Augmented Reality Glossary: from A to Z

Maria Stenina

Augmented reality technology becomes a driving force behind tectonic changes in business methods by and large. We created a comprehensive AR glossary with the most common terms and definitions to help you understand the lingo better.

Augmented Reality Glossary



Augmented Reality (AR)

Technology that uses software to superimpose various forms of digital content – such as videos, photos, links, 3D models, and others – in the real environment, predefined images or object targets. The realistic augmentation is achieved by making use of the device camera and its sensors.

AR Bridge

A feature that allows developers to integrate native AR SDKs such as ARKit and ARCore with advanced image and object tracking functionality from the Wikitude SDK. When enabled, the camera configured as AR Camera will be driven by AR Bridge, while the Drawables will be driven by the Wikitude SDK. The Wikitude SDK provides a built-in connection to these native SDKs through the Internal AR Bridge implementation. This is a ready-made solution that just needs to be enabled. As an alternative, a Plugin implementation can be chosen, which allows the developer to integrate with other positional tracking SDKs.

AR Overlay

An overlay principle is indispensable for the augmented reality technology.  Overlay happens when the formats such as images, videos, or 3D are superimposed over an Image or Object Target.

ARKit and ARCore

These are, respectively, Apple’s and Google’s AR development platforms. Fully integrable with the Wikitude SDK, ARKit and ARCore can be extended with features that are not natively available in those AR frameworks or come with different quality standards (compared to the implementation in the Wikitude SDK).

Automatic Initialization

Automatic initialization is the default mode of the Wikitude SDK for both image and object targets. It is the most natural behavior for users, and as they point the camera towards the target, position and orientation will be detected automatically. The tracking of the target will start seamlessly. 


Alignment Initialization

The alignment initializer is a visual element in the UI that signals the user from which viewpoint (perspective) the object can be recognized and tracking can be started. This feature can be used for objects that are hard to recognize automatically (usually objects with unclear or unreliable texture). An unreliable texture could be an object that has different colors or areas that keep changing (e.g. mud, stickers). 

Assisted Reality 

Assisted Reality is a non-immersive visualization of various content (e.g. text, diagrams, images, simple videos).  Being considered experience within the augmented reality range, the assisted reality is often delivered through wearable hardware and serves to enhance personal awareness in given situations or scenes.

Assisted Tracking

Assisted tracking is a term describing a technology where the performance of Image, Cylinder, and Object targets benefit from the fact that a native AR framework is run in parallel. This results in increased stability of the mentioned trackers even when they move independently. Assisted tracking is enabled by default when using AR Bridge or AR Foundation.



Computer-Aided Design (CAD)

CAD or computer-aided design and drafting (CADD), is a technology for design and technical documentation. In AR, CAD is a common asset format used as an input method for augmented reality experiences. The format digitalizes /automatizes designs and technical specifications for built or manufactured products. 

Combine Trackers

The feature that allows developers to combine different trackers such as Positional Tracking from ARKit/ARCore, Image Tracking, and Object Tracking in a single AR experience.

Computer Vision (CV)

Computer vision is the ability of machines to recognize, process and understand digital images and objects, as well as scenes of the world around us. CV is one of the bases of augmented reality and the core of Wiktiude’s AR SDK. 

Cloud Recognition

Cloud Recognition is a cloud-based service that hosts predefined images online and allows recognition of many targets through a smartphone or smart glasses. This service allows fast, scalable, and reliable online recognition for ever-changing, dynamic, and large-scale projects.

Cylinder Tracker

Cylinder Tracker (or cylinder targets) is a special form of an Image Target. With it, images that are wrapped around a cylindrical shape can be recognized and tracked. This can range from labels on a wine bottle to prints on a can or any other graphical content. Cylinder Recognition and Tracking extend the capabilities of the Wikitude SDK to recognize cylinder objects. The feature is based on the Image Tracking module, but instead of recognizing plane images, it is able to recognize cylinder objects like cans through its images.



An instance of an augmentation prefab that is instantiated in the scene when a target is detected.


