Augmented Reality Based-Learning Assistant for Architectural Education

EduRe Journal International Journal on Advances in Education Research ISSN: 2340-2504 Augmented Reality Based-Learning Assistant for Architectural E...
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EduRe Journal International Journal on Advances in Education Research

ISSN: 2340-2504

Augmented Reality Based-Learning Assistant for Architectural Education Naglaa Ali Megahed Port Said University, Faculty of Engineering, Architecture and Urban Planning Department, Port Said, Egypt P.O. Box 42523, Tel: +20663446250, E-mail address: [email protected]

Received: 2013-12-14; Accepted: 2014-03-23

Abstract Augmented Reality (AR) is an automated technology that allows the user to see the virtual objects overlaid on or composited within the real world. As the tools assisting AR continue to evolve, research and development of the applications of AR in education continue as well. This research presents this technology and its potential applications in education. With that in mind, the research aims to (a) offer an overview of AR developments and technologies; (b) explore the recent approaches to AR learning environments; (c) emphasize the use of collaborative AR in the design process and (d) finally, propose the concept of the augmented classroom for architectural education. The main scientific contribution of this work is to show that AR will support architectural education to enhance students' perception and creativity in an interactive way. In additions, AR may change in roles and responsibilities of students and teachers from a teacher-controlled education towards a studentoriented learning, where students take control of their own learning with multiple learning styles. However, AR cannot be the ideal solution for all educational approaches but it is a choice to consider. AR technology is still quite difficult to permeate and there are still technical problems to overcome and social issues to explore. For the present, researchers and educators should continue to keep up with the development of AR technology, closely keep an eye on the impact of AR on society to reach to the final technical and social acceptance. Keywords Architectural education; augmented collaboration; design process

classroom;

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1. Introduction Augmented reality (AR), a state-of-the-art technology for overlaying virtual data onto the real world, has recently taken place to enhance our world with numerous potential applications that are actually being developed in many fields (Carozza et al., 2012; Chi et al., 2013; Martin-Gutierrez et al., 2012). The trend of using AR technologies in practical applications, such as education, design, manufacturing, construction, and entertainment reveals great potential for improving existing technologies and providing a better quality of life (Chi et al., 2013). Although the physical world is three-dimensional, mostly teachers prefer to use twodimensional means in education. But it is static and does not offer the dynamic content so teaching institutions are interested in introducing more productive learning methods. In addition, AR technology is proposed as new medium, offers unique affordances, combining physical and virtual worlds. The combination of AR technology with the educational content creates a new type of automated applications and acts to improve the learning capability. In fact, many universities have adopted virtual learning environments for helping in the learning process (Kesim and Ozarslan, 2012; Martin-Gutierrez et al., 2012). No doubt that keeping education up to date is a vital concern. For the last ten years, educational institutes and researchers managed to adopt modern devices and new possibilities for teaching, and learning provided by AR have been increasingly recognized (Wu et al., 2013). The purpose of this research is to present current status, opportunities, and challenges of AR in education especially based-learning assistant for architecture students. To achieve the purpose, the study first presents the state-of the art in AR and proposes taxonomy of educational AR based-systems, and their related educational theories. Second, reviews AR learning applications that may provide the tools to learn in an entertaining way. Third, describes the collaborative paradigm and its impact on planning and design process which answered questions about how AR could be designed for educational purposes or incorporated into architectural settings.

