The recent public holidays gave me a chance to do some Gruffalo spotting. Yes that’s right, searching for the Gruffalo in the Chiltern Hills. To be exact in Wendover Woods, one of 26forests in which, with the right app, you can go searching for the purpled prickled monster. After a two kilometre leisurely walk, the knobbly kneed beast was duly found.
The forestry commission, as a way of encouraging it families to visit its forests, has added augmented reality to some of its forests. In a specially laid out trail, the commission has found a lovely balance of traditional, paper and augmented activities to help the trail follower become part of the story and meet the creatures of the book.
As you wander round the trail, signs reveal parts of the next creature to be found and when you find it there is an augmented reality trigger that brings the creature to ‘life’ within the wood. Using your phone on the trigger starts an animated clip in which the found creature then appears.
Cleverly the trigger is large enough to allow you to appear in any photos you might want to take.
For me the set up shows how seamlessly augmented reality can add value to something. The fact that it mixes traditional signs and puzzles with the augmented reward of the creature shows how AR can be used effortlessly and not at the expense of other media and the real world. Judging by the number of families on the trail it is a winning mix.
There is so much that can be done with this from an educational point of view. Ok you need to be based in the UK to do the trails and of course the Gruffalo appeals to the more younger age group but the trail would make an excellent field trip for EAL classes, Summer schools classes or even MFL students. Aside from the language around the trail itself (for a small price you can buy fact sheets about the animals) there is plenty of scope for follow up language work. From students creating their own fact sheets, using their photos to create their own story books (or books recounting the trip) through to creating their own AR trails.