Augmented Reality and Web 3.0

Saturday 30 April 2011

by Nik Peachey

During my recent spate of workshops, training and conference presentations, one of the most common questions I have been asked is: “What will Web 3.0 be like?”

I guess it had to come. Almost as soon as people started describing various sites as Web 2.0 others started speculating about Web 3.0 and what it would be.


augmented reality image

Augmented Reality

What is Web 2.0?

To put this discussion into context, the term ‘Web 2.0’ came about to describe a change in web that begun a few years back. For me, one of the key changes that occurred was a shift from websites that had content which was designed delivered and controlled by the company or person that produced the site, to a ‘user generated’ model of content development.

In the user generated model, companies produced web services which enabled anyone who signed up for the service to produce and share their own content. Some prime examples of this are of course YouTube, Facebook, Blogger and MySpace. None of the companies that produce these sites make any content, they just create the platform and then anyone who wants to use the platform creates the content. You can contrast this with something like the BBC’s website where the BBC owns the site and produces the content for the site. We just go there to passively receive the news – though many news sites like the BBC and CNN have included some web 2.0 type features to involve and include audience opinions and comments much more.

The other key change that blossomed with web 2.0 was the huge growth in social networking. Because ‘ordinary’ people like you and I were able to create and publish our content online, we wanted to start sharing it with our friends, colleagues and just about anyone around the world who was interested, so these sites also enabled us to connect up with our networks of friends and to start interacting with their content and commenting and collaborating together.

So the fundamental change that came about was a kind of ‘democratization of the web’. It changed from being largely a ‘top down’ broadcast medium where only those with the skills or money to develop websites controlled what was published, to a ‘peer to peer’ interactive network where anyone with basic digital literacies could create a web presence and start sharing information with anyone who was interested.

What about Web 3.0?

So, that’s a very brief description of the shift to Web 2.0, but what about Web 3.0? Does there have to be one? Is it already here?

I’ve heard quite a few people speculating about Web 3.0. At one point, when virtual worlds such as Second Life were all the rage, it was being described as Web 3.D and many were predicting that the web would become a 3 dimensional space that we would fly around using our virtual avatars.

Others have described Web 3.0 as the ‘semantic web’. The development of semantic web standards was designed to help computers ‘understand’ and read web pages and make connections between them. This would dramatically improve the effectiveness of search engines and help people to access web based information more effectively.

One of the most recent predictions is that with the drastic growth of internet able hand-held devices such as phones, gaming consoles and tablet devices Web 3.0 will be all about ‘the mobile web’.

Web 3.0 and Augmented Reality

In my opinion, Web 3.0 will combine features from all of these in the form of what is being described as ‘ Augmented Reality’. Augmented reality is a kind of fusion between our existing physical reality and the internet. That sounds a bit farfetched, but in fact it is much simpler than it sounds and it is happening already.

What it means in reality is that mobile devices, will help us to access information from the internet which is specific to our physical location and proximity to real world objects places and even people. Check out mobile apps from Gowalla and Foursquare for examples of this.

What’s more devices that have some form of optic, such as a camera, will enable us to see and interact with 3D multimedia visualizations of information which can be overlaid on what the camera shows us of the ‘real’ world. here’s an interesting video of an augmented reality web browser being used on a mobile phone;

A good way to understand this is to think about the kinds of small audio devices that you can hire when you visit some museums or famous monuments. They usually direct you around a specific route and at certain points you listen to the recording and it tells you about what you can see at that point. But with augmented reality your mobile device will know where you are and you will be able to access and interact with different kinds of information about that place. Taking our museum tour as an example, you could hold up your camera phone in front of a painting and the painting could come to life in 3D or you could see a 3D virtual representation of the painter telling you about the painting. You could also access messages left by other people who have visited the painting and leave your own impressions for others to share.

Augmented reality could open up huge potential for education outside of the classroom and enable students to learn and interact with whatever is in their immediate physical environment at any particular time. It could also transform publishing and the way we interact with books and images by enabling us to transform them into interactive multimedia. The best way to see how this works is to go to the GE website which uses augmented reality to show forms of renewable energy. ( ). This has a really nice example of 3D augmented reality. You’ll need to print up a single piece of paper, then hold it up in front of your web cam and see what happens or if you are feeling lazy, just watch this video: GE’s Augmented Reality

So what do you think?

  • Do you have your own prediction about what Web 3.0 will be?
  • Have you tried any augmented reality apps yet?

