Definitions: Augmented Reality (AR) & Mobile Augmented Reality (MAR)

Definitions: Augmented Reality (AR), Mobile Augmented Reality (MAR), Affordance

There are slight differences in opinion regarding what AR is exactly, and different researchers widen or narrow the bands of meaning given to this umbrella term. For the purposes of this research paper, I will use the below definitions:

Augmented Reality

A blend between the completely synthetic and the completely real, Augmented Reality (AR) is any system ‘that enhances or augments the surroundings of the user with virtual information that is registered in 3D space and seems to co-exist with the real world (Azuma et al 2001).

Augmented Reality is related to Virtual Reality (VR). The key distinguishing factor between the two is that AR is an overlay onto the real world, while VR creates a wholly computer-generated world that immerses users inside the virtual environment, so they are unable to see the real world.

Augmented Reality is also a subfield of the broader concept of Mixed Reality (MR), which can include simulations taking place in the virtual domain and not in the real world.  Two interesting diagrams that attempt to visually map out the ‘order of reality concepts’ are by Schabel & Wang (2008) below (note: green highlighting is my own).

Mobile Augmented Reality

The meaning of Mobile Augmented Reality (MAR) is indicated by the key word: mobile. This paper will use the definition of Mobile AR provided by Hollerer & Feiner (2004): Mobile AR applies (the concept of AR) in truly mobile settings; that is, away from the carefully conditioned environments of research laboratories and special-purpose work areas.”

For a detailed listing of the technologies required to enable Mobile Augmented Reality Systems (MARS), please refer to the original source paper below. A summary of the components required for MARS are:

  • A computational platform
  • Displays
  • Registration
  • Wearable input and interaction technologies
  • Wireless networking
  • Data storage and access technology

Note that Mobile AR and Mobile Phone AR do not share the same meaning. Mobile AR encompasses a range of displays, including head-worn equipment, displays integrated into the physical world, and includes mobile hand-held devices.


In the fields of design and human-computer interaction, an affordance refers to "the perceived and actual properties of the thing, primarily those fundamental properties that determine just how the thing could possibly be used."



Posted 29 March 2013
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