You wake up in the year 2027. Right after getting up, you put on your Augmented Reality (AR) glasses. These smart glasses help you throughout the day. They remind you of what you need to do, make lessons more enjoyable, and translate what your new classmate says. Can you visualize this future? Thousands of students have thought about these and other questions. In this article, we share the results.
Update 2022: during the Week of Media Literacy in 2022, there were 8,014 individual players who answered all the questions. The questions remained the same. You can view the results here (note: the report is in Dutch). There are little differences compared with the results from 2021. What did stand out was that fewer students from grades 5 and 6 think that learning foreign languages is necessary if Augmented Reality glasses can be used to interpret other languages for us. We have also created a new English version.
ARe you ready?
Students have shared their opinions while playing the game ARe you ready?, created by our talented interns Daan Hobbel and Sanna Bashir. The game was developed as a ThemeMission for MediaMasters, an annual national competition held during the Week of Media Literacy in November.
Nearly 80,000 players had experienced a day in the life of a child from 2027, in which smart AR glasses play a significant role. With this new medium, you can see things in the real world that aren’t actually there; a virtual layer on top of the real world.
By presenting these questions to the students during the game, we were able to encourage them to think along and come up with their own opinions about Augmented Reality. Having an opinion allows you to support it and prevents experiencing the future passively. This makes sure that not only Meta, Apple, and Snapchat can determine what role AR will play in society, but also citizens.
80,000 plays, 17,000 participants
The game was played more than 80,000 times by the end of November 2021. We collected 17,037 complete answer sets. Of these, we used 5,385 in our analysis. This dataset consists of answers from players aged between 9 and 13, who came to our site via the MediaMasters game. This was measured with cookies, which were necessary to count points for the MediaMasters game. This way, we can be sure that these were all unique players. Players outside this age limit or who played the game through another route were excluded.
The questions that were asked in between the game’s levels can be divided into two categories:
- The potential of Augmented Reality
- The societal consequences of this technology.
We will discuss the results per category.
The potential of Augmented Reality
Augmented Reality already has useful and entertaining applications today. For example, checking if a piece of furniture fits in your living room before buying it from the Swedish furniture giant, or using AR to overlay a virtual information layer on the real world. Think of animations and texts that help a novice car mechanic replace brake pads or virtual buttons on a real anatomical model that can be clicked for additional information about an organ.
In the game, players can experience such applications as well as futuristic ones. Are they open to the idea of using smart glasses in this way?
AR as an assistent
In the game, the AR glasses provide nutritional advice. Do children from grades 7 and 8 appreciate this? Most do (73%), although 32% of them would make the healthy choice anyway, regardless of the glasses’ advice (Figure 1). A large portion of children (61%) also find it helpful if the smart glasses help them remember daily.
AR in Education
A smart pair of glasses as a dietitian and personal assistant. Would it also be an interesting addition to education? In the game, children look into the life of a primary school child. The lessons the child receives make use of AR. Only 7% of the children did not like the idea of having lessons with AR glasses (Figure 3). 58% of the children are convinced that this form of teaching is also beneficial for learning (also Figure 3).
There are many opportunities for AR glasses in education.
We think that smart glasses not only influence how we learn, but also what we need to learn. Robin’s graduation research in 2014 was already about this topic.
In the game, a character speaks Japanese to the player. The AR glasses pick this up and automatically start Dutch subtitles. Is it useful to learn other languages if the smart glasses can translate everything for you? We wanted to further elaborate on this discussion for the participants with this question. 11% of the children think that AR makes learning foreign languages unnecessary. But the majority (62%) would rather not depend on the glasses and still find it useful to learn other languages (Figure 4).
AR for navigatie
A more obvious example is navigating with your smart glasses. Virtual arrows projected in the real world help you find your way. In this way, it becomes very difficult to go in the wrong direction. 93% of the children think that we will use smart glasses for navigation later (Figure 5).
The social consequences of Augmented Reality
The emergence of a new computer interface has a huge impact on society and our lives. Enough to get excited about, but also to worry about. That’s why we asked the children if they are concerned about the ethics and safety of AR glasses.
One of the problems that can arise is a kind of social gap between people who have smart glasses and people who cannot (temporarily) be in our new, enriched AR world. We highlighted a similar situation in the game. Is it bad if there are other children who do not have smart glasses and therefore feel excluded? Most children (87%) think this is (a bit) unfair (Figure 6).
The virtual layer projected by an AR glass can be distracting from information in the real world. In fact, things can be hidden by projecting over them. This can be dangerous in traffic. In an AR mini-game in ‘ARe you ready?’, the player is chased by virtual monsters. To stay ahead, many players run through red lights. The use of a smartphone can be dangerous in traffic.
We asked children if they think smart glasses should be banned on bicycles. 60% agreed. 28% want a special “traffic mode” so that the glasses do not pose a danger on the road and can be kept on. And 12% think we should decide for ourselves whether to keep them on or take them off (Figure 7).
Disruption of public order
Almost everyone has played or heard of Pokémon Go, an AR game that led to large gatherings of people in various locations. We believe that this could happen much more often in the future. Virtual artworks at secret locations and massive AR tournaments in the town square. Are you allowed to just organize this? Or should you apply for permits, like for regular events? 69% of the participating children said that rules should be in place and permission should be requested to organize such events (Figure 8).
Many companies collect our data without our conscious consent. This data collection can go a step further with the help of an AR headset, as it can see much more and track things other than just online activity. An obvious example is personalized advertisements. The smart glasses could use information about you, such as conversations and images, to project specific ads in the real world; this also happens in the game.
38% of players aged 9 to 13 believed that no information about them should be used to personalize advertisements. 39% thought it was acceptable, but only if they had given permission themselves. 23% had no problems with sharing information (Figure 9).
Are we becoming too dependent on our smart glasses? Technology like an AR headset can easily enrich the real world, making people possibly unwilling or unable to live without it. About 90% of the children find it concerning that we may become too dependent on this technology in the future (Figure 10).
We conclude that most children see benefits in using smart glasses, but certainly do not want to become dependent on them.
Let’s nuance the results a bit. This is not scientific research. The answers may have been influenced by how AR was portrayed during the game. And it could be that the youngsters who chose to play this game are overly enthusiastic about new media. Fortunately, our goal was not to conduct an academic study. Our mission was to get children thinking, and we certainly succeeded!
- Play the game ARe you ready? yourself.
- Want to know more about research where participants play a game to think about an alternative reality or a future scenario? Read the paper Games as Speculative Design: Allowing Players to Consider Alternate Presents and Plausible Features by Coulton, Burnett, and Gradinar (2016).
- Read (about) Robin’s graduation research (2013), which is about how Augmented Reality not only influences how we learn, but also what we need to learn through the interplay of our cognition and the computing power of computers.