Many people escape to the internet from the everyday hustle of life. But, what if reality was just as exciting as the things you see online? Modern technology has afforded us the ability to literally alter the way we see reality. Thanks to augmented reality (AR) apps, you can point your smartphone at something and open yourself up to a world of possibilities.
But, with so many AR apps available, which one should you try out first? There is an app for everybody of any interest. Here are the best augmented-reality apps that include AR games you can find on Android and iOS.
What Is Augmented Reality?
First of all, let us discuss what augmented reality even is. To put it simply, augmented reality (AR) is an interactive experience where real-world environments and objects get altered or enhanced by computer-generated modifications. This could be visual, olfactory, auditory, and even somatosensory. It is not to be confused with virtual reality, which is an interactive experience that takes place completely in a virtual environment.
How Does Augmented Reality Work?
It’s common that you get mixed up with AR/VR from time-to-time. As its name suggests, AR uses exotic technology to transform our real world with additional layers of digital information. Whereas Virtual Reality (VR) stimulates an experience that is completely distinctive from reality. What differentiates AR with VR is this technology does not separate your virtual world from reality but integrating virtual into the reality instead.
How AR works are somewhat sophisticated and simple at the same time. It mainly uses cameras and sensors to send and process data. While the processed data are stored as flash memory and ready to project by the compatible devices.
Today, AR can be categorized into four main types that include — markerless AR, marker-based AR, projection-based AR, and superimposition-based AR. Though most of these AR functions work differently to cater specifically to the demands, the Markerless AR is on the trend. That said, you can see apps like Google Maps that uses this technology to help users navigate better.
Typically, the AR technology is used via mobile devices and AR glasses like Google Glasses. But what how it works are highly depends on the applications itself. For example, you use your mobile devices to access AR games like PokemonGo, Ingress, and so on. While you use AR with Google glasses in the construction and medical fields. One thing that all these apps share is it allows users to be aware of its surrounding while using the technology.
12 Best AR Apps
Ready to experience the magic of augmented reality? Here are the 12 best AR apps to dive into!
1. Civilizations AR
The BBC’s Civilizations AR app is one of the best augmented-reality apps for continuing education. Made in tandem with the BBC’s documentary series of the same name, the Civilizations app allows anyone with a smartphone to learn about historical artifacts. It is basically like having a museum contained within your mobile device.
There are more than 30 artifacts from around the world that you can examine with the app’s help. Each artifact is rendered in 3D, giving you a lifelike experience. There are also other features within the app that enhance the overall experience. For instance, the first artifact you examine as a “tutorial” of sorts is an Egyptian mummy. Using the app’s x-ray feature, you can look inside and see a glimpse of the past. There are also accompanying narrations that educate you on origins, secrets, and the history of these artifacts.
Civilizations AR is available on both Android and iOS for free.
2. IKEA Place
It might seem strange to some to have an IKEA app on your mobile device, but IKEA Place is really something unique. As one of the top augmented-reality apps for home furniture, IKEA Place manages to deliver a seamless and helpful experience. As it uses superimposition-based AR technology, it enables you to stimulate and visualize how the furniture will look like in your home. All you need to to is, unlock the app, scan your floor plan, and then see how various IKEA furniture would fit in your home. This AR app is especially perfect for those who often find trouble deciding on which piece of chair or table goes well with their living room.
IKEA Place offers a wide range of furniture within its catalog, and it is a significant improvement over the brand’s past experiments with AR. With this rendition, you can go window shopping but with the added benefit of seeing furniture in action in your actual space. This augmented reality app pairs perfectly with interior designers, amateur decorators, and even new homeowners.
IKEA Place is available on both Android and iOS for free.
At this point, everyone has already heard of Instagram. A popular social media platform, Instagram has incorporated augmented reality tools to make its Stories more exciting. Through the use of various filters (which are free to download), you can take videos and photos with added quirks. Feeling fancy? There is a filter that can make you look like royalty. Looking for something fun? There are plenty of game filters you can use, too!
The best part is, you can share how you use these filters with your followers. With Instagram’s “Close Friends” feature, you can handpick a select few of those followers so that they are the only ones who can see certain Stories you post. So, if you want to try augmented reality with a social aspect, create an Instagram account now. It is absolutely free of charge.
You can download Instagram from the Google Play Store or the Apple App Store.
4. Just a Line
For all you doodlers out there, Just a Line is the augmented reality app for you. Straight from the Google Creative Lab, Just a Line allows you to bring your drawings to life with the help of AR. Although the idea may seem simple, there is a lot of fun to be had with this augmented reality app. Just open the app, allow it to load for a few seconds, and then start doodling away.
Just a Line makes good use of the space around you. Using only your finger, you can draw anything your imagination allows. You can even move around and see how your drawings render in perfect 3D. Beyond that, you can shoot videos with your friends and share them online. If you have a creative streak or want to nurture your kids’ creativity, then Just a Line is definitely one of the best augmented-reality apps you can download.
Just a Line is available on both Android and iOS for free.
5. Google Lens
If you are familiar with the now-defunct Google Goggles, Google Lens basically does all the same things Goggles did, only better and with more features. With the Google Lens app, you can point your smartphone at any item and it will start working its magic. It is like Googling something using AR.
When the app identifies the object, it can make suggestions on where you can buy it. It can even offer you alternatives. The most basic function, though, is to make a Google search for that object. This works great for when you are shopping or just exploring a new place, as Lens can give you details on nearby landmarks.
