Just a quick background on me, I am a Electronics Technologist, IE: I design embedded systems for the most part.
In my experience with learning and using microcontrollers is that PIC's are the easiest to learn because of their small command set(34 instructions) compare to motorola or AVR's (130ish). I also looked at those application notes and both are very doable since Microchip makes good app notes, I don't know your packground but if you are less than electrically inclinded I would probably lean towards the AN718 since it doesn't take much figuring for the electronics and it mostly code which seems to be mostly given. The other(AN532) gives all the schematics for making the controller with alot of descrete parts, and also most of the code. Either way this is going to take alot of effort but after you have it figured the first time you will be able to make as many as you want.