Apple's AR future
Augmented reality has gone far beyond chasing down virtual monsters in Pokémon Go. First released three years ago, Apple's ARKit developer tool continues to grow and with the release of iOS 13, AR experiences are appearing in more and more apps. (A People Occlusion feature in ARKit 3, for example, lets clever developers insert real people into virtual spaces using the iPhone's camera view.)
You don't have to wait until Apple's rumored AR glasses arrive to start experiencing a new reality. (Good thing, too, since those glasses aren't going to show up in 2019.) With AR easier than ever to find, here are the coolest ARKit-based apps we've seen so far.
A new Live View feature brings augmented reality to the arsenal of features available in Google Maps. Live View helps you find your way by superimposing virtual signs and directional arrows over the live camera view on your iPhone’s screen in order to point the way to your destination. And this new view comes on top of the other tools available in Maps, ranging from turn-by-turn directions, commuting instructions, location search, reviews, and more.
The Civilizations AR app brings ancient relics and cultural treasures to life using augmented reality to turn your iPhone into a mobile museum. You can view each artifact in lifelike 3D renderings, using your phone as an AR viewfinder. The AR approach gives you both unprecedented views and the ability to zoom in and spin around items. You can check out interactive features like x-ray views and narrations, and learn about the secrets, origins and history of these global cultural treasures. It's the next best thing to holding a historical artifact in your own hands.
Big Bang AR
A collaboration between CERN and Google Arts & Culture, Big Bang AR brings the history of the cosmos to your living room, using augmented reality rendering to help you visualize the opening seconds of the universe and the titanic forces unleashed that define our universe today. Narrated by Tilda Swinton, Big Bang AR is a media-rich presentation that showcases everything from the big bang to the final moments of a supernova, as well as the birth of our solar system and the Earth itself.
Language learning app Mondly adds an AR-assisted spin, engaging language learners with an animated chatbot as well as visualizations of objects and words to help make learning more dynamic, as well as providing instant feedback on pronunciation and any errors. Those features join Mondly's lessons, games, and practice conversations designed to cover more than 30 different languages.
Actually dissecting a once-living frog is a feat not all students can, nor want to, do. You know what's a lot nicer? Using Froggipedia to slice open a virtual Kermit, since it supports the Apple Pencil, which is a lot less dangerous than an actual scalpel. Oh, and the best part? No cleanup.
WWF Free Rivers
Since a class trip down the white-water rapids is both expensive and slightly dangerous, the World Wildlife Fund has got the next best thing. Free Rivers allows you to place interactive models of real locations — including the Himalayas, the African savanna and southeast Asian deltas — on a tabletop, for classroom edification and enjoyment. Kids can even take control, with options to create dams to properly manage water.
One of our favorite AR apps yet, Chalk uses augmented reality technology to supercharge tech support for the 21st century. Chalk sets up a video call between two devices, where the person getting advice points their rear camera at whatever they need explained to them, and the other person draws on their own screen as they speak their suggestions. The person getting the help sees those doodles live, appearing on their screen, falling on the specific buttons, knobs and other parts of what they're looking at.
Turn your iPhone into a mobile dance instructor with Dance Reality, an ARKit-powered app that teaches you the basic footwork and timings of a variety of dance styles by displaying the footwork on your smartphone screen. Users can select from a variety of dance styles, including the option to learn the footwork for whether you're leading or following. There's also solo and couple practice features.
The Machines is so impressive, Apple gave it stage time at last year's iPhone X launch event. It's a competitive multiplayer co-op strategy game that involves players (either in online networked play, or locally in the same room) shooting at each other and destroying bases. As one player rotates their device, the sound of the game adjusts based around real world obstacles that would obscure traveling sound.
Angry Birds AR: Isle of Pigs
Angry Birds might not be the mobile gaming juggernaut it once was, but it still throws up some cool concept games, like Angry Birds AR: Isle of Pigs, which takes the physics puzzler to augmented reality. You can now project piggy fortresses into your living room, using an AR slingshot and an array of different birds to make those structures come tumbling down.
ARia’s Legacy is an interesting looking adventure puzzle game that draws inspiration from immersive puzzles like horror game The Room, while putting an AR spin on things. The app doesn’t stop with projecting puzzle elements, but practically creates an entire virtual room around you, with your iPhone or iPad as a viewfinder for interacting with puzzles, machines, clues and tools. The game is free, though the full unlock for the first chapter’s four escape rooms will cost you $2.99, with further puzzles incoming as the game releases further episodes.
Curious about trying your hand at creating AR experiences? Thyng provides tools for everyday users to create AR objects and play around with them. While one example allowed users to turn themselves into chess pieces, another created a three-by-three grid of football game streams, aka Pigskin Paradise.
ARise is a platform adventure game allows you to drop its world into your home, office, or anywhere else you go. As beautiful as Monument Valley, but less confusing, ARise looks to provide a calming and serene way to game.
Much more legal than carrying around a cadaver, InsightHeart allows you to drop a transparent human body with a thumping heart onto what you see in front of you. By moving your phone around the animation, walking closer and closer, you'll learn more about the incredibly vital organ.
Credit: Shaun Lucas/Tom's Guide
Popular home improvement app Houzz upgraded its View in My Room 3D tool for ARKit capabilities. Now, users can get even more detail after dropping objects — selected from the app's library of half a million products — into their living spaces. You'll also see how those objects handle lighting. The app also allows you to buy the items that tie your rooms together directly from the app.
Having trouble figuring out what chair will be right for your kitchen? Or what rug will tie the living room together? The Ikea Place app allows you to virtually drop new pieces of furniture from the famous company into your own living spaces and find out.
Sun Seeker is a specialized AR app that tracks and predicts the movement of the sun in the sky, providing a flat compass view and augmented reality viewfinder that shows the path and position of the sun at a given date and time. The app provides additional specifics such as predicted sunrise, sunset and maximum elevation. While it seems like just a pricey software toy, Sun Seeker does have practical applications for a variety of professions, such as for photographers or architects planning to make use of natural lighting.
Google Translate makes excellent use of augmented reality to help translate written text from 88 different languages for users live and in real time. The app then taps into the power of your iPhone camera and cloud processing to quickly interpret text and then overlay the translation on your iPhone screen, effectively replacing the original text in real time. It’s not always perfect, but is very convenient and serviceable for quick signs or labels, and comes on top of Google Translate’s text and audio translation features.
You don't need to watch a concert or awards show to find a holographic celebrity, now that the Holo app allows you to augment your photos and videos with the likes of Jon Hamm, Spider-Man and many more. It also offers other animated objects for you to drop into your world and resize, such as apes, pro wrestlers and lions.
Everybody loves GIFs, and so it feels right that GIPHY (the best site for finding them) is bringing them into augmented reality. The GIPHY World app allows users to drop the moving images into videos and photos, and then share them with friends.