You can download the Google Lens app on Android or access it using Google Assistant and Google Photos. Unfortunately, there is no separate app for iOS users. However, iOS can still run Google Lens through Google Photos.
6. Google Maps
Another app from Google, Google Maps is perhaps the most reliable navigational tool on the market today. What started out as just a simple map function now offers augmented reality tools. Beyond just navigating in 2D format, Google Maps now allows you to travel to your destination in AR mode. In this mode, you can see directional arrows and virtual signs to help you find your way.
Google Maps is definitely one of the smarter uses of Google AR technology. You do not even need any special devices to get it to work. All you need is your smartphone and the Google Maps app, which comes pre-installed in most Android devices. With the future of navigation already at your fingertips, getting from Point A to Point B is made easier and more fun.
If you do not have it yet, you can download Google Maps from the Google Play Store or the Apple App Store.
7. Google Translate
Google has been really blazing through the world of augmented reality apps with its many offerings. One of the best ones, though, is undoubtedly the Google Translate app. This app works great for travelers, those learning a new language, or those who simply want to have some fun with translations.
Using the Google Translate app, you can choose the original language and the language you want it to be translated to. Then, simply use the camera function and point your camera at the text you want to translate. The app will translate it in real-time. So, for instance, if you want to translate a French sentence to English, simply choose “French” as the original language and then “English” as the target language. Point your smartphone at the sentence and watch it work.
Of course, Google Translate is not perfect, and there are times it will get translations wrong. With the complexity of languages and nuances, that can’t be avoided. You can download Google Translate on your Android or iOS device free of charge.
8. Pokémon Go
Do you remember when Niantic’s Pokémon Go was all the rage? Just because the hype died down with time does not mean Pokémon Go is not still an exceptional AR app. In fact, it is one of the few augmented-reality apps that really introduced AR on a global scale. Not only did it spark a renewed interest in Pokémon, but did it also encourage people around the world to actually go out and exercise.
If you are unfamiliar with the mechanics of this game, it is quite simple. Using your smartphone, you catch various Pokémon that spawn in your surroundings. It makes you feel as if you are an actual Pokémon trainer trying to “catch them all.” The game started out with 150 first-generation Pokémon to catch. Now, though, there are over 500 Pokémon you can capture. While the game’s popularity definitely declined as time went on, it still remains a favorite among many fans.
You can download Pokémon Go for free on Android and iOS, though there are some optional in-app purchases.
If you have children, consider downloading Quiver for them to use. With this augmented reality app, your kids can bring their coloring characters to life. All you need to do is print out image packs (some of which cost money) from the Quiver website and allow your kids to color them in real life. Then, using the app, point the camera at the finished pages and watch as the characters come to life. There are animations and special effects to make the experience even more fun and interactive.
Most AR apps and AR games typically target adults because of the tools involved. Not many children have access to smartphones on a regular basis. But, Quiver is one of the few augmented-reality apps that really foster creativity among young kids. That is not to say, of course, that adults can’t use Quiver at all. In fact, a lot of adults find solace and comfort in coloring books.
Quiver is available on both Android and iOS.
10. The Machines
Although The Machines does not come free, it is arguably one of the best AR games in the world of augmented reality apps. If you do not know what The Machines is, it is a multiplayer strategy AR game. So, what is so special about it? Simple. It takes your normal tabletop and transforms it into a virtual battlefield.
In the game, you command an army of machines to take down your opponent. Using your smartphone as a viewfinder, you must move it around to place your machines in their right positions and aim your weapons. Don’t worry about getting things wrong, though. There is a practice mode you can take advantage of when you are starting out. You can then graduate to playing online with others or just locally with friends around the same tabletop.
The Machines is available on both Android and iOS. You can purchase the app for $4.99.
Vandalism is illegal, but with WallaMe, you can do it virtually. This augmented reality app allows you to point at a surface and draw on it using your finger. You can then geotag that location so that other WallaMe users can witness your creation. It is a way to draw graffiti without actual spray paint involved. You can do it on walls, buildings, and even sidewalks.
There are two ways to share your drawings. The first is to share it with your friends directly, and the other is to allow strangers to find it on their own using the viewfinder. In the same way, you can view other people’s creations as well by using the app.
WallaMe is available on both Android and iOS for free.
12. YouCam Makeup
Not sure about which lipstick shade to purchase? Want to know how you will look with that hot pink blush without having to put it on? YouCam Makeup is here to save the day!
Using augmented reality tools, you can use YouCam Makeup to see how a variety of lipsticks, blushes, and eye makeup look on you. The app has partnered with a wide range of makeup brands, including Maybelline, Urban Decay, and L’Oreal. Even better, you do not need to take a picture of yourself and manually shade it in. The app augments your look in real-time.
Other than that, you can share your looks with friends using the app and even follow other people on it. If you like a certain makeup item or accessory, you can purchase it directly through the app.
YouCam Makeup is definitely one of the best augmented-reality apps for fashion and makeup in the market today. The best part is, it is completely free to download on Android and iOS devices.
Augment Your Reality Today
As you can see, real life does not have to be dull and monotonous. You can easily make reality more exciting by using one of these augmented reality apps. And these are just the beginning! There are so many more augmented-reality apps you can try online and offline.
Augmented reality is the future. It is set to change the world as we know it—not only the way we see things but also the way we interact with everyday objects.