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Augmented Reality: A Tool for Teaching Students Robot Programming

By Carol Grace for RobotLAB.com


The recent years saw an increased adoption of technology in education, from the shift to virtual learning environments to the use of robotics within classrooms. For instance, a previous post highlights how collaborative robots or cobots have limitless potential not only for improving workplace health and safety but also for transforming education, particularly in the context of teaching engineering. Through open-ended, flexible programming, cobots can help students hone their problem-solving skills and adapt to more complex robotic applications.

Beyond cobots, another emerging technology that demonstrates benefits in classroom settings is augmented reality. Below, we take a look at what augmented reality is and how its applications can particularly help students better understand robot programming.

A brief overview of Augmented Reality

Whereas virtual reality (VR) fully immerses the user in an artificial environment, augmented reality (AR) maintains the user’s connection with the physical world and blends it with computer-generated content. As a result, the user has greater control over the simulated environment instead of being isolated from the real world.

The digital and three-dimensional elements overlaid in AR are made accessible through tools and devices like smartphones, glasses, and headsets. These typically come with interactive displays, controls, sensors, and other smart features like a global positioning system (GPS) to properly track the user’s environment and pinpoint where the virtual content should be overlaid. For instance, RobotLAB's AR/VR classroom pack includes mobile AR/VR Devices preloaded with RobotLAB Expeditions V2.0, which offers unique options for both self-guided and teacher-led lessons and tours. Besides chargers, selfie sticks, tablets, and the optional 360° camera, educators can expand their classrooms' AR/VR setups by learning more about other AR tools and platforms that can be integrated into teaching students robot programming, as highlighted in the next section.

AR applications in robot programming education
Increased engagement

Since AR adds interest to the physical environment through virtual elements like 3D models and robot designs, it can heighten students’ engagement with how a robot moves and interacts based on its programming.

The first step to understanding robotic motion and installation is to capture the real world, which the Ray-Ban Meta smart glasses perfectly execute through its real-time content creation capabilities for recording audio, photos, and videos.

While these smart glasses are yet to be fully fledged AR devices, their role as a seamless wearable technology can be the first step towards projecting AR content into the user’s field of view. Besides the ultra-wide 12 MP camera and open-ear speakers that can help keep students connected to the real world around them, the live streaming feature can also be leveraged by teachers to maintain focus and engagement even in virtual learning setups.

Improved learning outcomes

By being introduced to AR-powered learning experiences, students of robot programming can also be more hands-on and thus improve their practical skills compared to simply learning through videos or lectures. As illustrated in an article published in the journal Procedia CIRP, AR-based robot programming enables students to interact directly with robotic hardware, such as a robotic arm, and move it by demonstration.

In contrast, this teaching-by-demonstration technique cannot be fully replicated in the closer environment of a VR headset. Since students gain the ability to program, control, and visualize a robot’s movement through an AR headset and a user-friendly interface, teachers can expect specific knowledge acquisition and improved learning outcomes. 

Opportunities for collaboration

Lastly, AR and mixed-reality content can be supported by cloud platforms like Microsoft Mesh. By using lifelike 3D avatars in immersive classroom settings, students not only learn how robots can be programmed and deployed in simulated environments but also collaborate with their peers on more complex projects and situations, such as figuring out how robots can be installed in production and manufacturing facilities.

In summary, AR paves the way for a better understanding of robot programming through improved engagement, collaboration, and learning outcomes.

Learn more about AR with RobotLAB!

AR/VR for Classroom and School Pack

  • Jun 3, 2024 8:00:17 AM

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