By now, you’ve probably heard of Augmented Reality (AR). Lately it’s been cropping up in everything from iPhone games and magazine ads to museum exhibitions. It’s flashy and fun, but few people stop to consider the ways it can be applied as a truly innovative and effective learning tool. Early on, Educational Resource Systems (ERS) understood the potential of AR to deepen learning through interactivity. ERS has been using AR to create active learning experiences for several clients, using new techniques and technology that redefine the learning space.

One of the first fully developed AR programs that ERS created was used to demonstrate the effects of an Investigational drug for the treatment of Acute Heart Failure (AHF). The client wanted their Medical Science Liaisons (MSLs) to be able to fully comprehend and then communicate the Mechanism of Action (MOA) and clinical effects to their customers. The app delivers immersive AR scenes using scalable, rotatable, 3D modeled animations. The ability to view the action from any angle helps the user gain the kind of deeper understanding than cannot be achieved from a simple diagram. Furthermore, the program includes buildable charts and detailed animations. The client’s Digital Medicines Lead who was responsible for this project said, “This was a complex topic. It was helpful to use a tool like this. It’s immersive and helps to explain the MOA.”

Another client approached ERS to develop an advanced AR application for use in new-hire workshops. The challenge was to condense a PowerPoint deck with 4 hours of material into a 90-minute presentation. By using medical illustrations, animations and cutting-edge technology, ERS was able to simplify difficult material and execute it in an innovative way to improve the learner’s experience and retention. The program delineates the subtle differences between Ulcerative Colitis and Crohn’s Disease. The program offers a 3-D image of a colon that appears to jump out of the tracker, offering the learner a closer look inside to compare normal and disease states. In addition to the client being extremely pleased, the resulting app was a finalist in the LTEN innovation awards in 2015.

Presently, ERS is taking the concept of AR interaction further with an immersive skin experience. ERS is creating a dermatology app that allows users to experience what they would look like with psoriasis. As an introductory activity in a classroom setting, users will be given a tracker sticker to place on the back of their hand. Through the lens of the iPad, users will see a psoriasis lesion on their own hand, and assess its severity. Seeing this condition reflected on their own bodies will build empathy and provide a memorable experience.

AR offers the potential for a realm of innovative and effective learning experiences. A recent article in TechCrunch quotes DCM Ventures General Partner, Jason Krikorian as saying, “AR/VR can enable new experiences not possible before.” To date ERS has produced applications for the iPad only. But the technology is growing, and ERS anticipates that soon AR headsets will be readily available and cost-effective enough to use in the teaching environment.