The best way to learn something is by creating objects and playing around with it. One such way of simulating objects is by using Augmented Reality.

Augmented Reality (AR) has evolved a lot lately and is an amazing teaching and presentation tool. More and more platforms are now supporting AR out of box like ARKit on iOS, Unity, powered on C# and ARCore by Google. We had heard of Esri's ArcGIS platform and it's usage in digital maps. We were exploring the ArcGIS capabilities and realized that the presentation of world map will look amazing when we see it in any AR platform. A GIS map with the augmented model would be a great tool for students to learn GIS and also for GIS developers for a better visualization. We explored and found that this has not been done yet and decided to pursue this project.

What it does

It takes any 2D image of a map (that could have any targeted geolocation based data) and creates a little AR globe with custom ArcGIS maps that users can select with its URL. Users can also visualize 5 pre-listed maps on the globe. The application works on iOS and takes ArcGIS maps as input.

How we built it

Our application is an iOS application and it's written in Swift 4. We are using ArcGIS's iOS SDK which provides runtime for powerful map based operations. Our custom Augmented Reality layer is handled by iOS's ARKit framework.

The AR toolkit needs an image file to wrap around the globe. Without the image, it is just an empty sphere. We utilized ArcGIS iOS runtime to view a map and export it to a jpeg file. Once, we had the jpeg file, we used that file to wrap around our sphere.

Challenges we ran into

ArcGIS was a completely new technology for almost all members of our team. One of the members knew some GIS previously. iOS and AR development was also new to us, so to learn all these new technologies was a great learning curve. We ran into some of the challenges, like, setting up the extent of the map, exporting a map to an image, and making AR globe zoom and rotate.

Accomplishments that we're proud of

  1. Learned ArcGIS, iOS and ARKit development.
  2. Successfully augmented maps into AR Globe.

What we learned

We learned iOS development, ArcGIS and ARKit of iOS.

What's next for Aure Maps

There are many things that we plan to do. Some of them are:

  1. Connecting ArcGIS portal with the app, to list out the maps users have created and let them augment it.
  2. Let users create a new map with feature layers, using our app, and augment it on the globe.
  3. Export the map and wrap it around the globe in a format other than jpeg or png, that is more interactive and dynamic.
  4. Modify the existing app from the augmented globe to any horizontal plan and make it come alive (in AR) in any given area of interest on the map or even on the full map for that matter.
  5. Linking Esri's platform by letting it's users authenticate via credentials and pull all their custom created maps.
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