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2. Overview of AR technology Although AR has recently been considered, the growth and progress in the past few years have been incredible (Phan and Choo, 2010). The emergence of AR can be estimated around 1968 when Ivan Sutherland created the first head-mounted 3D display. Later, AR applications were developed and new versions of helmet-mounted display were invented (Caudell and Mizell, 1992). By the late 1990s, AR became a prominent field of research and several conferences on AR began to take international fame. Due to the advancement of AR hardware and software, it is expected that in the near future, there will be an increase in the use of AR applications (Chi et al., 2013). 2.1. AR terms and definitions The widely accepted definition of AR is given by Ronald Azuma (1997), according to this definition; AR is a technology that combines virtual reality with the real world. As a consequence, AR must have three characteristics: combining the real and virtual worlds, having real-time interaction with the user, and is being registered in a 3D space (Azuma, 1997). Although AR has gathered much research attention in recent years, the term AR was given different meanings by researchers. Additionally, AR could be created by utilizing and connecting various innovative technologies. That is, the reason of AR is not limited to any type of technology and could be reconsidered from a broad view nowadays (Wu et al., 2013). 2.2. AR as a continuum To describe to what extent reality is supplemented or augmented, previous research has been developed several taxonomies of AR. Milgram and Kishino (1994) proposed a socalled Reality–Virtuality continuum (Fig. 1), ranging from a completely real environment to a completely virtual one (Azuma, 1997; Wu et al., 2013). In between there are Augmented Reality (AR) (closer to the real environment) and Augmented Virtuality (AV) (is closer to the virtual environment) (Salmi et al., 2012). Within this continuum, Milgram and Kishino (1994) points out that computer interfaces can be placed on a continuum according to how much of the user's environment is generated by the computer

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technology (Milgram and Kishino, 1994). Thus, moving from left to right the amount of virtual imagery increases and the connection with reality weakens (Wu et al., 2013).

Figure 1. Milgram's Reality -Virtuality continuum. Adapted from Milgram and Kishino (1994). 2.3. AR hardware and software systems AR applications that are actually being developed in several fields are both hardware and software intensive (Nee et al., 2012). However, AR and virtual reality use same hardware technologies and share lots of factors like computer generated virtual scenes, 3D objects and interactivity. The main difference between them is where virtual reality aims to replace the real world while AR respectfully supplements it (Kesim and Ozarslan, 2012). AR technology based on: a) specific displays (Head Mounted Display (HMD), Handheld Display (HHD), Spatial Display (SD)); b) user tracking system (digital cameras, optical sensors, wireless sensors, projectors, GPS etc.); c) input devices (pointing devices, gloves, etc.); d) small-sized computers (wearable computing devices) and e) appropriate software for realistic graphics and sound generators, etc. (Nee et al., 2012; Vlada and Albeanu, 2010). Unlike other computer interfaces that take users away from the real world, AR combines digital information and real world in the way that users can experience them as one. AR does not replace the real world instead it uses the real environment as a background to be registered. So, a particular importance of AR is locating virtual objects in the right place, scale and position, which makes the tracking system to be one of the most important components of an AR system. Essentially, an AR system must be able to follow the user’s point of view dynamically and keep virtual objects aligned with real world objects (Phan

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and Choo, 2010; Redondo et al., 2011). Various algorithms and systems have been developed to address tracking and registration issues in AR. Based on these algorithms, several well-known AR software platforms have been developed to facilitate the development of various specific AR applications. Without accurate tracking and registration, the virtual and real objects cannot be merged seamlessly (Nee et al., 2012). 2.4. AR: fusion of real and virtual AR brings virtual information or object to any indirect view of the user's real-world environment to enhance the user's perception and interaction with the real world. In addition to 2D and 3D objects, digital assets such as audio and video files, textual information, and even olfactory or tactile information can be incorporated into users’ perceptions of the real world. The final result is a dynamic scene that is shown to the users on computer screens or other devices, as projectors, or digital boards, using special glasses or in advanced cell phones (Kesim and Ozarslan, 2012; Redondo et al., 2011; Yuen et al., 2011). Collectively, these augmentations enhance individuals’ knowledge and understanding of what is going on around them that is useful in many kinds of revolutionary applications in education. Including the study of architecture, art, anatomy, languages, or any other subject in which graphics, simulations or 3D models could improve realization. This new augmented approach enhances the effectiveness and attractiveness of teaching and learning processes (Kesim and Ozarslan, 2012; Salmi et al., 2012; Yuen et al., 2011).

