This project has been under development for a few months prior to the beginning of this blog, so I might as well explain some of the approach as it stands so far.
There are three "big picture" technical components to this project: The first is developing an efficient markerless camera-based AR system consisting of a keypoint detector, feature matcher and pose estimator on the mobile platform. Second, is sensor fusion with the other sensors available on a modern mobile device-- compass, GPS, gyroscope, and accelerometer. Third, is user interface design integrating these technologies into an easy-to-use app that can both build view augmented data as well as provide new user-generated data to grow the database.
So far, I have focused on building the general-purpose markerless AR system. I am using FAST Corner Detection to find keypoints in an image, followed by the Ferns classifier to match the keypoints as seen through the camera with those in a reference image, and then using RANSAC to calculate the homography mapping the reference image to the camera image. All the algorithms at this point are built into OpenCV, which I have compiled for iOS with some outside help.
(Speaking of iOS, I have tested this code both on an iPhone 4 and an iPad 2. The iPad 2 is significantly faster even without specific multithreaded programming techniques to take advantage of the dual core processor. I'm not exactly yet sure why this is, but maybe discovering why would reveal some unexpected bottlenecks in my code...)
The immediate next step is to convert the homography I find into an OpenGL modelview transformation matrix so I can start rendering something more interesting than a rectangle over my scene. Though rectangles are nice and satisfying after fighting compilation errors for days, and seeing new rectangles drawn at ~12fps is great after a few weeks trying out SURF descriptors. And even though I have something that remotely functions, there is plenty of room for optimization, especially in terms of compressing the Ferns so they don't hog so much memory. The ideas in this paper look like they might be half-implemented in the OpenCV Ferns code, though they are commented out.
More details as things progress...