TowAR Spatial Augmented Reality

Exploration of a digital scene through interaction with a physical object.


  • GVU 20th Anniversary Gala, Georgia Tech
  • Institute for People and Technology, Georgia Tech
  • Augmented World Expo, Santa Clara, CA

The Idea

TowAR is a physical artifact for exploring environmental scale spatial augmented environments. The project originated in 2011 when there were no commercial AR SDKs that could track position around a 3D object. Towar uses multiple 2D image-based trackers to pinpoint a user's position as he moves around the structure. A sample application uses position and rotation to explore a natural scene as a tree progresses through the four seasons.

The Design

Experience Goals

  • Time travel - see one tree throughout the year
  • Spatial awareness – map awareness of time to the physical environment

Form, texture, and color were central to the design process. Several design alternatives were considered before landing on a classic lamp design. The TowAR is hand-decorated to expose enough unique features for robust feature tracking. The TowAR can be used as a lamp when users are not exploring an augmented environment. Several alternative experiences were considered, including an I SPY game or recreations of historical artifacts to bring museum experiences into the home.




A functioning prototype was built and exhibited in Atlanta and Santa Clara. Afterwards it was installed permanently at the Institute for People and Technology at Georgia Tech.


User Testing

The prototype was demonstrated at several events and study participants were recruited on site. Observations and feedback were prioritized for a list of future improvements.

Final Report

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