Extended Tracking

Extended Tracking allows digital augmentations, attached to objects, scenes, or images, to persist in the user’s field of view even when the initial target is no longer in the frame. That is particularly useful when showing large augmentations that exceed the target. 


Field of view

The field of view is an area that can be observed either physically by a person or through a device lens. Depending on the lens focus, the field of view can be adapted and can vary in size. 


Geo AR

Location-based augmented reality allows developers to attach interactive and useful digital content to geo-based markers. This means that unlike the typical marker-based AR features – like Image Tracking and Object Tracking, Geo AR does not need a physical target to trigger the AR experience. Wikitude has been developing augmented reality technology since 2008 and pioneered in launching the world’s first location-based AR app for mobile. 



A hologram is a digital content formed by light that is projected on a transparent display or into open space. This type of content can be static or interactive, is usually three-dimensional and commonly used for smart glasses/mixed reality devices such as HoloLens. 


HoloLens is a Microsoft’s head-mounted display, also referred to as mixed reality smart glasses. A popular device for industrial use cases and compatible with the Wikitude SDK.


Instant  Targets

Instant Targets is a feature within AR Instant Tracking which allows end-users to save and load their AR sessions. It means the important digital notes, directions, visual augmentations, and the whole AR experience itself can be accessed and experienced by multiple users across devices and operating systems (iOS, Android, and UWP) at different points in time. This makes sharing and revisiting the AR experience easy and meaningful. Instant Targets also allows users to load, edit, and re-save the AR experience on the fly.  The versatility of the feature use makes it very practical for remote assistance and maintenance use cases

Image Target

Image Target is a known planar image which will trigger an AR experience when recognized through the camera view from a smartphone or smart glasses. Targets are preloaded to the Wikitude system and are associated with a target collection for recognition.

Image Recognition and Tracking

This feature enables the Wikitude SDK to recognize and track known images (single or multiple) to trigger augmented reality experiences. Recognition works best for images with characteristics described on Wikitude’s best practice Image Target guideline. Suitable images can be found on product packaging, books, magazines, outdoors, paintings, and other 2D targets.  

Instant Tracking 

Instant Tracking technology (also known as ‘dead reckoning’) makes it possible for AR applications to overlay interactive digital content onto physical surfaces without requiring the use of a predefined marker to kick off the AR experience. Instant Tracking does not need to recognize a predefined target to start the tracking procedure thereafter. Instead, it initializes by tracking the physical environment itself. This markerless augmented reality is possible thanks to SLAM – Simultaneous Localization and Mapping technology. 





Machine Learning

Machine learning is a subset of artificial intelligence, that provides computer algorithms with the ability to learn and constantly improve the learning outcome based on the knowledge collected.


Markup is the method of creating a composed scene by using the augmentations, triggers, or other information.



Object Target 

Objects can be used as targets to trigger the AR experience upon recognition via the camera view. The target is a pre-recorded map of the object. Object Targets can be created using two different ways: images or 3D models as input methods. The source material in both cases is converted into a Wikitude Object Target Collection, which is stored as a .wto file.

Object Recognition and Tracking

This feature enables the Wikitude SDK to recognize and track arbitrary objects for augmented reality experiences. Object Recognition and Tracking let users detect objects and entire scenes that were predefined. Recognition works best for objects that have only a limited number of changing/dynamic parts. Suitable objects for recognition and tracking include toys, monuments, industrial objects, tools, and household supplies.

Optical character recognition (OCR) 

OCR, or optical character reader, is the electronic conversion of images of handwritten or printed texts into machine-encoded text.


Positional Tracker (from Native AR frameworks)

The Wikitude SDK can use native AR frameworks (like ARKit or AR Core) in parallel to other trackers. This can be either through an existing connection to Unity’s AR Foundation or through Wikitude’s own AR Bridge. Positional tracking is the process of tracking the position and orientation of the device continuously by the device itself. This is sometimes referred to as World Tracking (Apple), Motion Tracking (Google), Head Tracking (VR headsets), or Instant Tracking (Wikitude Professional Edition).



