Last year's Pokémon Go craze may have cooled off, but augmented reality apps aren't going anywhere. These apps build upon the world around us by displaying information overlays and digital content tied to physical objects and locations. There's already one Project Tango phone — Lenovo's Phab 2 Pro — that makes extensive use of AR, and another — the Asus ZenFone AR — is on its way this summer, while Apple will reportedly make AR a focus in its next iPhone. But don't wait until then: plenty of apps available now let you bring a static print ad to life, watch a movie trailer by pointing your smartphone camera at a poster, or discover nearby establishments and landmarks with your mobile device. Check out these impressive augmented reality apps for Android and iOS devices.
Photo Credit: Sam Rutherford/Tom's Guide
Combining the addictive collecting and battling-ready gameplay of Nintendo's Pokémon with Niantic's augmented reality technology, Pokémon Go (Android, iOS) took the mobile gaming world by storm last year, and updates have continued the fun into 2017. Pokémon Go sends players exploring their neighborhood on foot to discover, photograph and collect cute Pokémon from Nintendo's hit franchise. Each player's phone functions as a map and viewfinder, guiding you toward Poké Stops to collect items and helping you spot Pokemon to capture. Players who reach Level 5 are encouraged to join one of three teams in order to battle each others' Pokémon for control of Pokémon Gyms.
Pokemon Go may be the hot new thing for Niantic, but Ingress (Android, iOS) is where the company first pioneered its GPS augmented reality gameplay. A massively multiplayer augmented reality game, Ingress has players joining rival secret societies to fight for control over "Exotic Matter" (XM) leaking into our world around landmarks and famous buildings, all while a science fiction thriller story unfolds. Using mobile devices, you travel to real world locations to gather "XM" and gain control of portals around buildings and landmarks. Fly the flag for the Enlightened or the Resistance in a game that encourages you to explore the world around you.
The world becomes your canvas with WallaMe (Android, iOS), an augmented reality app that lets you create geotagged works of art drawn or painted on walls, sidewalks, or buildings without having to spill a single drop of paint. You can then share the locations of your messages or artwork with your friends so that they can view your work with their own smartphone camera using WallaMe. You also can make your work public for any WallaMe user to discover with their viewfinder. In addition to using your phone as a viewfinder, you can search for other user-created WallaMe walls using a map interface.
The ROAR app (Android, iOS) is an augmented reality browser that lets users see a variety of extra AR information associated with products and posters, such as nutritional or product information, deals, promotions, or embedded content including videos, animations or links. ROAR fills dead print ads and static product packaging with rich interactive content. Marketing professionals can access a web-based editor in order to create their own AR content and markers.
A leader in what it calls "Interactive Print," Layar (Android, iOS) allows users to view embedded digital content within a variety of sources, such as posters, magazine pages, advertisements and product QR codes. These can lead to a variety of extra content, such as movie trailers, product discount codes, linked videos, websites or alternate versions of a page or poster. The app also includes a Geo Layers feature for discovering nearby establishments, restaurants, events and more.
Blippar (Android, iOS) wants to add a new term to our high tech lexicon — "blip," which it calls "the action of instantaneously converting anything in the real world into an interactive wow experience." Users can take a blippable object, such as a movie poster, magazine advertisement or product label, and pull up related digital content, such as interactive advertisements, links, trailers, promo videos or minigames.
Aurasma (Android, iOS) is another augmented reality app for viewing embedded content (or "Auras") in a variety of print ads, locations or packages. A neat feature that comes in Aurasma is the ability to create your own Auras using your photos and videos, or via a library of pre-built Auras available online. Simply choose your Aura's effect, then select a trigger image, and you're all set.