12 responses to Augmented Reality and Web 3.0

  1. Kevin Chao says:

    I’m extremely fascinated, excited, and interested in Web 3.0, mobile web, and augmented reality. I’m interested in int it from  point of it helping people who are blind checking out, know, and understand their surroundings, whether it’s around on the streets, indoors in a mall, etc. Augmented reality could prove to be extremely valuable for people who are blind.

    Unfortunately, Web 3.0 and accessibility of it is either a huge work in progress or not available at all. FourSquare is mostly accessible, but there are some issues on iOS (VoiceOver built- screen reader) and Android (TalkBack built-in or Spiel third-party), which has to do with FourSquare lack of commitment to accessibility and working within the guidelines, API’s, and tools/frameworks that Apple and Google provide in making apps accessible. Overall, mobile web is much more accessible, easier to work with, and is a better experience for people who are blind or low vision. For example, most blind or low vision FaceBook users prefer, even on a desktop because it’s less cluttered, more accessible, and manageable. Augmented reality is a huge part of Web 3.0. Unfortunately, augmented reality has received little, if any attention with regards to accessibility for a market/population who would be able to benefit from augmented reality immensely.

    It’s with iOS and Android devices where augmented reality has occurred, is occurring, and will occur in the future. We need to figure out a way to make augmented reality accessible to population/market, who would find it just as beneficial, if not a lot more beneficial–blind/low vision. These platforms have guidelines, API’s, and tools/frameworks which make them accessible, mobile web, and apps accessible.

    • Nik Peachey says:

      Hi Kevin

      Thank you so much for adding this often neglected perspective to this issue. I can see how augmented reality could have huge benefits for blind people. I hope the accessability issues can be dealt with.



  2. Peter Bendall says:

    Augmented reality sounds like a kind of ersatz fantasy to me. If you are already in that world, i.e. wasting most of your time twittering and what have you, then fine. But the vast majority of people aren’t and don’t give a fig for it, to use a polite term. It’s for people with limited concentration spans who can’t obtain any other kind of satisfaction, people suffering from a permanent itch and full of fear that they might be falling behind. Their favourite metaphor is that of ’embracing’ the new technology, as if somehow they could make love to it, the sentimental idiots. Digital natives? Digital morons, more like.

    • Nik Peachey says:

      Hi Peter

      Thanks for your comment. I sympathise with your comments regarding ’embracing’ technology. I think this needs to be done with a good degree of awareness that though technology has the ‘potential’ to enable us as people to achieve great and positive changes, especially in education, it also has the ‘potential’ to do the opposite. The key word here really is ‘potential’. If we, as educators, write off technology as you seem to be suggesting then we run the risk of leaving control of it to those who would rather exploit its potential to exploit us. I think rather than embracing technology we need to engage with it and try to ensure that we exploit it’s potential help people bring about positive changes in their lives and their societies.

      I have to say that I probably fall into the catagory that you describe as “already in that world, i.e. wasting most of your time twittering and what have you”, but I don’t feel that it has been a waste of time. I spent 5 years completing my Masters in education all of which I completed online and never once visited the physical university. During those 5 years i was teaching abroad and moved countries 4 times. Studying online was the only way I could have done such a course I really appreciate that I had that opportunity and that it was made possible by technology. Now, given the choice to do another degree, I would choose to do it again online.

      As for Twitter, I do spend some time on there and find it useful for sharing and finding links to new articles. I probably spend about an hour each day reading those articles and blog postings online and again I feel that I’ve learned a lot from them. I probably didn’t really ‘need’ to read and learn about all that ‘stuff’, but I have always felt that learning has enhanced my inner life and the internet gives me the chance to do that and to read from a huge range of sources that I wouldn’t otherwise have access to.

      I don’t really like the term ‘digital natives’, though I think the fact that it emerged and has helped to focus and generated debate that has hopefully led to greater awareness and understanding of the world that many of our children are growing up in can only be a positive thing.

      I have a daughter who is 12 and who has grown up with technology all around her, so I suppose she would fall into that catagory that you describe as “digital morons”, but I certainly don’t consider her to be stupid or that her concentration span is limited. Her tolerance for things that are boring or that don’t engage her is probably limited, but that’s actually a quality in her that I admire, because she has the ability to make that judgement and move onto something that does engage her. She also has the concentration span, once engaged to spend hours on the same task, whether it is in the digital world or the physical world where she still really enjoys reading (and yes I mean those physical paper based books) for pleasure.

