I am, like many people, very quickly finding out that augmented reality has an endless number of uses in the “real world” and is not limited to just video games. As usual, I’m late to this discovery, though not too late to have predictions of what effects this technology will have on society once it becomes widely available and embraced. Specifically, how might augmented reality affect the next generation of children who will grow up with it? Will this aid them in their development? Or set them back?
It Starts With Coloring
It is no surprise that Disney is already securing its place as a trusted, stimulating, and enjoyable source of entertainment for this next generation of kids. Their recent developments in augmented reality are impressive. In a recent publication, Disney shared how they will revolutionize children’s coloring books by using AR to make the drawings “come alive” as three-dimensional characters on a tablet screen. Coloring has always been an early creative outlet for children. “However, given the proliferation and popularity of digital devices,” Disney explains, “real-world activities like coloring can seem unexciting, and children become less engaged in them.”
Disney’s attempt to change this is one of the best I’ve seen and has the potential to foster a sense of creativity and curiosity in children to a degree television and video games were never capable of. It’s magic.
“Turn off the TV and go play outside,” is a command most children who grew up in the 90’s and early 2000’s are probably familiar with. Activities that require imagination have become less appealing in the face of countless television networks and video games. The creative thought has already been done for them. In a study conducted by Ohio University, 96.3% of the middle schoolers* participating watched television at least once a week. With augmented reality available, this time could be reallocated to a more creative outlet.
This coloring book app is not the first AR technology to encourage participating with the environment in a more active and curious way, nor will it be the last. Nintendo has announced Pokémon GO, a smartphone app that will allow users to find and capture virtual Pokémon in the whatever real environment they find themselves in. The app would give directions on where to go, encouraging exploration and discovery of areas that might otherwise go overlooked.
Google has also gotten into the AR game, hosting both augmented and virtual reality apps in their Google Play Android app store. The official Star Wars app allows users to interact with augmented reality characters as well as utilizes Google Cardboard’s 360 degree technology for its virtual reality Jakku Spy game. Ingress, a massive-multiplayer adventure and strategy game, blurs the lines between the real world and virtual world, sending players to real locations to capture virtual portals and establish bases. Since the game runs in real time, the game’s progress inevitably varies each time you open the app. Google’s app store opens up a new market for augmented and virtual reality developers by allowing people to access a variety of augmented and virtual reality apps. This lifts the technology out of its niche and brings it ever-closer to being a household product.
Curiosity and Discovery
The more augmented reality advances, the more affordable it will become. Once it reaches the point where children grow up with it, as the last generation did with computers, we’re sure to see development in creative thought that could become helpful later in life. “A new study from Michigan State University found,” reports Psychology Today, “that childhood participation in arts and crafts leads to innovation, patents, and increases the odds of starting a business as an adult.” While digitally-animated cartoons dancing on a page might not count as “arts and crafts,” it is at least drawing children back from the TV and encouraging them to pick up a crayon and draw.
Networks like PBS KIDS have found that hide and seek, scavenger hunts, puzzles, and capture the flag are all games with potential for augmented reality compatibility and have begun work on several children’s titles. Surely there are more to come too. These will make physical activity, curiosity, and discovery more appealing to children.
While it is too early to truly know where this will lead, it’s safe to assume that, much like television and the Internet, once augmented reality finds itself in the hands of children it will change the way they see and interact with the world.
Much like the Internet and television before it, AR and VR will have enormous impact on how people see and interact with the world. The gap in understanding between my parents and myself, regarding the Internet and other technology I grew up with, will likely be mirrored between myself and the next generation that will grow up with augmented reality. The reality of AR’s effects will only be revealed once the technology joins its predecessors as familiar, widely-used services. Until then, all eyes are on those in augmented reality. In more ways than one.
*The data in the study is separated by gender. This percentage is calculated by using their separate percentages to find the exact number of boys and girls who watched television once a week and compare it to the total number of children surveyed. This exact percentage is not included in their paper.
Featured Image via Disney and Youtube
Dylan Eller is a freelance writer and musician from Boise, ID who writes about tech, current events, music, and science. He has been published on TechCrunch, IVN, Has It Leaked?, Astronaut, and more.