Augmented reality is right up there with flying cars and dictation:  A futuristic dream that hasn’t quite reached a level of refinement that encourages widespread use.  A few years ago, I heard about Aurasma, which seemed like it had huge potential, both in the science classroom and in everyday life.  Elements4D might be another example.

The principle behind the Elements4D is fairly simple, though I’m sure the technology is anything but.  The company offers a set of paper templates, which you cut out and glue into a cube.  Each face of the cube represents an element.

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When the iOS app, using the camera on your device, recognizes the face of a cube, it plays a corresponding video that shows the element’s “real” appearance:  Nitrogen turns into a fairly boring empty-looking box (as it should), while Chlorine transforms into a somewhat-exaggerated ghastly-greenish gas.    Rotating the cubes allows you to tilt and twirl the box-o-element, and it really is very eye-catching.

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The most exciting aspect of the cubes is that you can show (simulated) reactions with them!  Put a nitrogen cube next to a hydrogen cube and ammonia, NH3, results.  Put zinc next to oxygen, and your grey metal cube and clear-colorless cube turn into a cube of white powder.   A balanced equation is displayed below the ‘reaction’.

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I haven’t tested this technology with students, but it certainly gets teachers (and cats) attention!