Image: Karissa Bell/mashable

Google is bringing its room-sensing augmented reality tech to the classroom.

Two years after bringing VR field trips into schools with its Expeditions program, the company is expanding the project to include a new type of lesson: augmented reality.

The augmented-reality lessons, which are powered by Google’s Project Tango technology, will work much the same way as their VR counterparts. Except, instead of taking students on VR “field trips” teachers will be able to place 3D objects around their classrooms for students to explore.

“In a lot of ways, what we learned from VR has really led us here,” says Ben Schrom, product manager for Expeditions. “VR is an amazing way to let you feel like you’re in a different place, but it kind of leaves you wanting to interact with objects in the scene.”

By incorporating Project Tango into the mix, Schrom says teachers will now have more options at their disposal and can tailor lessons around which the medium is best-suited for the material.

A lesson about space could bring 3D images of the Earth, moon and sun onto students’ desks, for instance, while one on Rome may center around a VR tour of the Coliseum. The goal, according to Google, is for Expeditions to be able to easily accommodate both types of lessons.

Project Tango, which leverages a set of specialized sensors, has different hardware requirements than Expeditions’ existing catalog of VR-ready videos that work with Android smartphones and cheap cardboard viewers. 

But Google is working with hardware parters, like Asus, to make augmented reality-capable devices available to classrooms. The company is also launching a new Pioneer Program to put these kits in the hands of teachers in time for the start of the school year next fall.

In the meantime, the company is hoping to bring more developer partners and institutions onboard to beef up Expeditions’ AR content. 

Since launching at the I/O developer conference two years ago, Expeditions has let more than 2 million students take VR field trips, according to Google. Now the company is hoping to have the same impact with its AR lessons.

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