functions to an individual user.

Screenshot from demonstration video

More points of interest and data – especially in multimedia format – are being added over the coming days.  We anticipate a total of around 30 POIs before initial pre-pilot testing with project students over the coming days.

Keep an eye on the blog for more updates!

Application Resources

The project has begun to create a pilot system using the Layar augmented reality browser.  This system will feature a test set of approximately 30 points of interest (POIs), which have been collated by two students in the College of Life and Environmental Sciences who are assisting the project as part of their final-year dissertation assignments.  To create this pilot, we are using two application resources:

The freeware software GPS Utility offers the potential to batch convert standard Ordnance Survey grid references into latitude/longitude data, which then works with a variety of online mapping applications, including Google maps.  Although the user interface requires some patience for inexperienced users, it is a powerful and accurate tool.

Secondly, and as previously mentioned on this blog, the Hoppala Augmentation GUI enables straightforward creation of POIs to work with Layar.  This effectively offers a ‘point and click’ system to select the location of POIs, with a pop up box allowing for all extra information to be entered.  Hoppala supports all functions of Layar including setting proximity triggers and embedding 3D objects.

Further progress on the pilot system will be posted here as it becomes available.  Watch this space!

AR for all

This week we have been looking at how a diverse user-base can get into Augmented Reality using Layar and associated tools. We are impressed by the user-friendliness of  ‘Hoppala Augmentation’ (

Hoppala Augmentation provides an easy way for non-technical creatives to start experimenting with augmented reality and Layar.  Our trials with the system have shown how AR is definitely moving into the mainstream and informs the development of our AR Toolkit which will enable other users to experiment with AR in their own Educational context.

The more sophisticated applications of AR will require the creation and maintenance of databases which will provide interactive content – at a simpler level applications like Hoppala enables users to upload content, including multimedia files which can then create augments based on a map without any involvement with coding.

The ‘actions’ associated with Hoppala allow for the playback of audio and video content at the Point of Interest (POI) and also enables links to websites which may host more complex content. These simple actions also allow the possibility of creating themed ‘trails’ using Layar AR e.g. based on particular sounds or time-shifted content being re-played at the POI. Our theme based on Biodiversity provides an ideal vehicle for experimenting with these simple tools and inspires us to develop ever-more sophisticated and meaningful interactions with data held on our rich resources on campus.

Ice Around…

In conceptualising the Augmented Reality application, one recurrent theme was to feature data surround the habitats that might not be immediately viable to students/visitors during their visit.  Along with time-lapse and night-vision multimedia content, it was suggested that photos of the campus under different seasons and weather conditions could be included and geo-referenced.  The recent spell of cold weather has offered some wonderful opportunities to capture images of the campus in a different light.

Image Credit: Nicky King

Image Credit: Nicky King

Image Credit: Nicky King

Image Credit: Nicky King

Image Credit: Dale Potter

Image Credit: Dale Potter

Image Credit: Dale Potter

Image Credit: Dale Potter

Student Project Updates

We have been in regular contact with the two final-year Biosciences students who have been working on data collection over the past few weeks – see previous post.  Resources produced so far include a collection of vibrant photographs and species/ habitat information focusing around just one area of the campus.   Several points of interest have been identified and geo-referenced in preparation for a pilot AR implementation (more information to follow next week!).  Additionally, students have been working on producing a video time-lapse sequence, showing habitat changes over time.   The students have compiled a collage detailing  species/habitats identified and a sample of information collected so far.


Furthermore, we are beginning to develop the ‘layered’ approach to data interpretation with students’ having produced text copy for the interface.  A sample paper layout of how information could he accessed was featured within the collage as a series of paper flaps.


CETIS 2010

CETIS 2010 (The Centre for Educational Technology and Interoperability Standards) provided the project with its first dissemination opportunity. In the spirit of sustainability (not to mention an extraordinarily long and difficult train journey from deepest Somerset) a presentation was sent to conference using the University’s Echo360 Lecture Capture System. The presentation contributed to an afternoon programme focused on ‘Next Generation Content’ – presenter Steve Rose being much more a ‘Trekky’ rather than a ‘techy’ took a literal approach and you can see his er ‘enterprise’ by following the link here..


