Geospatial AR

New Team Member

I am Gail Millin-Chalabi, Geodata Research & Development Officer (Museum AR & Visualisation). I have joined the Learning and Teaching Team with the aim to develop a showcase of AR examples for the Museum sector. I will be seeking engagement opportunities with Museum curators to develop new AR apps with the aim to enhance interaction and learning of Museum collections and where appropriate add a geospatial flare.

What is AR?

AR is a live, copy, view of a physical, real-world environment whose elements are augmented (or supplemented) by computer-generated sensory input such as sound, graphics or Global Positioning System (GPS) data (Wikipedia, 2014).

Or put even more succinctly:

AR simply enhances the reality around you (Douglas, 2013).

Googling Geospatial AR

I am quite new to AR. My previous experience is working with Matt Ramirez  on the UKMap App which was released last year. As my interest is in geospatial data I decided to see what was already out there in this area of AR.

When Googling ‘Geospatial AR’ the first result is a Geospatial AR Twitter this has been set-up by Directions Magazine[1] which is a news magazine covering Geographical Information Systems (GIS) and geospatial technology. I thought it would be a good idea to ‘Follow’ this Twitter feed for any useful updates and developments.

The second result is Geospatial Augmented Reality LinkedIn, certainly the social networking applications take the top spots on a Google search! This is a subgroup of Location Intelligence and Analytics and membership needs to be requested. I have a LinkedIn account so thought I would join up and see what I could find out (that made me the 429th member of this group). When scanning through the discussions area of the group one discussion really stood out to me from Richard Miller President at LEGIS CORPORATION it is titled ‘Has Geospatial Augmented Reality hit the creative wall?’ Controversial! Only two people liked this comment and well there were no follow-up comments either. Richard was arguing the point that AR is not really offering up anything new in the geospatial industry and that after viewing a 3D terrain ultimately the user is back to using hyperlinks. ‘A lack of vision’ was stated as the reason for uninspiring geospatial AR apps.

Normally when you want to know the basics a good book is an excellent starting point. I wondered what books have specifically been written on geospatial AR. I found the following:

Schall, G. (2013) Mobile Augmented Reality for Human Scale Interation with Geospatial Models: The Benefit for Industrial Applications. Springer Gabler. (Available)

Thierry, B. and Sylvie, D. (Eds.) (2010) Mobile Geospatial Augmented Reality: Proceedings of the 2nd International Workshop in Mobile Geospatial Augmented Reality (Lecture Notes in GeoInformation and Cartography). (Currently not available)

Real-world examples

As there is not a great deal of books to choose from I decided to do a search for journal articles in the Web of Knowledge database using the Search terms geospatial and Augmented Reality. This was a much more fruitful exercise for finding specific examples of how geospatial AR has been applied to real world problems e.g.

Schall, G., Zollmann, S. and Reitmayr, G. (2013) ‘Smart Vidente: advance in mobile augmented reality for interactive visualization of underground infrastructure’, Personal and Ubiquitous Computing, 17(7), 1533-1549.

Choi, J., Jang, B. and Kim, G.J. (2011) ‘Organizing and presenting geospatial tags in location-based augmented reality’, Personal and Ubiquitous Computing, 15(6), 641-647.

Steinicke, F., Mensmann, J., Hinrichs, K., Rothaus, K., de Buhe, J. and Kruger, A. (2008) ‘Augmenting 3D city models with visualization of real-time meteorological phenomena’, GRAPP 2008: Proceedings of the Third International Conference on Computer Graphics Theory and Applications. 359-366.

I was surprised how long AR has been used, it is not exactly a new technology and has been applied in the engineering and marketing sectors but seems to have been under-utilized in teaching and learning of geospatial subject areas such as Geography and Environmental Sciences. Now that GIS is formally in the curriculum for Key Stage 3 through to A Level Geography pupils[2]  I wonder if an AR app could help in teaching initial GIS concepts such as mapping layers and basic geoprocessing operations such as intersect, buffering and union between geographic layers. This would remove the requirement for complex GIS software to be installed for those at the introductory level and therefore ease the learner into GIS technology.

Top AR apps for 2013

I wanted to interact with some real life examples of AR which I could download straightaway on my phone. I have a Samsung S3 so need apps which are designed for Android. I found a great article by Nick Douglas called ‘Top 10 Augmented Reality Apps for Android’[3] where he listed the following:

  • Google Sky Map
  • Lookator
  • Google Goggles
  • Layar
  • Wikitude World Browser
  • Satellite AR
  • SpecTrek
  • Augment
  • AugSatNav
  • AR Invaders

So far I have tried out the Google Sky Map which worked seamlessly. To find out more about the above apps go to .


My search has certainly identified some resources for me to use to get started in both understanding and hopefully developing my own AR application. I have also managed to obtain some insight into geospatial AR and I am currently developing ideas of how potentially AR technology could be used in a Museum setting.

3 thoughts on “Geospatial AR

  1. stuarteve

    Hi thanks for the useful post with some great links. I have just finished a PhD looking at AR and GIS and how it can be used to enhance our view of the modern and archaeological landscape. Take a look at my blog ( or drop me an email and I’d be happy to chat further.


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