3. AR and educational theories It appears from previous section that AR may enhance user's perception of and interaction with real environment. Also, user/student can move interactively around 3D virtual image just like a real object. According to this interactive interface, this section deals with positive experience and opportunities in usage AR in education. Actually, the educational theory consists of two major components: a theory of knowledge and a theory of learning. The educational theory suggests that new technologies and AR make it possible for students to learn and participate in a meaningful

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activity by serving as a bridge between formal and informal education (Kaufmann and Dünser, 2007; Shaffer, 2004). There are a number of theories which may be used to describe learning processes within a classroom. These learning theories can be categorized into three main approaches; behaviourism; cognitivism and constructivism (Fig. 2). However, the current educational literature is dominated and intended by discussions of constructivism and its relation with AR (Wu et al., 2013; Yilmaz, 2008).

Figure 2. Educational theory and its relation with AR. Adapted from Ertmer and Newby (1993); Smith and Ragan (2004). Yilmaz (2008) argues that constructivism is belonged to the theory of learning not teaching and students in constructivist classrooms have greater understanding and experience more success than students in traditional classrooms (Yilmaz, 2008). A constructivist instructor should strive to challenge their students into defending and justifying their positions in order to further promote and develop their knowledge and conceptual frameworks. As a consequence, learning is considered to be an active process in which learners construct their own knowledge by testing ideas and approaches based

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on their prior knowledge and experience, applying these to a new situation, and integrating the new data gained by pre-existing intellectual constructs. This is supported through relevant, engaging learning activities, which involve collaboration and discovery (Kaufmann and Dünser, 2007; Ucelli et al., 2005; Wu et al., 2013). These environments with instructor–learner interaction scenarios promote interactive learning process that enriches learning by doing and creative problem-solving, which more successful, especially in architectural education through planning and design processes. 3.1. Collaborative-based learning through AR While in virtual reality the user cannot see the physical world, in the case of AR the user can see the real world with virtual objects. In this way AR offer a great number of advantages to remote practices and learning in a free and flexible way. Having multiple people view, discuss, and interact with 3D models simultaneously (Krevelen and Poelman, 2010; Vlada and Albeanu, 2010). Based on this interaction, AR can be used to enhance collaborative tasks which allow users performing tasks together then participate in a discussion that helps in understanding different learning processes (Dong et al., 2013; Martin-Gutierrez et al., 2012). This promotes social interaction among students located in the same physical space and can use different means of communication. This collaborative environment is supported in Construct3D. Construct3D is a virtual geometry collaborative system that supports face to face collaboration between teachers and students. The teacher and students can interact through various interactive scenarios, encourages investigation with geometric constructions and improves spatial skills. With Construct3D, students can see 3D projections of geometric objects that otherwise they had to draw using pencil and paper, work directly on 3D spaces and solve complex spatial problems (Kaufmann and Schmalstieg, 2003; Kaufmann and Dünser, 2007). Students are wearing see-through HMDs and used pens and panels for direct interaction in 3D space. In this augmented environment, head, pen and panel are also fully tracked in 3D which allows users to walk around geometric objects and to view them from different perspectives (Kaufmann and Dünser, 2007).

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4. Architectural education through AR In architectural education, the major subjects concentrate on a design process that in the early stages is similar to a brainstorming process, and thus it requires free elaboration on a local platform for presentation and collaboration activities. At the same time, AR creates the ability to move around in space, merging real with virtual models and designs, as well as the possibility to change scale. So, design studios that employ AR as a tool, allow students to communicate and collaborate instantaneously. Thus the understanding of the design and its relationship within the urban context is enhanced, site-specific contexts are better recognized and a variety of options can easily be investigated. This leads to the significance of a shared learning experience and immediate feedback, which are essential parts of the curriculum in most architecture and urban planning subjects/courses (Seichter and Schnabel, 2005; Seichter, 2007). 4.1. AR-based learning for design process From an architect’s point of view it would be required to have an additional support tool allowing improving the cooperation in a way that supports real collaboration within design process. This would in turn allow for much faster design and more review cycles (Broll et al., 2004). In this concern, AR offers a number of attractive properties which may help support design processes by allowing designers to inhabit and visualize their developing design (Penn et al., 2005). Through this interactive design process, students can be actively involved in the design activity to develop critical design skills and knowledge rather than passively practiced in a traditional lecture. AR-based design learning through AR studios could allow students to acquire more detailed visual information from virtual models, as well as real-time manipulations on the layout design. Students can use the system in visualizing the actual design structures as well as creating a shared design workplace for multiple learners. With the design easily changed and updated, the overall design process can therefore be simplified and aided (Chen and Wang, 2008). The architectural students, especially in the case of urban design projects, are in a critical need of a platform that allows the simultaneous understanding of a wide variety of

