Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Augmented Reality

I'm very interested in something that I've seen as a buzzword in several library presentations in the past 6 months, which is "Augmented Reality." It uses some kind of device like a smartphone or special computer with screen to show the real world with digital objects superimposed on it. For example, as I understand it, GPS navigation systems in cars are a kind of augmented reality. The maps represent very real objects while the directions are digitally superimposed on it.

There's an example in this video, which I think comes from National Geographic, of using real maps as grids to play a giant PacMan game. Players see the streets through their goggles, but they also see the floating white balls they need to collect if they are PacMan, or they see other players as PacMan or ghosts. You can also do this without the computer technology, as can be seen in this picture of Pacmanhattan.

Museums are creating games using this idea. For example, here is a video that explains how students visiting a museum in Austria are asked to find things, and they take a picture of a barcode of the correct objects, they can also interact with the instruments on display by virtually playing back a short piece of music on a keyboard, or pumping the billows for an organ. They also see flying green diamonds when they scan a new room in the museum.

Many of the Come Out and Play Festival games have people use their own smart phones, which I don't think you could do in the museum game. I think any of this is beyond my technical abilities, but it's still something to keep an eye on. And perhaps you can use computers with regular Internet access at certain locations to enhance reality. Or vice versa, which I already do with my spies game. After all, we're trying to teach students to use the most appropriate resources and sometimes those are online and sometimes they must be found in the stacks.

Back, for now

I've been thinking a lot about games, esp. as this busy school year wraps up. I've gotten back into the literature and found that much has been published in the last year and a half. I will post some good article recommendations soon.

I'm working on writing up an article on my Goblin Threat game for Indiana Libraries. The proposal was accepted a while ago, and now the actual article is due very soon. I also submitted a book chapter for a book called Let the Games Begin, which should go to press towards the end of the summer. I submitted It's Alive, and was contacted by the editors to write a chapter on Goblin Threat as well. The editor of Indiana Libraries was alright with this, and they are very different formats, so it looks like it will be two chapters in this book. I'm very excited to have a chance to get the word out about games in libraries in print!

My office mate recently returned from LOEX and shared her conference report. I've been quite interested in a game called BiblioBouts which was presented there. They haven't actually tested it with students, I think they plan to this fall. I hope they will publish results on their Web site shortly after. I will be very curious to see how this goes over. Their system of scoring is also quite intriguing. I'm not sure I agree with it, but I also don't think I understand it very well.

Here, I have been asked to think about a game for our college's Scholars' Program. The theme this fall is pirates. Since I don't know much about real pirates, I've been reading the assigned book, called The Invisible Hook, which explores the economics of piracy in its heyday (18th century). Most of the modern, popular conceptions of pirates (derived from movies like Pirates of the Caribbean) are so off. I also got a copy of Hosting a Library Mystery by Elizabeth Karle. I've only read the first chapter, but it seems like it will be highly relevant to planning games. In the first chapter, she states that the first steps are to decide what you want players to accomplish, and to choose a theme. I've always said the first step to an educational game is deciding what you want them to learn. So we're off to the right start. I will post highlights here soon.

So hopefully I can have a summer that will be full of learning about game-based learning, though my professional summer will also be cut short by maternity leave.