What is Augmented Reality?

What is Augmented Reality?

Augmented Reality is a technology that adds an extra layer of virtual information on top of the perception of the real world, in real-time. Usually the virtual layar consists of 3D objects or 3D scenes, with or without sound. Sometimes only textual info is added. Virtual images are produced as follows:

Images, produced by computer controlled imaging equipment /CGI (computer generated images)

  • Medical scanners like CT and MRI;
  • 3D laser scanner.

Digital images modeled on a computer

  • Designers create 3D drawings of objects;
  • Game developers create 3D drawings of (human) figures;
  • (Urban) architects create 3D drawings of buildings and cities;

To do this, you can use a 3D drawing programme, such as AutoCad, Cinema 4D, Studio Max or Blender (KABK students can follow classes for this); you can also use free 3D model libraries, like GrabCad.

Combination of 2D pictures or video captures and a 3D object or scene

  • By putting together digital pictures taken from every possible angle, of an object or scene, a 3D image can be  produced that might be used in augmented reality applications.
  • A picture might be used as a skin on a 3D virtual object.

Display types of (visual) Augmented Reality

Display type I: screen-based

  • AR on a monitor which displays the additional virtual information.
  • AR on a mobile phone (using an app such as LAYAR or Aurasma on a smartphone).

Display type II: AR glasses - in the future contact lenses?

  • A far more sophisticated, but not yet user-friendly, method uses AR glasses or an HMD; a head mounted display, also known as head-up display. With this device the extra information is mixed with your own perception of the world. The virtual images appear in the air around you, and are not projected on a screen. One sees ‘ghost images.’

There are two type of ways of mixing the real world with the virtual world

  • Video see-through: the real world is captured by a camera. The virtual images are mixed with the video images of the real world in the AR glasses.
  • Optical see-through: the real world is perceived directly with your eyes and the AR glasses display the appropriate virtual images on top of your own view.

Display type III: projection based Augmented Reality / 3D mapping

  • With projection based AR we need to know the exact dimensions of the object we project AR info onto. The projection is seen on the object , person or building with remarkable precision. This can generate very sophisticated or wild projections on buildings. The ‘Rapid prototyping’ group, led by  Jouke Verlinden at the faculty of Industrial Design, at Delft University of Technology, uses projection-based AR for manipulating the appearance of products.

Positioning the virtual image(s)

A complex and important issue is to be able to position the virtual content wherever you want, as accurately as possible. Technically there are multiple possibilities to achieve this:

Using markers: the traditional way is using ‘markers’ in the shape of black and white patterns which are used to calculate the positioning of the virtual objects.

Using natural features: this is far more complex, but TU-Delft is working on this with very promising early results. An example is the project CSI-The Hague, led by Ronald Poelman at the faculty of Applied Sciences, at TU-Delft. Another comes from the Van Gogh Museum, where one of the KABK students created a remarkable art project in which the eyes, nose and mouth of a person looking at the painting ‘Korenveld met Kraaien’ (Wheatfield with Crows) were recognized as a kind of marker by the camera.

Using GPS and a compass: a system has recently been launched which uses a combination of GPS coordinates and a compass instead of markers. A well-known example of this is Layar, an application for smartphones such as iPhone and Android. Using Layar, we can see virtually added information linked to objects like houses, with an iPhone or Android.

Identifying points of interest via GPS and visual marker based technologies: visual recognition can ‘glue’ virtual 3D models/media to any real 2D and 3D object. Both can be enhanced with multimedia (audio, video files, websites or images) to heighten the user experience. Recent developments enable even more immersive possibilities, utilising gesture functionality and allowing summative assessment in one app.

Augmented Reality is a position on the often cited Mixed Reality continuum drawn up by Paul Milgram and Fumio Kishino in 1994.


With screen based AR we made some very special AR Books, including:

  • First Augmented Reality Atlas for GSDI World Conference in Rotterdam on behalf of Geonovum opening of the National GeoRegistry;
  • Portfolio in augmented reality of the graduation exhibition of Marina de Haas;
  • The archive of the Kröller-Müller exhibition;
  • The archive of the exhibition in Italy, Salone del Mobile;
  • AR paper and book, of Laura Elprama, (graduation work) showed in Museum Meermanno in The Hague
  • Pop-Up: Sgraffito in 3D. One of the key components of Museum Boijmans van Beuningen’s Sgraffito exhibition was an AR book accompanied by medieval music.

With AR glasses we showed:

  • Virtual furniture and textiles in our exhibition in Milan, Italy, Salone del Mobile;
  • Virtual furniture and a virtual shop for KABK students of the Interior Architecture department;
  • AR art at Tag
  • AR art at Todaysart Festival;
  • AR design at Discovery Festival;

With projection based AR we created several special art installations as well as a precalibrated set-up. 

  • AR visualisation as part of The Walküre in Nijmegen

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