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2 Background

Augmented reality (AR) technology is based on overlapping virtual information in real space. AR technology makes it possible to mix virtual objects generated by computers with a real environment, generating a mixed environment that can be viewed through any technological device in real time. The main characteristics of an augmented reality system are [1]:

Real-time interactivity

Use of 3D virtual elements

Mix of virtual elements with real elements

Augmented reality has emerged from research in virtual reality. Virtual reality environments make possible total immersion in an artificial three-dimensional (3D) world. The involvement of virtual reality (VR) techniques in the development of educational applications brings new perspectives to engineering and architectural degrees. For example, through interaction with 3D models of the environment, the whole construction sequence in time and space of a deck can be simulated for students better understanding [2]. We can also explore hidden structure through ghosted views within the real-world scenes [3] or find several examples of AR and VR applied to monitoring the maintenance of new buildings and to preserve cultural heritage [4-6].

Evaluating the use of VR or AR applications in an industrial setting is a complex task, but some statistics suggest performance improvements of up to 30%, with involved employees reporting higher levels of engagement [7]. Applications of AR that support technicians in the field have the potential to reduce costs by up to 25% through quicker maintenance or component substitution, identification and setup of new connections, solution of faults and misconfigurations, with less burden on backend personnel and system resources.

2.1 Recent Improvements in Mobile Learning

Between 2008 and 2009, new platforms and paradigms emerged to propel AR development in smartphones, such as Junaio, Layar and Wikitude. All of these companies embraced a new concept that consisted in creating an augmented reality browser with

Fig. 1. AR at the UPC University. A 3D model visualized through a mobile device screen thanks to the camera detection of a regular shape or code.

a number of features that allowed developers to produce AR content according to a specific set of rules, and, finally, enabled end-users to view computer generated elements superimposed on the live camera view of common smartphones. These AR browsers are compatible with most mobile operating systems, such as Android, the iPhone OS, or the Symbian.

A framework in which this technology could potentially be used in more interesting ways is the representation and management of territory, because real scenes could be completed with virtual information. This method would facilitate a greater awareness and better understanding of the environment, especially if used in the educational framework. Last year research at universities worldwide focused on the development of AR applications (AGeRA[1], GIS2R[8], ManAR[9]), tools (GTracer for libGlass[10]), educational platforms (TLA[11]), or open resources and contents (ISEGINOVA AR Project[12]) such as 3D architectural models (3D ETSAB AR[13-14]).

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