World leader in Augmented Reality joins University

One of the world's pioneers in researching and commercialising Augmented Reality (AR) will join the University of Auckland under the Entrepreneurial Universities programme established by the previous government.

Professor Mark Billinghurst, who co-founded ARToolWorks – one of the first AR companies, is the second appointee under the Entrepreneurial programme to join the University’s Auckland Bioengineering Institute (ABI).

“Mark will add hugely to our capability in Augmented Reality,” says the Director of ABI, Distinguished Professor Peter Hunter.

I am very excited by this opportunity to join the University of Auckland and especially the ABI. 

Professor Mark Billinghurst

“He will bring a range of skills that are very complementary to work going on across the ABI, including the avatar work of Professor Mark Sagar in our Laboratory for Animate Technologies.”

Professor Billinghurst’s commercialisation in AR stems back to his PhD at the University of Washington in 2000 when he co-created the ARToolkit Augmented Reality tracking software. ARToolKit was the first open source library for AR and solved the two important problems of camera tracking and interaction for AR. It quickly grew to be the most popular open source AR software for researchers and developers.

Professor Billinghurst then founded and became director of the University of Canterbury’s HIT Lab NZ, a research institute studying the future of human computer interfaces. A total of nine companies have since spun out from his time there, including Quiver, which developed the world’s first AR colouring book.  Since 2015, Professor Billinghurst has been the Director of the Empathic Computing Laboratory at the School of Information Technology and Mathematical Sciences at the University of South Australia in Adelaide, Australia.

In addition to efforts in AR commercialisation, Professor Billinghurst is very well known for his research in Augmented Reality, stretching back over two decades. He has more publications than any other AR researcher in the world, and has developed a number of world firsts, such as the first AR teleconferencing applications, collaborative mobile phone AR experiences, mobile AR advertising campaign, and AR MagicBook technology, among others. He also maintains commercial interests as CEO of Envisage AR Ltd and is a founding Partner at SuperVentures, a venture capitalist firm based in Silicon Valley. (His company ARToolWorks, has been sold to DAQRI, a leading AR display company.)

Professor Billinghurst is a Fellow of the Royal Society of New Zealand in recognition of his work on AR commercialisation and technology transfer, and has won numerous national and international awards recognising his global leadership in AR research and commercialisation.

At ABI Professor Billinghurst will lead a research team comprising a senior research scientist, postdoctoral researcher and three PhD students. He will be conducting research on Empathic Computing, developing telepresence technology that will help remote people to better share their experiences and understand how they are feeling. 

“I am very excited by this opportunity to join the University of Auckland and especially the ABI. My research group will be exploring how AR can be combined with physiological sensing to provide next generation tele-conferencing experiences.

“ABI is a world leader in physiological sensing and so is a natural place for my group to be conducting their research. The University of Auckland is also outstanding at commercialisation, so I am looking forward to working with UniServices to create commercial outcomes of the research. ”

Notes for editors

  • The University of Auckland has been identified by a Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) study as one of the world’s leading entrepreneurial universities “under challenging conditions”.
  • UniServices, the commercial arm of the University of Auckland, is the top commercialisation company in Australasia (1,200 active contracts with 300 firms at any one time).
  • Auckland Bioengineering Institute is a world leader in applying the principles of engineering and mathematics to human physiology.
  • ARToolkit is the world's most widely used tracking library for augmented reality    
  • Envisage AR Ltd is one of the first companies in the world to provide collaborative Mixed Reality applications.
  • SuperVentures, a Silicon Valley based Venture Capital firm focuses focus entirely on early stage companies in the AR and VR space, and since opening it has provided millions of dollars of funding into nine start-ups
  • More information about the Empathic Computing Laboratory and Professor Billinghurst’s current research can be found at
  • The University of Auckland continues to strengthen its innovation and entrepreneurship ecosystem. It has created the new innovation hub and maker space – Unleash Space – and formed New Zealand’s first student-led investment committee, Momentum, through Return on Science. It is also committed to growing New Zealand’s innovation and entrepreneurship ecosystem, building on its innovative researcher community with support from the Entrepreneurial Universities programme and working with New Zealand businesses helping them to grow.  

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