Augmented reality allows videos to ‘play’ on yearbook pages

Aurasma brings pictures to life

Katrina Foster

This picture has an aura that viewers looking through the Aurasma app on their Android or IOS devices can see if they are subscribed to the travismediateam channel. Augmented reality is a big part of the publications put out by the Travis Media Team this year.

By Florencia Caceres and others, Travis High School

What if we could see newspaper and magazine photos like they appeared in the Harry Potter movies, as videos that came alive right on the paper?

What if your teacher was giving a presentation using the projector and a dinosaur from millions of years ago showed up on the screen looking very hungry?

Or what if you looked at a roadside landmark through a special set of glasses and a stream of historical information suddenly appeared?

With today’s technology, much of that is possible.

Augmented reality, in the form of apps and apparatuses, is changing the way we look at ordinary things. From Google Glass to smartphones, technology is adding information to all kinds of otherwise ordinary objects.

Aurasma, an app being used by the journalism and media classes this year, has made an impact on the way students will be able to interact with their yearbooks.


“It’s definitely nothing like I’ve used before,” newspaper staff writer Arij Khanjee said. “It’s different from all the other apps. They’ve never integrated a video app and a photo app together so this is really new.”

Created by software company Autonomy, it has the ability to link a video to an image and play it when it recognizes the picture.

“Our yearbook staff began using Aurasma this year to enhance photographs in the book,” Dianne Smith-Harper, Travis Media Team adviser, said.

Aurasma is a free augmented reality app available from iTunes and Google Play. By viewing an enhanced photo or object through the app on an IOS or Android device, people can see what has been added to the image.

“We’ve been trying to make our yearbooks more interactive. We’ve used QR codes in the past, which would bring up a video related to the content on the page which you could view through a smartphone. But Aurasma takes it a step further,” Smith-Harper said.

With Aurasma, users create a channel which others subscribe to, sort of like following someone on a social network. Subscribers will be able to see whatever the channel overlays on a trigger image, or the photo that would appear on a page.

“It’s so easy to create an ‘aura.’ You upload the trigger image, or the photo you are going to use, to a website,, then upload an overlay, usually a video, and put the two together,” Smith-Harper said.

Then, when subscribers to that channel view the trigger image through the app on their phone, it looks like the video is playing right on the page.

“Once you understand how to do it, it is easier. It takes a couple of tries with different pictures before you finally learn how to do it,” journalism student Komal Khoja said.

The yearbook staff is very excited about the new technology, but Smith-Harper says the Aurasma app can be used in many ways for educational purposes.

“The possibilities for its use are endless,” she said.

Teachers around the world have been using the app, which was developed by engineers at Cambridge University in the UK, to bring content alive to their students. Websites and YouTube videos abound with instructions and ideas for educators to use.

“You can actually create ‘auras’ right on your smartphone, which a lot of my students did when we first started trying out the technology,” Smith-Harper said.

The iPhone app has some 3D models of dinosaurs which can be brought into a scene, but it won’t be able to be viewed by everyone.

“Unfortunately, the Android and iPhone apps are not totally alike. There are 3D models available on one that are not available on the other, so ‘auras’ created with the phone app may not be viewable from other devices,” she explained.

By hooking the phone or tablet with the app up to the projector, however, provides a way for the 3D models to make an appearance in the classroom, if a teacher has a lesson that involves dinosaurs or some of the other models.

“The technology is amazing, but I thin we’ve only touched the top of the iceberg. Augmented reality is evolving rapidly, and Aurasma is not the only app out there. It will be interesting to see what comes next,” Smith-Harper said.

What comes next for the Travis Media Team is the distribution of the book in May, and the staff hopes the student body is as excited over the technology as they are.

“It will make the yearbook more interesting, journalism student Warisha Chisty said. “It will make it more interactive for the students.”

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