Review of Available Augmented Reality Packages

We have completed our report ‘A Review of available Augmented Reality packages and evaluation of their potential use in an educational context‘.  This forms work package 2 as part of the formal project bid.

This 31-page report looks at a variety of issues including:

  • Current use of AR in an educational context
  • Marker-based and markerless technologies
  • Current smartphone ownership patterns & emerging tablet patterns
  • Available AR mobile platforms
  • Technical considerations & limitations of current platforms

The report is available to download under the Creative Commons Attribution-No Commercial-ShareAlike 2.0 licence.

Download report – pdf format, 907kb.

Ich bin ein Berliner!

In 1963, John F. Kennedy inadvertently pronounced himself a jam doughnut whilst proclaiming his solidarity with the people of Berlin in the face of a newly-constructed barrier which physically divided the city.

With Glasnost and Perestroika leading to the reunification of city and country, the Berlin Wall became just a memory –  albeit with several preserved sections and a tourist cobblestone trail detailing the route of the structure across the city.  All very well, but it is sometimes difficult to understand the significance of reinforced concrete, when walking what is now a European capital like many others.   Enter stage left: AR!!

Indeed, one of the most interesting smartphone AR applications that we’ve seen so far is the use of 3D graphics within the Layar platform to recreate the wall and watchtowers of this imposing structure all along its former path through the city.  Whilst the visualisations omit the characteristic graffiti might be missing (albeit only on the West Berlin-facing front), this application further demonstrates the potential for AR in an informal learning context.

Screenshot of Berliner Mauer in Layar

Screenshot of Berliner Mauer in Layar

More information on this application is available on the Layar blog.

Is this a good use of the technology?  Can you think of other landmarks – on your campus or otherwise – which could benefit from a little AR?  Why not leave a comment below…

Student Projects

We are working with two final-year students from the department of BioSciences, who have elected to undertake a dissertation style project around the theme of collecting, communicating and interpreting biological data.  They will be providing data to the AR project as well as advancing development through their ideas on content and educational interface design.

Initial meetings have been very positive, exploring a range of ideas on content.  A strong theme is to use the technology to provide views of what may not be visable when users visit the campus at any one moment in time.  For example, the inclusion of:

  • Time-lapse and night vision photography
  • Photos showing habitat changes with the seasons.
  • Multimedia content: sounds from particular species, normally inaudible to human hearing – for example bat calls.
  • Information on species habitats, populations (possibly longitudinal), Worldwide threats as well as relevant legislation protecting.
  • A ‘layered’ approach to data/information provision, forming the basis of information interpreting.  This will aid different audiences to extract appropriate information

The students will be supervised on the project by Nicky King (Senior Tutor in Biosciences) for the purposes of academic recognition within their undergraduate programmes.  The project team are hugely excited to have found such enthusiastic participants and we are looking forward to working with them over the next few months.

BioBlitz – Expanding the Biodiversity Dataset

On Saturday 9th October, broadcaster, naturalist and ex-student Nick Baker led a group of over 150 volunteering students, academics, members of the public and Devon Wildlife Trust experts for the first ever ‘BioBlitz’ at the University of Exeter.  The event consisted of a quick census of species, with data collected forming part of the AR biodiversity dataset.

The BioBlitz saw a total of over 280 species found in just 2-hours, and was also the formal launch of the University’s ‘Birds & Bees’ Biodiversity Enhancement Plan, which aims to make the university campus more wildlife friendly, enhance biological diversity, create wildlife corridors to enable animals to permeate through the city and make staff and students aware of the richness and variety of the natural environment.

Following the success of the event, it is hoped that the BioBlitz will be expanded with future activity being delivered in partnership with Devon Wildlife Trust and Exeter Wild City.

BioBlitz Photos

BioBlitz Photos