Shawn Gilmer
Ontario Tech University


This chapter aims to support educators in the decision process of implementing mobile technology such as augmented reality (AR) into the curriculum, to aid in the study of human anatomy. The process of incorporating AR can be a daunting endeavor for educators. This chapter presents examples of AR applications to use, information on technical capabilities, educational value, and the potential pros and cons and future implications of implementing AR, for the study of human anatomy. There are opportunities to use handheld devices and AR in the educational process, to aid in making learning more motivating and exciting, and to get students actively involved in constructing their knowledge.


mobile technologies, mobile learning, handheld devices, education


The way in which students access information is changing. Students are less likely to use paper textbooks, as the standard practice is to purchase eBooks now, and more likely to search for information using their handheld devices. Students, for the most part, are well versed with the use of handheld devices as they have grown up with them. Educators are in a situation where they need to look beyond the paper textbook and blackboard and toward integrating technology into the classroom, specifically handheld technology and software. There are opportunities to use handheld devices in the educational process, to aid in making learning more motivating and exciting, and to get students involved in constructing their knowledge. Incorporating information and communication technologies (ICTs) into the class can be a daunting endeavour for educators, however, it can be transforming when it comes to their academic sessions with their students and the overall learning process (González Izard et al., 2020). If educators are to look beyond the paper textbook, where can they find the proper mobile application or software, how can they involve students in actively using the technology, and what are the pros and cons of each? This chapter will look at answering these questions to help educators make informed decisions when it comes to implementing mobile augmented reality (AR) applications (apps) and software for use in teaching anatomy in classrooms.

Background Information

Many tools will allow teachers to display 3D images on the projector, such as videos, interactive 3D software, or presentation software such as PowerPoint (Microsoft, 2022). These types of software will in fact be more visual, however, one could argue that use of it is no different than writing on the blackboard. There is a difference between using 3D imagery through the projector (PowerPoint), putting the device in the student’s hands, and actively learning using the technology. This chapter will focus on implementing mobile augmented reality applications and software for the use in teaching human anatomy. Therefore, it is essential to explain the difference between augmented and virtual reality. Virtual reality (VR) is an entirely immersive experience, meaning it replaces a real-life environment with a simulated one, typically using virtual reality glasses or helmets. Augmented reality (AR) augments or in other words increases your surroundings by adding digital elements to a view, which is often captured using the camera on one’s smartphone. The technique and incorporation of augmented reality for studying human anatomy to help facilitate learning anatomical body contents is a complementary means to traditional methods such as atlases and textbooks (González Izard et al., 2020). AR can provide interactive experiences through the addition of virtual elements to the real world, which has the potential to enhance students’ ability to be active participants in the learning process and be a part of the knowledge building. AR also has the potential to support self-study abilities, self-control, and autonomy in learning activities (Karagozlu 2017). What further complicates things for educators when it comes to choosing the correct AR application is the fact that when developing these technologies, much of the research out there does not focus on the actual education agenda of educators in mind, but focuses on the technical capabilities of the given application (Dreimane & Daniela, 2020). This chapter will briefly overview different handheld AR applications and their technical capabilities. But more importantly, it will focus on the educational aspects and the overall pros and cons of using handheld AR apps in the classroom to help educators make an informed decision.

Handheld Augmented Reality Applications

One can use many different types of handheld applications and software. This chapter will explore and focus on three different AR apps to provide examples rather than for promotion, Humanoid AR+ (Octagon Studios, 2022), Luke AR (Strata Mixed Reality, 2019), and Human Anatomy 4D (Interactive Anatomy, n.d.). The rationale for the case of the three apps is based on the fact that they have AR capabilities, can be taken mobile (handheld), have educational value, and most importantly, are free to use.

Humanoid AR+ is a free educational AR app that allows one to use 3D for fundamental aspects of anatomy. This application is mainly aimed at students and professionals interested in knowing more about the human body. The application focuses on five main topics: bones, muscles, internal organs, central body systems and brain structure. Human AR can give concise explanations about each of the body parts selected (Octagon Studio, 2021; González Izard et al., 2020).

Human Anatomy 4D is a free AR app intended for teachers, professionals, physicians, and students of all levels to study human anatomy in an interactive 4D experience (Interactive Anatomy, n.d.).

Luke AR is a free mobile app that allows you to view human anatomy in augmented reality. A life-size human model will appear to be standing right before you, whether indoors or outdoors (Strata Mixed Reality, 2019).

Technical Capabilities

Before AR apps can be used within a classroom, educators must consider their technical capabilities (Dreimane & Daniela, 2020). One of the three criteria used to choose the examples discussed was if the applications had mobile capabilities, and this is the case. All three apps allow the user to move with their mobile device and walk around the augmented human body. At the same time, it stays still in one place, which allows for a closer real-life experience rather than a static representation of the human body like many other apps (Dreimane & Daniela, 2020). Through the research performed by Dreimane and Daniela (2020), they found that when comparing AR applications and considering technological performance criteria, Luke AR had the highest score, followed by Human Anatomy 4D and Humanoid AR. Further evaluations were performed when it came to the technical performance, such as “Use of the app,” “The graphics of the app,” “Perception of the app,” and “Interactivity of the app.” All three apps scored high in these areas. Based on the findings, one could argue that the three examples of AR apps meet the basic requirements for being technically sound. However, educators need to make sure, at the same time, they possess educational value.