Range Extension

The Wikitude SDK Image Recognition engine can make use of HD camera frames to detect images from further away. Further away in this context means distances 3x further away, compared to not enabling this mode (e.g. A4-sized target can reach recognition distances in the area of 2.4 meters/ 8 feet). This feature is called Image Recognition Range Extension and can be activated through a setting in the Image Tracker class. 

Real-world Scale

The Wikitude SDK can be configured to work with a real-world scale, which has the benefit that augmentations can be authored with a consistent scale that will be preserved when used on different targets.


Recognition describes the process of finding an image or object in the camera viewfinder. For augmented reality purposes, it is not enough to only identify the object or the bounding box of the object. The position and orientation of the object need to be detected accurately as well. This capability distinguishes AR recognition significantly from other recognition or classification services. Recognition acts as the starting point for tracking the object in real-time – this is also referred to as initialization. The Wikitude SDK has two recognition methods: Automatic Initialization and Alignment initialization. 

Remote Assistance

Remote Assistance in the context of augmented reality is the offering of a platform or application with features such as live video streaming of images and videos. The digital content is overlaid on the user’s view of the real-world environment, making it essential for frontline and field workers in various industries.  


Scene Recognition

The object recognition engine of the Wikitude SDK is used to recognize and track larger structures that go beyond table-sized objects. The name Scene Recognition reflects this in particular. The feature is ideal for augmented reality experiences using rooms, building facades, as well as squares and courtyards as targets.

Software Development Kit (SDK)

Group of development tools used to build an application for a specific platform.

Spatial Computing

This term is defined as human interaction with a machine in which the machine retains and manipulates referents to real objects and spaces.


SLAM is an abbreviation for Simultaneous Localization and Mapping technology. SLAM is a technology that Computer Vision uses to receive visual data from our physical world (usually in the form of tracked points). Devices then use this visual input to understand and appropriately interact with the environment. 


SMART is a seamless API within Instant Tracking that integrates ARKit, ARCore, and Wikitude’s SLAM engine in a single cross-platform AR SDK. By using it, developers do not have to deal with specific ARKit / ARCore code and can create their projects in either JavaScript, Unity, Xamarin, and Cordova. SMART works by dynamically identifying the end user’s device and deciding which should be used for each particular case.  



A target image and associated extracted data are used by the tracker to recognize an image.

Target collection

An archive storing a collection of targets that can be recognized by the tracker. A target collection can come from two different resource types: as plain (a regular ZIP file containing images in plain JPG or PNG) or preprocessed (regular images that are converted into a WTC file (Wikitude Target collection) for faster processing and optimized storing offline).


The AR experience should “understand and follow” where a specific object is placed in the real-world to anchor content to it. This process is commonly referred to as tracking. Tracking in ideal cases happens in real-time (minimum every 33ms) so that the object is followed very accurately. There are many trackers available today, ranging from trackers that follow a face, hands, fingers, images, or generic object. All of them are based on a reference that is later understood by the software.



Unity is a cross-platform game engine developed by Unity Technologies.



Wikitude SDK

The Wikitude SDK script handles the initialization and destruction of the SDK and its native components. It additionally needs to be configured with the correct license key for your application. You can either buy a commercial license from our web page or download a free trial license key and play around with our SDK.


XR (Extended reality)

Extended Reality is an umbrella term that covers all computer-generated environments, either superimposed onto the physical world or creating immersive experiences for the user. XR includes AR, VR, MR, and any other emerging technologies of the same type.




Barcode scanning software can be combined with the Wikitude SDK via Plugins API allowing developers to integrate barcode identification to AR apps.  

3D model based generation 

3D models of objects are a great source for information, that can be used as a reference for recognizing and tracking an object for augmented reality experiences. The huge variety of 3D models in today’s market ranging from precise CAD/CAM data for manufacturing to runtime assets defined in FBX glTF or others brought us to the conclusion to launch this feature in closed BETA. For more details please contact Wikitude directly.

Would you like us to include other terms and concepts in Augmented Reality Glossary? Let us know.

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