Getting Started

Mobile AR is new to a lot of people in the mobile industry and across many vertical markets. We must each do what we can to expand our marketplace by serving the needs of those who are at different points in their road to discovery of mobile AR. Conducting a search on the key words "Augmented Reality" or "Mobile Augmented Reality" will deliver a wide range of different levels of content. How you customize your search parameters beyond that is up to you and will highly influence what you retrieve.

On this page we provide an annotated list of resources, organized loosely by level and target audience. We make an effort to maintain this page as a resource for others who share our interest in AR but, since the content on these pages to which we point may change and we are not responsible for their evolution, we recommend that you sample and browse yourselves until you feel your curiosity satisfied.

If you have recommendations for new resources which should be added, please send them via comment.

Resources for Getting Started

There are dozens of great Web pages and presentations which have the title "What is Augmented Reality?" This search string produces 3.5M hits. Go through them yourself, if you have time!

Definition of Augmented Reality

There are dozens of definitions of Augmented Reality. One proposed by a blogger, Rouli, is that Augmented Reality is the pursuit of eliminating the latency between atoms and bits. He has taken the time to really dissect this definition in a blog post. I recommend that you read it to understand that AR is not a point technology; it is a movement.

With technically-oriented people I usually begin with Milgram's Virtuality Continuum.

Frequently, people reference the Wikipedia definition of AR. Sometimes I use the three basic criteria published in A Survey of Augmented Reality [Azuma 1997]:

  • combine the real and the virtual (digital) worlds
  • permit real time interactivity and
  • be registered and aligned in three dimensions.

Then, I follow my introductions to Augmented Reality with a use case to illustrate the basics. You can find hundreds of use cases captured in video on YouTube.

Further, I explain that not everyone agrees on a strict definition of Augmented Reality. In general, there are two schools of thought about what Augmented Reality, in particular mobile AR, includes.

The Image

There are those who, frequently but not exclusively coming out of a "classical" AR background (academic or corporate research), feel strongly that the core of AR implies image recognition. Some in this camp advance the theory that recognition and real time tracking of an object in a video is the starting point for AR and technologies or applications which do not recognize the content of the image are just misleading their users.

The Location

Many experts feel that GPS and compass on a smartphone are sufficient inputs for a compelling mobile AR user experience. Emerging from mobile and location-based application design, this is the largest class of services and content today for consumers. For you to decide where you feel is best, or just ignore this whole debate and move to the next level of detail.

Recommended Links

Here are some pages you can visit for good introduction on Augmented Reality principles. Check out the Augmented Reality wiki. It has some introductory material but since it relies on community input, not all the pages are well maintained. The list of AR companies is worth a visit.

The Web site How Stuff Works has a tutorial on Augmented Reality broken down into short, easily-digestible segments to which I have pointed others for over 5 years. In early 2011 it seems quite dated and needs a deep revision.

The brand new Augmented Reality Overview blog is a place that collects videos of AR. Showing videos is an excellent way to get the idea of AR across to people with very few words!

AR NewsRoom provides a general overview of AR which is useful and emphasizes the applications for AR but it has a glaring error. It says you need a Heads Up Display for mobile AR! While I'm keen on new visualization technologies to improve user experiences with mobile AR, many are happy to just use their smartphones.

The Guardian published a piece by technology writer, Charles Arthur, which does a good job of providing the lay person an introduction to AR. Arthur gets around to saying that he sees AR impacting mobile advertising. One of the reasons I introduce this piece to my list of recommended introductions for beginners is that it gives examples of mobile AR in print and publishing, one of the fields where I believe AR has a lot to offer.

If you search on Slideshare you will also find general overviews. Here's one I prepared for the Tools of Change 2010 conference. This one is compact and to the point but suffers from a common shortfall: it equates AR with another category of user experiences–those in which the user's browser is routed to a Web page.

Vertical Market Orientation

In 2010 many industries began to discover applications for AR. Information providers of all types have developed executive summaries introducing their audiences to the benefits of AR. I provide a few below and hope that others will add to this list via the comments area of this page.


Here is a good description of the many ways AR can be used in construction and architecture.

Furniture design/interior decoration

This page provides AR use cases for designers of interior spaces and household objects.


The engagement of customers is a common objective of those who provide AR applications. This page summarizes opportunities for AR in B2B marketing.

Tools for Augmented Reality

There is at least a dozen tools you can use to build AR applications, but only a few are really targeting beginners. Most require some minimal programming. There are open source platforms and commercial solutions. The most popular open source resource is the AR Toolkit developed and distributed by the HIT Lab Washington and which can be licensed for commercial solutions from AR Toolworks. The Designer's AR Toolkit is available from Georgia Tech.

If your objective is to develop something that you will distribute commercially, you will want to explore the features of the metaio Unifeye, Total Immersion D'Fusion, Seac02, Wikitude API, Silverlight AR Toolkit and others.

For mobile AR, and if you are interested in publishing content within a larger ecosystem (for fun or for profit), there are hosted (cloud-based) platforms. The most popular ones are Layar, Mobilizy's Wikitude WorldBrowser and junaio.

If you want to build your own AR application and distribute it via an application store, then you should explore the offers from metaio, Total Immersion, Mobilizy, Qualcomm and AR Toolworks. Many developers also start from scratch and use libraries which are in the public domain.

You may already be a big user of another platform which has AR extensions. For example, there's AR extensions for the Unity game development platform. Users of Google Sketchup can use the Inglobe plugin called ARmedia to make AR content. The Flash AR Toolkit (FLAR) has been around for several years.

  • Meeting Details

    Tuesday, February 15, 2011
    10 AM to 3 PM

    The Mobile AR Marketplace will be
    conducted at the Barcelona offices of

    PricewaterhouseCoopers, S.L.
    Avenida Diagonal, 640
    08017 Barcelona

    If you have need directions, please call
    + (34) 915 684 400 (front desk)

    We will happily reimburse you for your taxi travel. Just bring the receipt.