Experimental User Experience Design
Augmented Reality Trail Guide

The Augmented Reality Trail Guide is a mobile web application designed to assist in navigation and discovery within natural parks. I created it while studying Human-Computer Interaction in the Augmented Environments Lab at Georgia Tech.



Natural parks regularly feature printed walking tours designed to accompany visitors through a self-guided experience of the park’s most prominent features.  Traditional walking tours have several problems:

  • The availability of physical pamphlets is limited, often stored in remote boxes which must be continually restocked.

  • The physical markers along the trail may deteriorate or become hidden making it difficult for visitors to locate points of interest.

  • The information included on the pamphlet is constrained by the size of the page and the limitations of print media.

The AR Trail Guide attempts to address these problems by leveraging our handheld devices to expand the richness and depth of expression the tour’s author may present to their audience. Historical and natural stories, imagery, panoramas and videos can be anchored to real world, inhabiting it with the user.


2D & 3D Navigation

The AR Trail Guide provides two complimentary views for locating and experiencing points of interest within a park: a traditional overhead map view, and a three-dimensional augmented reality view that surrounds the user.

Map View
Tilting the device down activates an overhead map, establishing the user’s absolute position within the park.

Augmented Reality View
Holding the device upright activates the AR view, anchoring map content within the surrounding space. In the image above to the right, a video of a historic flood has been anchored to a panoramic background. This lets the users directly experience the contrast between the intense flooding and regular water levels within the park. Usability test participants were able to use theTrail Guide to locate the exact spot where the video was shot and watch it overlaying the real world. They loved it.


Usability Testing

The ARTG was field tested with a group of 10 graduate students and two park rangers on location at the park. Each participants was given a set of tasks to complete while hiking a short distance between the trail head and the ruins of an old mill. Participants most enjoyed a set of seasonal panoramas and the video overlay of a recent, record-breaking flood.



The results of the usability testing were used to establish that there is a level of appeal that augmented reality can provide as a medium for enhancing a visitor’s experience of natural locations. The goal is to expand the use of the trail guide to other parks by creating easier tools for authoring tours at other parks.



The AR Trail Guide was featured in the cover story of an issue of ACM Interactions titled, Media Studies, Mobile Augmented Reality, and Mixed Reality Design.

I also presented a poster about the app at the International Symposium on Mixed and Augmented Reality (ISMAR) titled, Plants and Zombies. It features a pair of AR apps I developed: one being this trail guide, and another featuring the television series, The Walking Dead. The poster really named itself :)