      Lastly, I think you are wrong that “the vast majority of people aren’t and don’t give a fig for it”, if the ‘it’ you refer to here is technology. I think the vast majority of people are concerned about it and rightly so, as you are yourself, otherwise why would you have taken the time to read this post and add a comment? I think especially for younger people technology will continue to play a significant role in their lives as students and in their professional lives when they finish university. I think we have to accept this as fact and try to ensure that the role technology plays in their lives is as positive and empowering for them as we can.


      Nik Peachey

  3. Hi Nik

    A move from Web 1.0 to Web 2.0 marked a cultural change in the use of the Internet as you point out. To go to Web 3.0 requires another cultural shift of some sort. It doesn’t really come down to new types of technologies, or does it? Web 2.0 represents an ethos of participation, collaboration and valuing personal knowledge. What about a Web 3.0 ethos then, what cultural values / beliefs will it be based on?

    • Nik Peachey says:

      Hi Richard

      That’s interesting. I’m not sure I agree that Web 2.0 was ‘based on’ that ethos. I think we valued things like participation, collaboration and personal knowledge just as much before Web 2.0, but the technology and some other factors changed to make it much easier for just about anyone with basic skills to take advantage of the webs’ potential and become a participant in that process. I go into a bit more detail about this and some other factors here (

      I think if there was a change in ethos on the web, it was perhaps a change in the way money was made. When the web first started heading towards being mainstream there were loads of dotcom start ups with huge launch budgets and very little in the way of a business plan. It was this coupled with a reluctance of consumers to part with money over the internet that led to the dotcom bubble burst.

      Following on from this, one of the things that characterised (and which still amazes so many of the teachers I talk to) Web 2.0 was that so many of the sites were and still are (at least on the surface of it) free. In some ways i think this has made the Web 2.0 age of the internet something of a golden age.

      This is something that is changing again in parallel to the kinds of other developments that might well be characterising Web 3.0 and there seems to be a much wider acceptance of e-commerce based around micro payments and through services like iTunes and the AppStore, buying things online has become much easier and if you compare to the price of similar software, also much cheaper.

      The most important change though I believe will be the deeper interweaving and interaction between our physical and digital lives. I think it’s going to become increasingly difficult to seperate virtual reality from reality. How that will change our cultural values I guess depends a lot on how we engage with and make use of these changes.



      • Hi Nik

        Thanks for the reply. Much appreciated. Regarding valuing participation, collaboration and personal knowledge – yes that’s the case in many domains of life but NOT education. So when we try to bring web 2.0 technologies into classrooms, there is a tension, a conflict that is difficult to overcome. What are your views on this?

        Best Wishes

        • Nik Peachey says:

          Hi Richard

          Um, yes. A lot of lip service is paid to the value of collaboration and personal knowledge in education, but it is often the case that when it comes down to it higher authorities are often not so keen, and there is the question particularly in higher ed of the credibility oof information sources.

          The other problem of course with Web2.0 particularly with younger learners is the potential for abuse / to be abused etc.

          What kind of institution do you work in Richard? It would be useful to be able to put your comments into context.


          • Hi Nik

            Thanks again for your reply. I work in ESOL in the UK but at present in Spain carrying out some digital projects with English language learners. I think the issue of valuing personal knowledge and collaboration is fundamental in education generally. In English language teaching, I would argue that personal knowledge is often utilised merely as a vehicle for language practice. However, I see classroom as spaces where social relations can be fostered and identities constructed positively. But for this to happen what learners and teachers actually have to say needs to be valued – this is where I think Web 2.0 media such as blogs and video can really help people tell their stories and be creative, not only creating a platform from which they can speak but also be listened to.

            All the best

  4. Nik Peachey says:

    Hi Richard

    I absolutely agree with you about this:

    “I see classroom as spaces where social relations can be fostered and identities constructed positively. But for this to happen what learners and teachers actually have to say needs to be valued – this is where I think Web 2.0 media such as blogs and video can really help people tell their stories and be creative, not only creating a platform from which they can speak but also be listened to. ”

    I think this is an area where I see that technology and what’s being referred to as ‘Dogme’ or ‘Unplugged teaching’ can meet and where technology can also extend the learning and interaction beyond the classroom and help to develop autonomous learning.

    I guess the only way though we can really bring about these changes is to follow the advice of Mahatma Gandhi and “Be the change you want to see in the world.”

    Good luck with that.


    Nik Peachey

  5. […] Share on Tumblr For a while now I have been expounding the wonders of augmented reality (See: Augmented Reality and Web 3.0) , so I thought it was time at last to give some examples of how we can actually get students using […]

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