Re-Boat Control in AR

Here it is, your chance to steer a boat, even if you live in the middle of a desert. Find an AR capable iOS device and click the following link:

The link brings you to the viewing mode of ‘Torch.’, an awesome app that allows you to author, share and view AR projects on the screen of a relatively new iPad or an iPhone.

You can use the app to design and test your own AR projects. That is NOT difficult. You do not need any programming experience and, as a start, you can work with freely available Creative Commons models. For now, I will just refer to the Torch website. There you will find a ton of interesting blogs and fantastic instruction videos to get you easily started.

The Re-boat control project is day 1 of a 10 day challenge. Each day (with some days off) I’ll post an Augmented Reality experience. I would really enjoy seeing some places where the boat will go. For you it’s the challenge to film it in your own neighborhood and share the result on twitter, in response to this thread:

Within the view screen of the app, you can make use of the menu in the right top corner to start the experience and record the result. If you keep your remote controlled boat steering video short, you can include it in a tweet. Please use the hashtag #builtwithtorch to make your journey findable.

But why ?

My personal aim, as a an AR explorer and teaching fellow at TU Delft, is to challenge myself and to find the possibilities of AR in education. AR has huge potentials for enterprises, for creative people, for entertainment and in general as a new way to communicate in a spatial and contextual way.


Finding the Torch app saved me a lot of work. The Torch authoring environment is part of the AR experience, so you do not need to develop code and most of the workflow can be done on an iPhone or an iPad. I prefer using an iPad pro to prepare the 3D assets and making the interactions. Viewing AR is great using a new iPad mini.

I will wait using AR headsets. For now the experience on a hand held device provides enough feeling of emergence for me, while I still feel connected to the real world.

This brings me to a small warning. As phones can distract, and while AR is most fun in outdoor areas, please keep an eye on where you walk, don’t fall into the water, stay safe!


With the 10-day-challenge-tweets I would like to find the current possibilities using the Torch app and a number of 3D model creating tools. In this boat control app, I started using 3D assets form sketchfab.com. That’s a repository with all sorts of models and Torch integrates the models that are CC-BY, a license that allows you to use content from others if you refer to them in a proper way.

Here you see an early version of the AR boat and a tweet conversation with the people at Torch that stimulated me to improve the user interface.


In the video of the final tweet you will see me struggling with rotations and only when Torch 3 came out, I found a way to really combine the look and feel of a boat steering wheel in AR.

Here is the trick: I used tinkercad to create arrows that could be used as trigger sensors for the ship motions.

However to make the steering wheel always face the camera, the arrows needed to get an off center pivot point. I could only achieve that by adding some extra gray boxes to balance the centre of the 3D file.

The arrows were added into Torch using Dropbox:

Well, that’s it for now. If you do not understand all these considerations about pivot points etc, that does not matter. You can just start with the Torch app and step by step you will learn more.

Stay tuned to find my other challenges. I would be extra encouraged if you send in funny interesting videos that you make using this boat steering experiment!


If you have any questions or comments, please do not hesitate to contact me below, or using twitter: @marnixst360

Have fun!