Augmented Reality (AR) is a type of immersive technology that adds some form of Computer-Generated Imagery (CGI) to the real environment, creating an enriched version of reality. Typically an overlay, it allows the user or student to operate in a normal, recognizable world with a feature that either teaches them something, enables them to have a better understanding of the reality behind it, or for entertainment value. Easy examples of AR include Pokémon Go (a phone app with CGI cartoon images inserted into the user’s view) and Princess Leia’s Hologram in Star Wars. Others such as Google Glass (a see-through computer screen) claim to be augmented reality but stretch the definition a bit. I’m inclined to feel this week’s ed-tech review falls in that category as it doesn’t meet the criteria as immersive educational technology because it lacks the ability to put a user in an alternate reality, nor does it truly meet the criteria of AR. But let’s talk about it nonetheless.

Meet Garmin Varia Vision, an in-sight display for cyclists.

At $400, this is marketed to serious cyclists who have already invested in other compatible required devices, such as a cadence sensor, heart rate monitor, and GPS. The device mounts to the user’s own glasses. It weighs only 1.1oz therefore it doesn’t appear to be a physical hindrance or alter the user’s natural organic movement. While not targeted as such, this has potential to be an educational benefit to trainers, athletic programs, and university science departments.
By providing the user with real-time data on heart rate, power (watts), and speed, a cyclist training to a specific target can monitor and adjust their training on the fly. The GPS functionality and integration with Garmin Connect software enables the user to create route maps in advance and upload to the device for turn-by-turn navigation aids, removing the needs for training distractions like stopping for map checks.

At first glance (no pun intended), the Garmin Varia Vision seems like little more than fancy convenience tech. Upon further review, it may have potential to improve the way a cyclist self-regulates their own training while they are physically engaged in the process. Without this tech, data evaluation happens either after the training is complete, or requiring the user to look down at a monitor on their handlebars and fumble through different screens. If we look at performance data as concurrent feedback, applying value to it the way we do in gaming, for example, there are similar learning benefits. There is still a requirement for scrolling through views to get access to all the information available, and I do wonder if the display would cause a different type of distraction, but that is saving something for a more detailed review.

So to recap, not so much AR as cool wearable tech. But if this happens… and then pair it with Strava for real-time races against ghosts on live segments, or Zwift so that your overlay includes an interactive CGI race in London…now THAT would be downright life-changing!!

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