Augmented reality lifts awareness of nature preservation

Jan 22, 2014 by Chris Casey
Augmented reality lifts awareness of nature preservation
This image shows what a viewer sees when they hold their tablet up to a bald eagle marker. Information about the eagle drops down on the left side of the screen while a 3-D bald eagle moves within the landscape.

Imagine strolling along a wildlife refuge trail and finding a marker with a symbol of a bison. Pull out your smartphone or iPad and hold it up to the picture. Now look at the screen and see a 3-D bison roam across the landscape.

Through the magic of , visitors to the Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge (RMA) could click an app and enjoy sightings of rare or endangered animals - albeit virtual ones - in a pristine setting. Augmented reality, as it's known, is gaining popularity as a way to enhance natural excursions - dinosaurs popping up in a forest, for example - or to teach engine repair, surgical procedures and other technical lessons.

Michelle Carpenter, an assistant professor in Digital Design in CU Denver's College of Arts & Media (CAM), teaches a Design Studio 3 class where students work with nonprofits to improve their outreach through media and design. Also working on the project is Bryan Leister, an assistant professor of visual arts in CAM.

The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS) approached the class with the goal of raising the profile of its "Get Your Goose On" program, which promotes awareness of the National Wildlife Refuge System - including the Rocky Mountain Arsenal - particularly among youth.

"We thought maybe we could use to increase interest from younger people," Carpenter said. "That way people could have a phone or tablet and see animals, including , which might appear there."

Augmented reality lifts awareness of nature preservation
Digital Design students, from left, Shawn Jenkins, Seth Chaps, Sarah Torp and David Bonilla stand with Professor Michelle Carpenter, second from left, at the Rocky Mountain Arsenal as they demonstrate their augmented reality project for U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service officials.

Carpenter has followed trends in augmented reality for several years. She gained more insight last May when she co-led a group of 20 students on Scandinavian by Design, a CAM study abroad course. The group visited several Danish museums and companies, including YOKE, which has created augmented reality apps for museum exhibits, the Danish Architecture Centre and a Danish furniture maker. With augmented reality, Carpenter said, "it's virtual, but yet you're interacting with it."

That interactive quality, especially, prompted Design Studio 3 students to choose augmented reality apps over typical promotional materials - pamphlets, fliers and videos - to lure visitors to national wildlife refuges.

"It's a more interesting way to bring people to the refuge," said student David Bonilla.

Student Shawn Jenkins added, "It's a way to engage kids who are now so hooked on iPads, tablets and gadgets. It gives them a reason to take the devices outside and explore. This is actually interactive."

To see how the augmented reality app works in the field, click here.

So far, the students, led by Android app spearhead Sarah Torp, have created deer and a bald eagle that appear when a device is held up to the "Get Your Goose On" logo. Rounding out the five-student augmented reality team, which also has an iOS app in the works, are Seth Chaps and Erica Warfield. There are 18 students in the class, with projects ranging from augmented reality to upgraded websites for a host of nonprofits, including one that helps impoverished people in Guatemala. "It's a very real-world experience for the students," Carpenter said.

The CU Denver hope to find out soon if the USFWS is interested in rolling out their app at RMA. So far, refuge staff like what they've seen of the technology and how it could enhance visitors' experiences at the 22-square-mile urban refuge.

"I think it's very exciting," said Sherry James, visitor services manager at the Arsenal. "It's definitely something we would be interested in piloting to see if it works here, especially since we're an urban refuge and it fits nicely into the Urban Wildlife Refuge Initiative."

The technology could be used in various ways, Carpenter noted. "It could be used with, say, a golden eagle. The eagle could be soaring and you could take a picture with your tablet as well as view a drop-down screen that gives information about the golden eagle."

Explore further: Virtual reality transforms real-life shopping in stores

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Virtual reality transforms real-life shopping in stores

Jan 08, 2014

In the not-too-distant future, grocery shoppers wearing Google Glass will see coupons for a new cereal flash before their eyes as they search for Cheerios, while others browsing the dairy section will have information about ...

Augmented Reality for Your GPS (w/ Video)

May 21, 2010

( -- GPS may no longer have to be about following audio directions only, and looking at maps on your screen. Wikitude Drive for Android offers an augmented reality feature that lets you actually ...

SeeThru AR eyewear device sets sights on consumer market

Jan 18, 2014

( —By air, by sea, by workout trails, augmented reality headsets have just got more interesting with Laster Technologies' SeeThru eyewear. Laster recently launched its SeeThru campaign on Kickstarter, ...

Recommended for you

Patent talk: Google sharpens contact lens vision

2 hours ago

( —A report from Patent Bolt brings us one step closer to what Google may have in mind in developing smart contact lenses. According to the discussion Google is interested in the concept of contact ...

Neuroscientist's idea wins new-toy award

23 hours ago

When he was a child, Robijanto Soetedjo used to play with his electrically powered toys for a while and then, when he got bored, take them apart - much to the consternation of his parents.

Land Rover demos invisible bonnet / car hood (w/ video)

Apr 14, 2014

( —Land Rover has released a video demonstrating a part of its Discover Vision Concept—the invisible "bonnet" or as it's known in the U.S. the "hood" of the car. It's a concept the automaker ...

Visions of 1964 World's Fair didn't all come true

Apr 12, 2014

Video phone calls? Yeah, we do that. Asking computers for information? Sure, several times a day. Colonies on the moon and jet packs as a mode of everyday transportation. OK, maybe not.

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Budding Geologist
not rated yet Jan 22, 2014
Who would want to bring their Ipad on a hike through a nature reserve? Typically when I go to wilderness areas... its to enjoy the wilderness and isolation from humanity.

More news stories

Patent talk: Google sharpens contact lens vision

( —A report from Patent Bolt brings us one step closer to what Google may have in mind in developing smart contact lenses. According to the discussion Google is interested in the concept of contact ...

Tech giants look to skies to spread Internet

The shortest path to the Internet for some remote corners of the world may be through the skies. That is the message from US tech giants seeking to spread the online gospel to hard-to-reach regions.

Wireless industry makes anti-theft commitment

A trade group for wireless providers said Tuesday that the biggest mobile device manufacturers and carriers will soon put anti-theft tools on the gadgets to try to deter rampant smartphone theft.

ESO image: A study in scarlet

This new image from ESO's La Silla Observatory in Chile reveals a cloud of hydrogen called Gum 41. In the middle of this little-known nebula, brilliant hot young stars are giving off energetic radiation that ...

First direct observations of excitons in motion achieved

A quasiparticle called an exciton—responsible for the transfer of energy within devices such as solar cells, LEDs, and semiconductor circuits—has been understood theoretically for decades. But exciton movement within ...

Warm US West, cold East: A 4,000-year pattern

Last winter's curvy jet stream pattern brought mild temperatures to western North America and harsh cold to the East. A University of Utah-led study shows that pattern became more pronounced 4,000 years ago, ...