Augmented Reality (AR) has been capturing the imagination of users and businesses by offering unique ways to grow their business. Markerless or surface targets AR is a particularly compelling and versatile technology. It seamlessly integrates virtual content into the real-world environment without needing physical markers. This makes it more viable for use among various businesses and ideas.

This article will explore the concept of surface target AR, its advantages, the factors driving its increasing popularity, and its numerous benefits. 

What is Surface Target (Markerless) AR?

Markerless or surface target Augmented Reality integrates advanced computer vision algorithms to recognize and track real-world objects and surfaces. Visual cues, such as textures, edges, and geometric features help accurately determine the position and orientation of the device within the environment. It seamlessly integrates digitally created experiences and objects, such as 3D models, animations, text, or graphics, into the user’s view of the real world.

What makes it different is the absence of a physical marker such as a QR code or a particular hook to enter or view the experience. It does not require predefined patterns or codes to be placed within the environment to serve as anchor points for virtual content. 

Advantages over marker-based AR

Markerless AR offers several advantages over Marker-based, making it a more flexible and versatile solution for a wide range of applications. Let us look at the top benefits it offers and why you need it:

No physical markers required

By eliminating the need for physical markers, it simplifies the setup and deployment process. It, thus, makes it easy for both the development team and the users to create and experience it, concerning time and effort.

Natural and intuitive experience

It provides a more seamless and natural experience by allowing virtual content to be integrated directly into the real-world environment without the need for predefined markers.


Since it does not rely on physical markers, it can be easily scaled and deployed across multiple locations or devices without the need for extensive preparation or installations.


It can adapt to a wide range of environments and scenarios, making it suitable for various applications across different industries.

The increasing popularity of surface targets (markerless) AR

The growing popularity can be attributed to several factors, including advancements in mobile device hardware, improvements in computer vision algorithms, and the increasing demand for immersive and interactive experiences across various industries.

Advancements in mobile device hardware

Modern smartphones and tablets are equipped with powerful processors, high-resolution cameras, and advanced sensors, such as depth cameras and accelerometers. It enables accurate and real-time tracking of the device’s position and orientation.

Improvements in software 

Ongoing research and development in computer vision and machine learning among other fundamental software is making it much easier to adapt to markerless AR without expending much resources on it.

Demand for surface target application

Across industries such as retail, eCommerce, and marketing, there is an increasing demand for Augmented Reality surface tracking applications. Things like try-before-buy are becoming popular as they are much more viable in capturing the attention of customers. It offers a unique opportunity to create these experiences by blending the digital and physical worlds seamlessly.

Benefits of the surface target AR

It offers numerous benefits that make it an attractive choice for various applications and industries:

Enhanced accessibility

It eliminates the need for specialized markers or patterns, making it more accessible and user-friendly for a larger audience. Users can point their device’s camera at the desired environment, and the system will recognize and augment the scene. 

Improved user experience

It provides a more natural and immersive experience for users. This enhanced user experience can lead to increased engagement, better comprehension, and improved retention of information. All of this makes it an attractive choice for applications in areas such as education, training, and marketing.

Easy implementation

Another advantage is its ease of implementation. Since it does not require specific markers or patterns, you can easily integrate it into existing systems, in retail stores, museums, or manufacturing facilities. Also, you do not need extensive modifications or heavy installation efforts. 

Real-world markerless AR examples

The versatility and benefits have led to its adoption across various industries and applications.

Pokémon GO (AR-based game)

One of the most well-known examples is the hugely popular mobile game Pokémon GO. Developed by Niantic, this game utilizes surface targets to overlay virtual Pokémon characters onto the real-world environment, allowing players to catch and interact with them using their smartphones. 

Virtual try-before-buy

Markerless AR web and mobile apps are used by retail brands to create virtual try-before-buy experiences for customers. The device’s camera and computer vision algorithms overlay virtual models of furniture, carpets, etc onto the user’s space. It allows customers to visualize how different products would look on them without physically trying them on. It enhances their natural experience manifold.

Product visualization and information overlay

Markerless AR web apps have found applications in product visualization and information overlay scenarios. For example, furniture retailers can use it to allow customers to virtually place and visualize furniture in their homes. It enables them to make more informed purchasing decisions faster. 

Interactive learning experiences

Educational institutions and training providers are increasingly adopting it to create interactive and immersive learning experiences. By overlaying virtual models, simulations, or educational content in the real-world environment, students can visualize and interact with complex concepts more engagingly and intuitively. This entire process is much more user-friendly and helps them more in increasing their learning speed and comprehension.

Remote expert assistance and collaboration

It has proven invaluable in facilitating remote expert assistance and collaboration across industries – manufacturing, healthcare, and field services. Experts can provide guidance and overlay virtual instructions, annotations, or diagrams in real time.

Key takeaways

Markerless Augmented Reality is a revolutionary technology that seamlessly blends the digital and physical worlds. Its use is not limited to a particular industry or sector. It provides the brands with the necessary help in changing their business module to fit with the changing times. 

If you are looking to integrate surface tracking AR into your product, do it right away with PlugXR’s no-code platform for all things Augmented Reality.

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