Augmented Reality for Beginners

Introduction

As part of the Athabasca University MDDE 610 course, the students have been asked to identify something that we want to learn and then use a Computer Assisted Instruction (CAI) program to obtain that instruction.

The first thing we need to understand is what is CAI?  According to Romaniuk (2013), CAI is “learning through computers” with an emphasis “placed upon having students learn new concepts or in reinforcing previously learned concepts”.  In other words, we need to identify something that we want to learn, find a CAI program or application (app) that will instruct us and apply what we learned.  As part of the course, we then write a blog about the experience.

Learning Opportunity

I am currently interested in augmented reality (AR).  I recently tried to use AR to produce a 20 degree angle as part of instructional design to have sonography students reflect on what 20 degrees shoulder abduction would feel like.  I wanted to do this because the literature often advises sonography students that they should try to limit shoulder abduction to 30 degrees as one strategy to to reduce injuries (Baker, 2011).  I wanted students to try and judge what angle their shoulder was at when they were asked to abduct to 20 degrees (this is not a typo) to get a sense of body position.

I used HP Reveal Studio (https://studio.hpreveal.com/landing) to upload target and aura images.  The target image is used to identify a situation that you want to add something such as another image, a video, or a special effect.  An example that I used in the past can be seen below.  The picture of the dog is used as the target image and the video seen below the picture was inserted by using the HP Reveal app on an iPhone.

00 IMG_9913.jpg

The unfortunate part is that the HP Reveal app does not allow for adjustment of the image by either dragging it to the side or scaling it.  So when the app was used during the course, the angle did not fit on the person’s shoulder because of a variety of heights within the group.  It also required a lot of space in order to get the depth for the app and resulted in a very congested hallway.

As part of the MDDE 610 assignment, I chose to find a program to teach me how to create an app to use a smartphone camera for augmented reality.  I wanted to learn how to do this to enable the use of the angle image within a sonography ergonomics course to overcome the problems encountered earlier.  A quick search on Google showed a few programs within Udemy (https://www.udemy.com) that would enable building an AR app through a gaming program called Unity.  This is not surprising as Udemy is considered one of the largest online learning platforms with over 65,000 courses and 20 million learners (Cetina, Goldbach, & Manea, 2018).

Not knowing anything about Unity and Udemy, I decided to go for an inexpensive course that appeared to give me exactly what I want, a step-by-step instruction on creating an augmented reality app for a handheld device.  I chose Rapidly Build 12 iPhone/Android Augmented Reality (AR) Apps for $14.99 Canadian (Ray N. Solutions, 2017).  The course introduction guided me to create a profile in both Unity (https://unity3d.com/) and Vuforia (https://www.vuforia.com/), download both programs and install them on my Mac.  This was a lengthy process and there were updates to both programs as the Mac operating system (OS) was recently updated and so were the Unity and Vuforia programs.  Another complication is that in order to create an app for an iPhone, one must become a developer for $99 USD per year.  Android apps can be made at no cost and uploaded to a personal Android device.  In order to upload it to the Google Play store for other devices, there is a one time $25 USD charge.  By obtaining my own Android device, I am able to transfer an app for free and use the device during instruction.  The drawback to this would be lack of access through the Google Play Store.  So I ordered an inexpensive Android device while I used the CAI.

The Good and Bad News

The CAI was easy to follow.  It provided a step-by-step procedure on how to develop the apps and provided resources when necessary.  The drawback to the CAI pertained to its 2017 publishing.  By using it in 2018, it was a few versions of Unity behind.  It was also screen recorded from a PC, which meant there were a few differences when trying to use it for a Mac.  But this was not a problem.  With a bit of problem solving and using online Unity help files, it was easy to figure out what was necessary for Mac OS.

One day I decided to take a break from my course and go out for lunch.  It was a little boring waiting for the food, so I decided to see if there was a mobile app to download Udemy courses.  A quick review on the Apple App Store identified a Udemy app which was quickly downloaded.  I was able to follow along with my next lesson on the app while waiting for lunch.  The drawback to this was I did not have access to the Unity program to follow along.  This was a large difference from having two monitors, one for the Udemy lesson and one for the Unity program.  At home, I could follow the lecture, stop the lecture video, make changes to the Unity file, rewind the video if necessary, and carry on.  

With some trial and error and rewinding the video lecture, I was able to make my first app of an asteroid that was falling towards the target and rotating.  It took a while, but I found out that some of the concern was the perspective (size) of the target and image because I was trying to display a digital copy of the image target using my iPhone rather than printing the target image.

As the lectures progressed, the program became repetitive and it was difficult to follow without creating my own list of what to do when creating a new app.  Occasionally during the screen recording the instructor would forget a step and then add it later by putting in text or stating that he forgot a certain step.  Once the list was completed, I was able to follow it to create a few more apps without the necessity of following the CAI.  The basic list that I made can be viewed here if you like.  Click on the videos below to see a video of each practice app.

As I was going through the program, I started to wonder if I could upload the angle image as an asset or if there was a process to make sure that it met certain programming/designer requirements.  I stopped the CAI and decided to use my checklist and import an image asset that I had prepared.  It would be unfortunate to spend all this time learning how to make the app and then find out that creating the image asset is too labour intensive to be useful.

I built another project from scratch and used my left shoulder abducted 20 degrees  image (PNG format) that I created for HP Reveal.  I was able to import and create a 2D scene, with some trial and error.  What excited me was that I was able to import the PNG as an asset and that it showed up in the scene.  The only things I had to be cognizant of were the X and Y rotations of the target and angle images.  Once the position and rotation of the images were solved to place them on the same plane, I was then able to go back and view the lecture on Move, Scale, Rotate & Test app again in order to see how to add the gestures.  This was done by downloading some free assets called Lean Touch.

The app did not work for me when I tested it.  The angle would not appear when I used my own image and the angle would not move when I used the mouse.  After going for a jog, I constructed a new target image with free images from Pixabay.  I then inserted the new image and tried the app.  It still did not work.  I then readjusted the number of fingers for Lean Translate script to one.  It did not work at first, but then I grabbed the writing of the angle and was able to move the object.  Click the video below to see the  working app.

As I rewatched the lesson video a second time, I noticed that the Lean Translate was set to 0 for fingers.  I reset my app to zero fingers and the app worked.  Now, I just have to wait for the Android phone to come in and try it out to see if the scale and resize options work.

For a demonstration of the building of the app from start to finish, see the video below.

The Result

See my next blog post for the update.

References

Apple Developer Program. (2018).  How the program works.  Retrieved from https://developer.apple.com/programs/how-it-works/

Baker, J. (2011). Industry Standards for the Prevention of Work-Related Musculoskeletal Disorders in Sonography. Journal of Diagnostic Medical Sonography, 27, 14-18. doi: 10.1177/8756479310393510

Cetina, I., Goldbach, D., & Manea, N. (2018). Udemy: A case study in online education and training.  Revista Economică, 70(3), 46-54.  Retrieved from http://0-search.ebscohost.com.aupac.lib.athabascau.ca/login.aspx?direct=true&db=edo&AN=131315134&site=eds-live

Google. (2018).  How to use the play console. Retrieved from https://support.google.com/googleplay/android-developer/answer/6112435

Ray N. Solutions. (2017).  Rapidly Build 12 iPhone/Android Augmented Reality (AR) Apps.  Retrieved from https://www.udemy.com/rapidly-build-12-iphoneandroid-augmented-reality-ar-apps/learn/v4/overview

Romaniuk, E.W. (2013). Computer-Assisted Learning. In The Canadian Encyclopedia. Retrieved from https://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/computer-assisted-learning

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