Education is widely expected to be an area where AR and VR will see major play, but we can’t start at zero and immediately arrive at a world of immersive, transformed education. It takes stepping stones. MyLab is one such stepping stone, which, using Microsoft’s HoloLens headset’ offers up a touchless, interactive periodic table for chemistry students.
For many, hands-on learning is the best way to learn. But you can’t quite go hands-on with particles much smaller than the naked eye can see, nor with their invisible interactions. That’s the heart of chemistry, the tiny interactions and invisible characteristics of elements that make them behave vastly differently. As such, chemistry at the basic level is often taught in concept from books, while simple experiments usually look at the results of chemical interactions in lieu of being able to actually observe the interactions themselves.
Augmented reality app MyLab aims to make a connection between the textbook concepts and the observational experiments by offering an interactive periodic table which also visualizes the hidden structures of the elements. The app’s creator, Lucas Rizzotto, explains how it works in the video heading this article. MyLab can be downloaded for free on HoloLens via the Microsoft Store.
Now, this isn’t something that couldn’t, for the most part, be achieved on an iPad—except for one thing: the ability to interact with the app and its data without touching it. Thanks to HoloLens’ floating AR interface and gesture-based interactions, a student in the lab wearing gloves who might be handling dangerous chemicals can position the interface floating anywhere in view and interact with the data without needing to be wary of contaminating a devices like an iPad or computer.
This is indeed a pretty cool app, but more importantly, it’s a stepping stone for bringing AR into the classroom in a more significant way. Deeper AR integration in classrooms can be imagined easily—perhaps the teacher is able to annotate parts of the student’s periodic table or even guide them through the experiment remotely in real-time—but to reach real, practical integration takes a series of smaller steps to figure out the best way to design such apps that are productive and valuable, and not just novel. There’s a world of possibilities when it comes to AR; MyLab makes a small but real step in that direction.