Curiscope CEO Ed Barton is on an eye-opening voyage of discovery.
Not through the various skeletons and specimens exhibited at London’s Grant Museum of Zoology, but into his own body.
He’s using ‘Virtuali-Tee’, a new augmented reality educational app that seemingly provides a window to the body’s internal organs.
“This is the Virtuali-Tee app, we have programmed it as such so that it recognizes and can see the organs as though they are really there,” he explains.
“And so you can see this is a realistic heart animation and we can move around it as though it is really there and go very, very, very close to it and also quite far away.
“So, you can actually explore my body as though you can see under my skin.”
The augmented reality app works using a mobile device’s camera, tracking the unique squared pattern on Barton’s blue T-shirt.
This allows the technology to digitally construct a seemingly lifelike window to the body, showing organs such as the heart, lungs and stomach.
As the device moves, so too does the realistic 3D model.
It’s like the user has suddenly developed X-ray vision and can look into his own anatomy.
Virtauli-Tee was brought to life by a successful crowdfunding campaign on website Kickstarter last April.
Barton and his colleagues at London-based startup Curiscope raised almost 75,000 British pounds (approx. $92,000 US) to make their high-tech educational idea a reality.
He says they wanted to use technology to inspire younger generations about biology.
“Certainly a lot of kids that we spoke to whilst we were founding the company didn’t find biology that interesting and we just saw there was a huge opportunity to connect people to science,” he says.
The mobile app also allows users to tap on certain organs to get a video description of what they’re viewing.
Perhaps best known for it’s simple role in popular mobile game ‘Pokemon Go’, augmented reality works by seemingly overlaying the real world with information, avatars or user interfaces.
While augmented reality and virtual reality are fast-becoming popular technologies in gaming, Barton believes there’s a world of opportunities in areas such as education.
“Often science feels too complex for some children because they can’t necessarily see it in a visual way,” he says.
“And we would like to change that and I think we would also like to change how people think about their health and their fitness.
Tech expert Nicole Scott from website ‘Mobilegeeks’ says it’s applications like this that’s making augmented reality a technology to watch.
“Augmented reality is really interesting as it emerges in today’s society because it’s the blending of the two fields that make it legitimately interesting,” she says.
“Here, it’s medical and obviously mobile and augmented reality and it’s allowing us to see into a world that perhaps we weren’t able to see into before.”
Barton says there’s a world of potential applications for augmented reality and virtual reality in education beyond their smart app.
How about witnessing a science experiment too dangerous to conduct in a learning space? Or perhaps going on a digital field trip to an inaccessible location?
“AR’s potential in education is really about bringing things to life that perhaps have laid dormant beforehand,” he says.
“So, we’ve all these kind of manners of things that you can bring to life with virtual reality and augmented reality and these are often things that are too dangerous.”
The Virtuali-Tee T-shirt costs around 20-24 British pounds (approx. $24-29 USD).
The app, which works on iOS and Android devices, can be downloaded for free, but only works with the accompanying blue, red or green T-shirts.