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representations, including drawings, physical models, and digital analysis. After observing the urban planning process, urban designers shape the construction of cities in order to provide surroundings that are healthy, creative and sustainable. In order to express their vision, urban designers commonly used various sketches, physical models, and more recently computational simulation, while each serving a useful purpose of the design process. However, each form of representation often remains separated from the others in time, space and scale. Drawings on walls, physical models on tables, and digital models through computer screens are created and displayed independently (Ishii et al., 2002). The followings summarize the most related works to architectural education that may assist design process and merge the different forms of representations in one hybrid model. 

AR Workbench. The augmented urban planning workbench proposed by Ishii et al. (2002) is a multi-layered luminous table for hybrid presentations overlaid onto the table (Dong et al., 2013). As mentioned before that urban design process used various physical and digital representations. The luminous table was largely successful in allowing collaborative design, where the large physical size of its surface allowed collaborators to simultaneously engage in the required design process. The augmented system provides students with an advanced means of understanding the relationships between the static form of physical models and the dynamic behavior of previously intangible factors such as wind speed, shadow movement and traffic flow. AR workbench encouraged designers or students to communicate directly through voice, facial expression, and body language in reference to the representations of their projects. In addition, elements of the AR workbench can be manipulated easily, allowing non-specialists to enter into the augmented design process that enhances the potential of further participatory design (Ishii et al., 2002).



ARTHUR. Proposed by Broll et al. (2004), it is another AR system for collaborative urban design purposes that utilize a round tabletop interface. On the table, there are various drawings, a polystyrene sketch model, photographs, some material samples and layout paper. Additionally it uses more advanced technology

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like see-through HMDs and utilizes a computer vision based tracking system for augmented view and input registration (Broll et al., 2004; Penn et al., 2005; Seichter, 2007). Students discuss their projects where they use the drawings and models to illustrate their ideas. Sometimes the sketching is done in front of the group where the act of drawing is itself an aid to communication. The virtual model becomes the focus of attention, a block is moved and another cut to change its shape. According to this technique, Penn et al. (2005) believe that creating architectural forms and working on a task collaboratively become like a game that students enjoy and consequently this increase their level of collaboration (Penn et al., 2005).

5. The future of AR in architectural education While the use of AR for educational purposes is a recent tendency, it has the power to make the impossible possible and its potential in education is just beginning to investigated. The recent developments in computer technologies make various collaborative activities. As a consequence, the AR based-learning could be emphasized in classrooms by three approaches. By small AR-based learning software which includes the simulation based on Web3D, by medium AR-based learning software that based on virtual interfaces, or by strong AR-based learning software that based on collaborative educational software through virtual interfaces and supporting a method to remote access and control (Vlada and Albeanu, 2010; Yuen et al., 2011). According to these approaches, the role of AR in education was already proved by the large collections of existing models that address collaborative AR applications in education. The simultaneity of virtual objects and real environments allows learners to visualize complex spatial relationships and abstract concepts, experience phenomena that are not possible in the real environments, interact with 2D and 3D objects, and develop important practices that cannot be developed in other technology-enhanced learning environments (Wu et al., 2013). These educational benefits have made AR one of the key emerging technologies for architectural education. Students often do not motivate when teachers

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use traditional approaches. Architectural students have different profiles and they are supposed to work in multidisciplinary groups. AR based-learning aims to prove that when teachers use advanced tools, students pay more attention, academic performance increases and they show more interest learning process (Redondo et al., 2011). AR systems currently being used in the architectural education and are expected to change future design studios, so researchers are directed toward the architectural design process as the strong tools. AR Workbench and ARTHUR system act as the basis of new ideas or study background for other following researches around architectural and urban planning process. As a consequence, there are some baseline surveys about the utility of these technologies on architectural education which had shown a big interest in it. However, some students felt that the table’s novel technology may have confused from the concepts that the students were trying to communicate. Indeed, most of the discussion during the final presentations revolved around the role of technology in design and focused less on specific conceptual aspects of the students’ work and the real design (Ishii et al., 2002). In addition, the main technical problem in architecture is to resolve the integration between virtual objects and real images. Any overlap must be accurate and at the right scale in order for those models to match its hypothetical situation and size in the real scene (Redondo et al., 2011).

