Aurasma Channel: nvmischenko
Next fall, I will be teaching Tourism 1 & 2 at the high school level. It hasn’t been taught in a while and the recommended textbook is approximately 13 years old. There is some really excellent information in it, but the media just isn’t up to par if it’s going to catch the eye of my students. I’m sure you’ll agree that these photos are lacking pizazz.
These pictures are taken from a section of the textbook called “Attractions.” Unfortunately, they are presented without any context beyond their location, so they could be easily skipped over while reading. How could you possibly discuss travel without pictures? And, why would you want to? Especially for semi-rural Alaskan students who rarely leave the state, seeing photos of global tourist destinations and understanding how easy it is to get there is a big moment! It was important to me to tie the photos into better conversation with the text content of the book, because really, why would a student want to learn about how to book a flight if they don’t have anywhere they want to go?
My end goal for this project is to have Aurasma overlays that link to 360 degree photos that have stereoscopic capabilities. I recently purchased a class set of Google Cardboard viewers so that students could see 360 degree photos in VR. I’m hoping with these pictures that we can use this shared viewing experience as a jumping off point for class discussions and to wrap up the textbook chapters that precede the photos.
At the moment, the platform I’m using to view the photos doesn’t have Cardboard mode for mobile browsers (though it should be up in the next 1-2 months). So, if you scan the trigger images right now, it will send you to a 360 degree photo of the location within a mobile browser. From here, you’re able to swipe around on the screen to see the whole photo. The platform is called Round.Me and actually has a really nice mobile app. I considered just having students download the app, but it takes away the direct connection to the textbook. You’re able to use their collections of 360 degree photos or upload your own. I found that you are able to add more features to ones you upload yourself and am in the process of replacing the ones created by other users. There are interesting features such as adding embedded photos (allowing you to “travel” from one place to the next) or informational “hotspots,” both of which I could see myself using in the classroom.
I learned a lot about the lack of cross-platform communication in this project. After a few false starts with Aurasma (webpage overlays are still very much in beta), I found that adding “additional actions” to image overlays was an effective way to link to a webpage. Then the real trouble started. I usually consider myself someone who can handle basic tech issues; sometimes I enjoy all the researching and trial and error. But, I kid you not, it took me an entire day to find confirmation that “photospheres” within Google Street View are not externally linkable. Of course, Google Street View has the broadest collection of 360 degree photos that are Cardboard capable. This was a serious setback and I went through a couple other options (Sphere, Holobuilder, 360vr) before I settled on Round.Me. I was never able to figure out how to link to something in a way that forced that app to open instead of a mobile browser. Once this becomes available, projects like this will be a breeze, instead of relying on the capabilities of mobile browsers.
All this being said, it’s clear this project isn’t finished to the point where I would bring it into the classroom. A more final product will be available sometime before next August when I hope to roll this out. There are tech issues still to tackle, and I want to make sure I’ve structured the AR –> VR experience in a way that is strongly tied to the curriculum. On a different note, all this searching through 360 degree photos has inspired me to add a photo assignment to the Tourism syllabus. We’ll be able to take 360 degree pictures in our community and upload them for tourists who want to check out Talkeetna!