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. The latest update makes gym battles more accessible to all players and also introduced Raid Battles, which puts up to 20 trainers in co-op fights against powerful monsters.
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.
Take augmented reality to the heavens with Star Walk 2 (Android, iOS), an AR app that uses your device's sensors and location data to present an interactive view of the night sky. All you need to do is point your device skyward, and the app will display a matching view of custom-rendered constellations, planets and other celestial bodies in real time, with more details available on demand. Other features include a Time Machine mode for viewing starscapes at past or future dates, an overlay to see skies at different wavelengths and a built-in Night Mode, which makes the app more comfortable to use in the low light.
Holo (Android, iOS) lets users place a variety of holographic models and figures into a scene for photo and video capture. The app does limit you to a single hologram at a time, but it's still one of the most enjoyable AR experiences on the market today due to its extensive library of content available. You can also easily share all of your creations directly from the app’s built-in access to popular social media platforms.
Snapchat's (Android, iOS) self-destructing messages have been a hit among its users, but it also includes augmented reality elements in the form of a variety of real-time transformations, filters and special effects called Lenses that you can add to Snapchat video message which you send to your contacts. The right lens can transform you into an animal, swap your face with another person's, or make you barf rainbows, making for a fun and silly addition to your Snapchat messages.
After adding Snapchat-style filters to its own app, Facebook has finally ported them over to Instagram (Android, iOS). These AR face features work both via the front-facing and rear cameras and with all of Instagram’s photo and video capture modes as well. Interested users can try on various crowns, turn themselves into a koala or a rabbit or choose to have math equations float around their heads.
Augment (Android, iOS) lets you place a wide range of virtual objects into your environment, with options to move, resize, capture and share them from within the app. Users can choose from a variety of existing models in the database, scan objects from QR codes or import any created in external 3D modeling programs. Premium accounts on Augment’s platform get access to a host of corporate-friendly features for making sure your product reaches its intended audience.