Doable, Affordable, and Sustainable Augmented Reality

It has been almost a year since we started developing Augmented Reality (AR) projects and implementing this technology into our online courses. During the past 10 to 12 months, we have conducted an AR research project and developed several AR instructional materials. In addition, we have identified a more efficient workflow for creating AR projects for our online courses and found resources that would make our AR design more sophisticated and robust. As we are reviewing what we have accomplished this year, we would like to share our thoughts about AR in education.

People often ask: “What is Augmented Reality?” The more we explain what AR is and what we are developing, the more we realize there is a need to give our AR productions an identity in order to distinguish it from other AR applications (e.g., mobile AR). Also, we often find people enthusiastic about this technology, but feeling intimidated by it because it appears to be “difficult.” We hope this essay will ease the technological anxiety and encourage more people to adopt this technology.


The essential elements for developing AR applications are 3D models. People are often intimidated by the thought of creating 3D models. Creating a 3D model from scratch is certainly not easy. However, it is not that difficult to find 3D models and modify the models to fit your needs. Google 3D Warehouse is a good place to start finding the 3D models you need. Web sites such as Turbo Squid also offer free 3D models. You will be surprised by what you can find on the Internet. There is no need to re-invent the wheel!

How to deploy the 3D model would be the second question that people ask. We have experimented with two different ways of deploying 3D models. One is BuildAR Pro; the other is Flartoolkit. If you are using BuildAR Pro, you don’t need to code to create AR applications. However, you need to learn the basic functions of this particular software such as resizing the model, creating scene, etc. There are tutorials for you to quickly become proficient with BuildAR Pro. If you want to create AR projects that could be deployed on the Internet, then you might want to consider Flartoolkit. Using Flartoolkit might sound daunting to people who are not familiar with Flash. It is true that you need to learn how to use Flash AS3, but you don’t need to be an expert of Flash AS3 to create AR projects. The first Flartoolkit is a great starting point for you to try Flash-based AR. What you really need to do is to replace the 3D model with your own. As for the multiple-markers, FlarManager will be a good place for you to explore how to create a multiple markers AR.

Regardless which AR software or platform you choose to develop your own project, there are plenty of tutorials and templates for you to learn AR and ask for helps. It is certain there will be a learning curve, but the AR community will help you to get over it.


Cost is often the variable that determines whether a school or an individual adopts a technology (hardware and/or software). We layout the software and hardware you need to have in order to develop AR projects in the following table. It costs approximately around $ 1500 or less to create AR projects. Considering how many AR learning materials an individual would be able to create with these hardware and software, investing in AR is quite cost-effective.

Hardware PC $ 400-700
Web Cam $ 25-75
Software BuildAR Pro $ 200
Flash Professional $ 120
Fraps $ 37
Google SketchUp Free
Blender Free


As we have mentioned in the very beginning, creating 3D models is the essential part of AR development. While the free 3D warehouse and database makes it easy to retrieve the available 3D models, 3D modeling software (e.g., Google SketchUp) has made creating new models fairly easy. By adding or removing elements from the existing 3D models enables a designer to generate new models. At the same time, a model could be used to teach different subject maters. For example: the coffee shop model we created for the Spanish class could be used in a communication class to teach students how to evaluate communication patterns, etc. To some extent, a 3D model would continue to grow. As 3D modeling software becomes more user-friendly and accessible, it is predicted that more 3D models will become available and sustain the growth of AR.

Final Thoughts

We work as a team to develop the AR projects. Each of us focuses and explores different platforms and software to develop the projects. At the same time, we share and teach each other. It is always nice to have someone looking behind your back and giving you constructive feedback! If you could find a colleague that shares similar interests, then you probably would find it easy to create AR projects. If not, please don’t hesitate to reach out to the AR community on the Internet (or us). Remember Augmented Reality is – Doable, Affordable, and Sustainable!

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