Many people escape to the internet from the everyday hustle of life. But, what if reality was just as exciting as the things seen online? Modern technology gave the ability to literally alter the way reality is seen. And 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 get? There is certainly an app that matches a specific interest. And you’ll find the best one for yourself, including some AR games, from our list.
Inside This Article
- What is Augmented Reality?
- 13 Must-try AR Apps
- How Does Augmented Reality Work?
- Augmented Reality vs. Virtual Reality
First of all, let’s quickly define what augmented reality even is. Put simply, AR is an interactive experience where real-world environments and objects get altered or enhanced by computer-generated modifications. It could be visual, olfactory, auditory, and even somatosensory.
Nowadays, AR can be categorized into four main types and those 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, markerless AR which doesn’t rely on markers (pattern or object guides) is the one that’s on trend. It’s integrated into many of the featured apps, which you’ll notice as you read on.
Now ready to experience the magic of augmented reality? Dive into these best AR apps today!
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 AR 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 do 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 AR app pairs perfectly with interior designers, amateur decorators, and even new homeowners.
IKEA Place is free to obtain on iOS devices.
At this point, everyone has already heard of Instagram. A popular social media platform, Instagram has incorporated AR 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.
If Instagram made it to this list of best AR apps, there’s no stopping Snapchat from being here too. The latter app’s AR aspects are the same as the former’s — the filters and effects you can put on your selfies, groupies, or videos.
And those filters and effects we’re mentioning aren’t mediocre. They’re extremely fun and entertaining to see that they’ve been the reason why some Snapchat users are going viral. So, if you want to jump into the latest online trend or start your own, get Snapchat today.
And if you want to learn more, just head to our article on what Snapchat is.
Have you ever wanted to take a photo with mythical, extinct, or wild animals? Or do you like to visualize not just furniture, but cars, robots, and artworks inside your home?
You can do all of those with ARLOOPA. It’s among the most entertaining AR apps out there, being able to merge with reality many virtual things and creatures. What’s more, ARLOOPA doubles as a 3D scanner app. With it, you can render 3D models of things you take pictures of. Enhancing the content taken using the app is possible thanks to the plethora of filters and effects available.
Interested? You may click the buttons below to get ARLOOPA now. It’s free, although you need a paid subscription for premium features.
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. AR apps like this work great for when you are shopping or just exploring a new place. Lens can even 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.
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 AR 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 via AR apps, getting from Point A to Point B is easier.
If you do not have Google Maps yet, you can download it from the Google Play Store or the App Store.
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 one of the exceptional AR apps anymore. In fact, it is one of the few apps that really introduced AR on a global scale. Not only did it spark a renewed interest in Pokémon, but it also encouraged 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 700 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.
Google has been really blazing through the world of AR apps with its many offerings. Also among the best ones is 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.
If you have children, consider downloading Quiver for them to use. With this AR 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 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 AR 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.
The Witcher: Monster Slayer isn’t only interesting for anyone who already played The Witcher series on console or PC. Even if you aren’t familiar with the said series, you’ll be immersed into its AR spin-off. That’s because the game makes you feel like a real witcher as you battle monsters in the real world. You’ll also be able to collect loot and progress into the game, RPG-style.
In a way, The Witcher: Monster Slayer might remind you of Pokémon Go. Nonetheless, it’s a completely new experience RPG and adventure game veterans and newbies will love.
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!
YouCam Makeup lets you use AR tools to see how a variety of lipsticks, blushes, and eye makeup look on you. Also, it 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 AR apps for fashion and makeup in the market today. It’s free to download on Android and iOS devices, although there are in-app purchases.
Augment is great if you want to advertise your products and provide an easy way for buyers to try those. All you need to do is to snap a photo of the product (e.g. furniture), then upload and share it on the app. Other users of the app with will be able to virtually place the product in their homes and contact you to buy it. It’s as easy as 1-2-3.
What’s also notable about the app is that it supports 3D model comparison — which is great given that many people are using it for buying products. But if you’re not into selling things, know that you can still use Augment simply to share your creations with other users.
All in all, Augment is one of the best AR apps you can obtain for free on Android.
Although The Machines does not come free, it is arguably one of the best multiplayer strategy games in the world of AR apps. 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 iOS for a fee.
Although you’re done going through our list, you might be interested to learn more about AR functions. So, here’s how AR works in a nutshell: AR technology mainly uses cameras and sensors to send and process data. The processed data are then stored as flash memory and ready to be projected by the compatible devices.
Although that sounds universal, how AR exactly works may vary depending on the application. For example, the other underlying processes making it possible for you to use your mobile devices to access AR games like Pokemon Go and those that let you use your Google Glasses for the construction and medical fields are different.
Because it’s common to get augmented reality and virtual reality mixed up from time-to-time, let’s take some time to understand the difference. We’ve come up with a simple explanation here.
If you’re confused about the two mentioned technologies, just keep this in mind: AR uses exotic technology to transform the real world with additional layers of digital information. On the other hand, VR stimulates an experience that is completely distinctive from reality. What differentiates AR with VR is that the former does not separate your virtual world from reality; it integrates virtual into the reality instead.
Augment Your Reality Using AR Apps Today
That’s it for our list of best AR apps and the things we’ve wanted to share about the technology behind the entries. 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 the AR apps we’ve showcased here. And those are just the beginning! There are more options you can find online and offline, and things to learn about the technology through actual experience.
Indeed, AR 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.