Table-Top AR – Explore New York City in Your Living Room

By: Ben Simak

Geovisualization Class Project @RyersonGeo, SA8905, Fall 2018


For my geo-visualization project I decided to create a map that takes advantage of new interactive technologies. Augmented reality (AR) has been around since 1990’s and has been growing in use and capabilities. Augmented Reality was originally developed and implemented in Air Force Research and then heavily developed in the gaming industry to add a new way to interact with our surroundings to try and immerse the viewer on a new level. This same technology has migrated into different industry applications such as education and navigation.

The type of augmented reality that I decided to use is called “Table Top” augmented reality. It essentially allows the camera on the device you are using to find a flat surface and showcase a 2D or 3D model or rendering on that surface. You are then able to anchor it and walk around the model to see all the sides and get closer or further away as if it was actually there.

I utilized MapBox, Unity, ARKit, and Xcode to create an app that allows you to use an iPhones camera to render a 3-D scrollable model of  New York City (And anywhere in the world you want to scroll too). Mapbox provides the feed of building and elevation models for the building heights as well as terrain through its SDK. Unity is the platform that pulls together the MapBox SDK and generates the augmented world and allows for any physical altering of how the maps look and the starting point for the map. Unity is where the majority of the app components get bundled up before it is ready to be processed. The ARKit has coding that enables the app to be created on the iPhone and enables the use of the camera. Xcode is the final step that takes the bundled Unity file and generates an app that can be opened up on your personal iPhone for use.

How I Built the App:

*Requires Mac OSX and an iPhone (Android variant also available)

Step 1: Download MapBox SDK for Unity from

Step 2: Download Unity (For Personal Use Free)

Step 3: Download Xcode on the Mac App Store

Step 4: Open Unity and create a new 3-D project

Step 5: Go to Assets menu and go to import package and click custom package…

Navigate to you downloaded Mapbox SDK and click open. After it loads and opens click Import all and wait for it to load. A Mapbox setup window should open and looks like the below.

Step 6: Click the link highlighted in blue. It will take you to the Mapbox website to generate your access token. Click the copy button and then go back to your Unity Project and paste it in the field and click submit.

Step 7: Some layers that aren’t included by default in a Unity project and are needed to run this scene. Select ARTabletopKit in the Hierarchy view. Add the following layers by clicking Layer and selecting Add Layer

Specify the following layers:

  • ARGameObject
  • Map
  • Path
  • Both

Step 8: Click on MapRoot and find the Latitude Longitude settings in the GENERAL settings of the Abstract Map script. Click Search and enter the coordinates of anywhere in the world. For my example, I used New York City.

Step 9: Now when you press the Play button at the top center of the Unity window you should see a rendering appear on the Game tab

Step 10: go to edit, project settings, player. Make sure under the Camera Usage Description and Location Usage Description you put the following details.


Step 11: Go to File, Build Settings and open up the window seen below. Then click IOS (Or Android if you were making it on an Android device) and click Switch platform. Then make sure you click add open scene and select the Table Top AR with a check and uncheck Scene/main. Then click build. Save it to where ever you want.

Step 12: Download Xcode. Plug in Your Device. Before we can build to a device, we need to set up an Apple ID and add it to Xcode. Once you have obtained an Apple ID, you must add it to Xcode.

  • Open Xcode.
  • From the menu bar at the top of the screen choose Xcode > Preferences. This will open the Preferences window.
  • Choose Accountsat the top of the window to display information about the Apple IDs that have been added to Xcode.
  • To add your Apple ID, click the plus sign at the bottom left corner and choose Add Apple ID.

  • A popup will appear, requesting your Apple ID and password. Enter these.
  • Your Apple ID will then appear in the list. Select your Apple ID to see more information about it.
  • Under the heading Team, you will see a list of all Apple Developer Program teams that you are a part of. If you’re using a free Apple ID that isn’t enrolled in the Apple Developer Program, you will see your name followed by “(Personal Team)”.

Step 13: Go back to that original Unity file that you saved after pressing the build button. Double click the .xcodeproj file to open the project with Xcode.

  • In the top left, select Unity-iPhone to view the project settings. It will open with the General tab selected.
  • Under the topmost section called Identity, you may see a warning and a button that says Fix Issue. This warning doesn’t mean we’ve done anything wrong – it just means that Xcode needs to download or create some files for code signing.
  • Click the Fix Issue
  • Make sure that the correct team is shown in the dropdown – if you’re using a free Apple ID, it should be your name followed by “(Personal Team)”.

Step 14: Make sure the bundle identifier seen above is not a default name. if it is just change the default name to what ever you want.

Step 15: Click the play button and make sure your iPhone is still connected. The device must stay on and not lock during this process.

Step 16: Once completed you will see the app on your iPhone and you can open it and point at a flat surface and watch the magic happen!