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Educational Escape

George Thayer wears a maroon t-shirt while standing and holding a tablet.Doctoral student George Thayer, in the department of Educational Technology, researches the use of AR (augmented reality) escape rooms for enhancing cognition and nurturing creativity. AR is a technology that layers computer-generated images on the user's view of the real world. AR is used all around us; from the virtual Zoom backgrounds, Instagram filters, and apps like Pokemon-Go, to this study... escape rooms. Traditionally, escape rooms are physical rooms with hands-on, interactive, riddle-like, adventure games. Participants solve a variety of riddles and puzzles to gather information about how to eventually escape the room. While physical escape rooms gained popularity in 2003, evolving technology gave way to a new video-game-like virtual form: AR escape rooms.

AR escape rooms combine the convenience and creativity of AR with the problem-solving and thrill of escape rooms. Thayer describes this as “the opportunistic atmosphere for teaching or practicing problem-solving within a classroom….” He explains the importance of problem-solving and enhancing cognition in modern times, “If the internet can provide all the knowledge, then we must focus more on teaching the process of thinking.” AR escape rooms present flexible teaching opportunities by customizing the subject, history, and function of objects in an interactive and motivational setting. Thayer’s research explores the use of these escape rooms with the convenience, flexibility, and assistance of AR to help participants enhance their cognitive abilities. 

Thayer’s study required the installation and use of an app called Aria’s Legacy which was added to the participants’ smartphones and tablets. The app scanned the participants’ room and placed digital objects within it for the player to manipulate through the mobile device’s touch screen. Participants use deep thinking skills to uncover secrets that have been added to the virtual room. Additionally, participants of Thayer’s study had their cognitive levels tested before and after the series of AR escape room interactions. He found an overall increase in cognitive abilities linked to the participants’ perseverance levels. Thayer’s research provides significant data proving that AR escape rooms can be used as a flexible educational tool to enhance students’ cognitive thought processing, something that is necessary for the future of classrooms whether they be physical or online. 

At CMU, we do research and real-world results.

Story by ORGS intern Hailey Nelson

March 2021