Trail Explorer By CTRMA

Engage and educate with augmented reality

State Highway 45 Southwest (45SW) was a highly contested, yet desperately needed, addition to Austin’s overburdened transportation system. This 4.5-mile stretch of highway and walking trail runs directly over the Edwards Aquifer recharge zone and is home to countless wildlife species. The Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority (CTRMA) and the engineering firm WSP worked for more than four years to ensure this new section of highway was constructed with minimal effect on the surrounding environment.

Upon completion of the highway, the two firms were seeking a fun and engaging way to educate local residents about the sustainable building practices used during construction and on the environmental diversity in the surrounding area. What better way than to connect with people directly on their mobile phones using the power of augmented reality.


Develop an interactive mobile experience that engages with area residents and educates them about the local environment.


Leveraging the latest in augmented reality technology, users get the opportunity to experience local wildlife, step ‘inside’ the Edwards Aquifer, learn how a recharge zone functions, and much more — all from the convenience of their phone.


A highly engaging mobile adventure bridging the gap between analog and digital, modernizing the outdoor trail experience and driving new users to explore the trail.

Why AR?

Mobile-based augmented reality (AR) is the best of both worlds. It allows you to create cutting-edge interactive visual experiences, and deliver them directly in the hands of the consumer. Want to see a Texas horned lizard up close? How about stepping inside the Edwards Aquifer? Have you ever seen a mosasaur? All this and much more is possible thanks to the power of mobile AR.

Interactive Storytelling 

Immersive Brand Strategy

Discovery meetings early on revealed the Trail Explorer project would pose a few particular challenges; a need to connect the ‘analog and digital’, appeal to a wide range of users and provide real-world utility. Leveraging marker-based AR, providing bi-lingual narration and integrating an interactive mapping feature are just a few of the elements used in pursuit of the perfect immersive trail experience.

Creative Direction

Following a ‘marker-based’ design strategy gave us the ability to utilize more than a dozen informational signs placed along the 45SW Trail route. By simply scanning any sign, users unlock one of twelve voiceover narrations and/or one of six individual AR experiences providing a ‘treasure hunt’ like experience. Voiceover narration is provided in both English and Spanish.

Experience Design

With industry best practices still being established, there is no standard in AR design. Through multiple rounds of user testing, CM&D was able to design and develop an intuitive, easy to use AR experience that transcends all major mobile platforms and users groups. CM&D provided all UX/UI design services, 3D modeling and animation used in this project.

Immersive Development

Augmented Reality Development

Marker-based cross-platform AR applications require a number of different tools and skillsets to successfully execute. In the development of this application, CM&D leveraged the latest AR technology from both Apple (ARKit) and Android (ARCore), multiple SDKs (MapBox, Vuforia, etc.) and provided custom code development services.


Distribution Strategy & Development

To help ensure the launch of the application went off without a hitch, CM&D assisted in preparing all digital and visual assets for publication as well as managed the launch of the final app into both the Apple App and Google Play Stores. Once live, the three teams worked together to host a kickoff event introducing the public to Trail Explorer by CTRMA.

Back-End Support & Database Development

The final application was transferred to an industry-leading remote server to ensure performance and security standards are maintained. CM&D provides ongoing weekly maintenance as well as detailed monthly reports keeping the project team up to date on the latest user data, performance metrics and API updates.

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