Educational Value

The importance of educational value when it comes to mobile AR apps cannot be stressed enough when implementing such technologies. The difficulty for educators is demonstrated through a literature review by Garzón and Acevedo (2019). At the time, it was found that only one AR article was evaluated from the perspective of improved learning outcomes. The use of technologies has the potential to promote motivation, learning, and participation of students in and outside the classroom (González Izard et al., 2020). AR technologies can enhance students’ ability to participate actively in the learning process and knowledge building. They can also support essential aspects of learning, such as self-control, autonomy in learning activities, and self-study abilities (Dreimane & Daniela, 2020). AR can place the student in a classroom to feel closer to the related human anatomy learning environment in a practical, visual, interactive, and immersive way. (González Izard et al., 2020). Motivation is a significant factor an educator must consider when it comes to students using and benefiting from AR technology. Research has shown that there is a positive impact on learning motivation when it comes to implementing AR on learning. AR can also be used to gain their attention and increase their interest, pulling them into the learning process and making them active participants (Dreimane & Daniela, 2020). The learning model of educational playful pedagogy or learning by playing together is about finding resources and technology that educators can bring into the classroom and make them a part of the student’s educational process. AR can be one of these resources and is strongly correlated with this learning model (González Izard et al., 2020). In a study by Dreimane and Daniela (2020), when it comes to educational value criteria, all three examples of AR apps had high mean values. This demonstrates they have the potential to be an effective educational tool, but what are the pros and cons of the integration of AR apps?

Pros and Cons of Integration

Educators should consider both the positives and negatives when it comes to integrating AR apps. The first positive is that many AR apps are easy to use and require no training for the educator or students, which is the case for the three examples of AR apps given (Dreimane & Daniela, 2020; González Izard et al., 2020). At the same time, AR solutions can be a challenge for young children, especially children who rely on their perceptions to process decisions, as AR can confuse at times (Dreimane & Daniela, 2020). A positive mentioned earlier is that many of these apps are free, which makes them far less expensive than some traditional methods of learning anatomy, such as cadaver labs. When it comes to possible negatives of other conventional methods of learning human anatomy, such as textbooks, it can be difficult for students to visualize 3D from a 2D visual, which has the potential to affect the learning process (Kurniawan et al., 2018). Another possible downfall of many AR apps is that it is difficult for educators to adjust for specific learning needs as the structure of much of the material cannot be changed within the app (Dreimane & Daniela, 2020). Overall, the positives of implementing AR apps in the classroom seem to outweigh the negatives.

Conclusions and Future Recommendations

It doesn’t have to be about replacing traditional educational tools; rather, these AR technologies have the potential to be effective in enabling students to manage their learning process in a way that complements traditional tools. In the past, AR technologies may have been seen as entertainment rather than educational, but this is changing. It is important to note that the role of the teacher is still vital, and AR technology cannot completely replace human interaction. As for future considerations, it should be noted that none of the three apps outlined were designed for people with special needs, and this could be an avenue for future research and consideration. Also, all three apps were entirely in English, except one with a Spanish option; this could be a consideration for the future to increase access to other languages. If educators wish to look beyond the paper textbook, they can seek out the correct mobile application or software to involve students in active learning using the technology. Educators need to make informed decisions regarding implementing mobile AR apps and software for use in teaching anatomy in the classrooms.


Dreimane, & Daniela, L. (2020). Educational Potential of Augmented Reality Mobile Applications for Learning the Anatomy of the Human Body. Technology, Knowledge and Learning, 26(4), 763–788.

Garzón, & Acevedo, J. (2019). Meta-analysis of the impact of Augmented Reality on students’ learning gains. Educational Research Review, 27, 244–260.

González Izard, Juanes Méndez, J. A., García-Peñalvo, F. J., & Moreno Belloso, C. (2020). App Design and Implementation for Learning Human Anatomy Through Virtual and Augmented Reality. In Radical Solutions and eLearning (pp. 199–213). Springer Singapore.

Interactive Anatomy. (n.d.). 4D interactive anatomy real human specimens online. 4D Interactive Anatomy.

Karagozlu. (2017). Determination of the impact of augmented reality application on the success and problem-solving skills of students. Quality & Quantity, 52(5), 2393–2402.

Kurniawan, M. H., Suharjito, Diana, & Witjaksono, G. (2018). Human Anatomy Learning Systems Using Augmented Reality on Mobile Application. Procedia Computer Science, 135, 80–88.

Microsoft (2022). PowerPoint.

Octagon Studio. (2021). Octagon Studio Ltd: Augmented Reality Company (Humanoid AR+).

Strata Mixed Reality. (2019). Luke AR.


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Technology and the Curriculum: Summer 2022 Copyright © 2022 by Shawn Gilmer is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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