6. Discussion Given the exciting developments and the obvious functionality of AR as an improved user interface technology, researchers believe that AR has benefits for innovative learning environments. AR has potential to (a) engage, stimulate, and motivate students to explore class materials from different perspectives; (b) help teach subjects where students could not practicably achieve real-world; (c) enhance collaboration and foster student imagination, and as a consequence (d) create learning environments suitable to various learning styles (Yuen et al., 2011). Nowadays, the university classrooms have been updated with infrastructures allowing use of the teaching technologies most suitable, internet, computers, electronic blackboards,

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projectors and video conference systems. Any of these recent technologies would allow integration of AR based-systems in the classrooms to enhance interaction between instructor and students in a collaborative environment (Cooperstock, 2001; MartinGutierrez et al., 2012). This research presents AR applications as an assistant approach for collaborative space of architectural education. The architecture students can view their design process through AR scenes by specific displays (HMDs and HHDs). The AR views enable students to examine 3D project models integrated into the real environment in more intuitive way and interaction scenarios (Fig. 3).

Figure 3. The concept of future augmented classroom for architectural education. Adapted from Broll et al. (2004); Chen and Wang (2008); Ishii et al. (2002); Kaufmann and Schmalstieg (2003); Phan and Choo (2010). It has been recognized that research on conceptual learning in augmented environments is a relatively young field but growing rapidly, and will dramatically alter the situation of both teacher and learner role and responsibility. Whether or not, educators should ready to recognize that AR will become one of the technical trends in higher education (MartinGutierrez et al., 2012; Yuen et al., 2011). However, still many technical issues that has to be solved in order to expand usability even further. AR faces technical challenges

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regarding binocular view, resolution, color depth, luminance, contrast, field of view and focus depth. In the future the AR system may easily achieved by using more flexible and light–weight components and further reduce the necessary set-up and preparation time. In addition, the rapid development of mobile PC with better processing capacities, the presence of cameras and long-lasting batteries has raised the issue of lightweight mobile AR systems. Thus, mobile AR devices are recently one of the most promising emerging technologies (Krevelen and Poelman, 2010; Phan and Choo, 2010; Yuen et al., 2011). During the early stages of AR release, the main focus of AR development was related to hardware technology rather than the real usability. The practical potential of AR is still being explored, clear qualitative or quantitative results are still missing may be because of the expected cost of AR, which considers a cost-effective technology. In addition, AR requires users to wear HMDs, which are uncomfortable and may report negative side effects as headaches, vertigo and nausea. Finally, the society must also accept AR; getting people to use AR may be more challenging than expected. Many factors play a role in social acceptance of AR ranging from the unfashionable appearance through gloves, glasses or helmets, to privacy concerns. However, in the future, and with today's smart phones and AR browsers we are starting to adopt this recent and exciting kind of humancomputer interaction (Kaufmann and Dünser, 2007; Krevelen and Poelman, 2010; Martin-Gutierrez et al., 2012; Nee et al., 2012; Salmi et al., 2012; Wu et al., 2013).

7. Concluding remarks Although AR is not a new technology, its potential in educational aspects is just beginning to be fully investigated. The study tries to highlight and review some of the recent educational applications that are underway using AR applications in architectural education. AR based-learning represents an advanced wave in educational theory through innovative learning tools that permits the presence of real environment in such a way that allows students to move around, talk and discuss when construct their projects. The research has become as a step for an extensive overview of the AR based-learning in architectural education and hopefully provides a suitable starting point for readers new to

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the field. However, AR cannot be the ideal solution for all educational approaches but it is a choice to consider. AR content is still quite difficult to permeate; there are still technical problems to overcome and social issues to explore. For the present, researchers and educators should continue to keep up with the development of AR technology, closely keep an eye on the impact of AR on society to reach to the final technical and social acceptance.

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