Thing 17 & 18 : Geolocation Tools, Augmented/Virtual Reality

Thing 17: Geolocation Tools

Geolocation is the process of identifying the location of a device by means of information processed via the Internet. This is generally done using theGlobal Positioning System (GPS), which  is a network of about 30 satellites orbiting the Earth that was originally developed by the US government for military navigation but now anyone with a   GPS-enabled smartphone or device can use satellite data to determine their location, or if  a GPS signal is unavailable, it can use information from mobile towers to triangulate your approximate position.

Geolocation apps take this data and incorporate it with the app software to provide an interactive experience via your device. One of the most popular of these apps is Geocaching.

Geocaching – This is an activity in which an item, or a container holding a number of items, is hidden at a particular location for GPS users to find by means of coordinates posted on the Internet. The app isn’t necessary, anyone can search for a geocache by obtaining the co-ordinates online and then using a GPS device.  However, the app makes this even easier by notifying you of nearby geocaches and directing you to the cache of which there are millions located all around the world.

The University of Edinburgh has explored further uses for geolocation in apps and has created the three below in collaboration with its partners:

Curious Edinburgh (iOS + Google Play)–  A mobile walking tour app developed by Science, Technology and Innovation Studies at The University of Edinburgh. Tours available include: the general history of science, the history of geology, the history of physics, the history of medicine, the history of genetics and biotechnology, and the Scottish Enlightenment. It also now has community tours, including the Jewish history of Edinburgh, made in collaboration with the Research Network in Jewish Studies at the University of Edinburgh. More tours are currently in development.

LitLong: Edinburgh (iOS only) – Is an app that shows you text extracts of books that mention place-names in Edinburgh. These extracts are shown with the title, author and year of the book; and can be found either by finding books that are nearest to your current location or by browsing the map and selecting pins to see how far that place is from you and what texts are mentioned there.

WalkThruTime – Edinburgh (iOS only) –  Users can scroll through time looking at maps of their location that are hundreds of years old. This app is a working prototype and makes use of Landmarks historical maps. The current licence is only for HE institutions in the UK, using Edinburgh as a proof of concept

How to complete Thing 17

Go to to learn more and try the app. See if you can locate a geocache in your area and share your adventure on your blog.


Explore one of the other apps created at The University of Edinburgh and write about this on your blog.


Share on your blog another geolocation app that you have found to be useful and/or fun!

Thing 18: Augmented and Virtual Reality

Virtual Reality

Virtual Reality (VR) is a realistic and immersive simulation of a three-dimensional environment. A simulation is the imitation of a real-world process or system over time. We’ve used simulations in a variety of ways for hundreds of years, for example simulated battlefields using maps and figures to plan, flight simulations to train pilots, and physical model simulations to train medical staff. Simulation can be used to show the eventual real effects of alternative conditions and courses of action. Simulation is also used when the real system cannot be engaged, because it may not be accessible, or it may be dangerous or unacceptable to engage, or it is being designed but not yet built, or it may simply not exist.

Virtual Reality is the next step in human use of simulations and is created using interactive software and hardware, which can be experienced or controlled by movement of the body. Generally this is created using goggles, headsets, or screens.

SketchFab Open.Ed 3D images –  Sketchfab is a website used to display and share 3D content models online. It provides a 3D model viewer allows the display of 3D models on any mobile, desktop webpage or VR headset. 3D models can be viewed with or without the VR option. The Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies at The University of Edinburgh has provided a series of openly licensed 3D models of animal skeletons and skulls that can be viewed, downloaded, re-used, and re-shared.

InCell – This a neat game where you are miniaturised into the micro world of human cell and must race stop the advance of a virus in your patient.This is a neat game that can be played with or without a Virtual Reality option.

One of the cheapest ways to experience virtual reality at the moment is to use the Google Cardboard viewer. Viewers can be purchased fairly reasonably for £3 and up via various online retailers, or  you can make your own using the template and instructions released by Google.

How to make your own Google Cardboard headset

Augmented Reality

Augmented reality (AR) is a live view of a real-world environment which is overlaid with computer generated virtual imagery. This is generally achieved by a combination of real world targets such as posters, a physical object, or a GPS location, with an app on a mobile phone or tablet device that is camera enabled. The software on the device takes input from the camera and overlays an augmented view on the screen for the user. While not as immersive as the virtual reality experience, augmented reality has a wide range of applications that are just beginning to be explored by developers, from education, training, sport, scientific research, historical recreation and understanding, and of course entertainment.

For example:

Dulux Visualiser – lets you layer a variety of paint colours onto the view of your rooms to see how it might look.

QuiverVision’s colour-in pictures  – colour-in pages can be printed out for free, coloured in, and then using the app can be turned into 3D interactive animations to delight children.

PokemonGo – has been taking the app game world by storm. Incredibly popular it combines GPS location with mapping services and augmented overlays to create a highly engaging creature-hunting game. Free to play and a whole bunch of fun, I definitely recommend giving it a try.

How to complete Thing 18

Try playing around with one or more of the Augmented and Virtual Reality tools and share your experience on your blog.

Additional Resources

How virtual reality training is changing American football, DJ Pangburn – Interesting article on the use of VR by American football teams to improve decision making and strategy without the physical impact of real world training.

Using virtual reality welding to evaluate and train welders, Sarah Evans – How virtual reality is being used to identify and train skilled workers.

Augmented Reality in Education and Training, Kangdon Lee – (accessible article, download the PDF to read the full article) This is a very readable paper that examines the variety of ways Augmented Reality is being used to provide education and training across K -12 education, higher education, culture, industry, and business.