Massive Mixed Reality Community Engagement

Eric Hawkinson
May 18, 2017 · 6 min read

On Friday, April 7th 2017 our research group (Mixed, Augmented and Virtual Realities in Learning — MAVR) in collaboration with The University of Fukuchiyama in Japan, designed and implemented a series of mixed reality environments to orientate and connect students to the community and its members.

The design was the latest iteration of a class of mixed reality learning environments by the group and largely based on the previous years AR Quiz Rally design by Eric Hawkinson. Over the course of an entire day, 220 participants in teams of 10 explored the city of Fukuchiyama in a gamified mixed reality experience. Fukuchiyama is a city in the mountains of north Kyoto Prefecture (Same idea as up-state New York). Students used an augmented reality application and a popular messaging application to find locations, objects and people in the city as well as complete team building challenges and engage with members of the community.

The goal of the project was three fold.

  1. To orientate new students to the city
  2. To create an atmosphere conducive to building new relationships
  3. To connect students to members of the community and opportunities for further community engagement

Augmented reality is very well suited to enhance this type of environment. There are physical locations and people to visit and participants can benefit from receiving timely information about where they are and what/who is around them.

The teams of participants were made up of mostly in-coming freshman students to the University of Fukuchiyama but also included at least two upper class members and one faculty/staff member.

The research team, was mostly made up of members from the MAVR Research group. The MAVR group is looking into what kinds of mixed reality designs work best in different learning environments and had some projects already in progress that were integrated into the activities of the day. One example of those projects is a study abroad pre-departure VR project by Josh Brunotte and Chris Hastings. Another is a AR library scavenger hunt designed by Eric Hawkinson. The team split up all over the city to facilitate different mixed reality activities, Eric stayed on campus and managed communication over all teams and researchers at mission control.

Mission Control

A message from mission control to all teams

Design Elements

From this we boiled own the activities into three categories.

  1. Community Engagement hearings — Each team was given a time and place to meet up with a member of the community. These meetings were with business owners, public officials and other community leaders. They needed to meet at a time most convenient for the guest so we prioritized team movements around this schedule.
  2. Mixed Reality Stations — We designed enough mixed reality stations so that each team could visit one station over the course of the day. Each station could be visited by multiple teams but not more than one team at a time.
  3. Secret Missions/Challenges- We devised a series of challenges and were activated at appropriate times when we knew there could be some down time. They asked teams to find a place or person and take group selfies or find some bit of information about local points of interest.

Augmented Castle

MAVR research team member Parisa Mehran wrote a blog about her involvement and about the preparations that went into the mixed reality activity at the Fukuchiyama Castle.

Augmented Library

When teams first got to the library they used our AR application to scan a trigger in the lobby that asked them to walk a specific course to a room on the 3th floor.

On this route there are listings of important historical events in Japan and Fukuchiyama written in Japanese. The application overlayed English translations of those events on the wall.

When they finally got to the room teams were presented with a lockbox and AR trigger. The trigger was a cipher to help use dates from the history of Fukuchiyama to unlock and open the box.

Inside the box there was a few sets of Google Cardboard and they were used to give teams a virtual scavenger hunt of the city.

Augmented Fire Station

You can read more about it on a blog post by Erin Noxon.

Morning Missions


Secret Missions

Reflection and Harvesting


Mixing realities still needs a ton of calibration to make sure the environment gives a worth while experience, connecting learning outcomes in this way can be challenging and require some creative thinking, but when they work out we found the reception from participants to be very responsive.

Not all stakeholders really grasped the meaning or intent of using AR and VR in the environments and of course would tend to want to give tours of the locations as they are used to doing. The AR application allows for personal discovery and the curators couldn’t help but point things out or explain things about the locations they the AR app could have shown if left participants to explore with them.

Next Steps

More on our projects:

Ready Teacher One

Supporting teachers and classrooms with emerging…

Ready Teacher One

Supporting teachers and classrooms with emerging technologies. Associated with the Mixed, Augmented and Virtural Realities in Learning Research Group (MAVR), AR/VR Developers and educational designers worldwide.

Eric Hawkinson

Written by

Born in Wisconsin, raised in Arizona and lives in Japan. Educator, Researcher, Public Speaker, Author and Learning Technologist.

Ready Teacher One

Supporting teachers and classrooms with emerging technologies. Associated with the Mixed, Augmented and Virtural Realities in Learning Research Group (MAVR), AR/VR Developers and educational designers worldwide.

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