Last year's Pokémon Go craze may have cooled off, but augmented reality apps aren't going anywhere, especially on the iPhone where the release of iOS 11 has introduced a host of AR-powered offerings. These apps build upon the world around us by displaying information overlays and digital content tied to physical objects and locations.
Two Android devices — Lenovo's Phab 2 Pro and the Asus ZenFone AR — make extensive use of AR through Google's Project Tango platform, and ARCore figures to extend augmented reality to even more Android phones. Meanwhile, AR is front and center in iOS 11, thanks to ARKit developer tools that make it easier to create AR-friendly apps. From augmented reality viewers that provide immersive print and advertising, to clever AR games, social media toys, and practical utilities, check out some of the best augmented reality apps available for Android and iOS devices.
Photo Credit: Shaun Lucas/Tom's Guide
The Machines is a competitive multiplayer strategy game that takes advantage of Apple's ARKit to turn your tabletop into a virtual battlefield. Players take command of a force of machines to defeat their enemy, with the iPhone serving as a viewfinder that you have to physically move around to position your forces and aim superweapons. Players can train and learn in the practice mode, and once they're ready, they can battle it out in online multiplayer or in local multiplayer with friends gathered around the same table.
The Escher-space-meets-Rubik's-Cube puzzles of Euclidean Lands make it one of our favorite mobile brain teasers, and the app launched an update with the release of iOS 11 that allows you to take its puzzles into augmented reality. The new AR mode lets you overlay the game's puzzles into the real world, giving players a new perspective in a game that's all about manipulating the environment and point of view.
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.
Stack AR might not be the most complex of games, but its block stacking gameplay combined with 3D AR view makes it a simple and effective demonstration of AR gaming in a real life environment. The app is basically an AR version of Ketchapp's older Stack game, but the AR perspective adds a neat new dimension.
The world is your canvas with World Brush, an iOS augmented reality app that allows you to draw and paint over real-world views using a variety of virtual brushes. Once you're done, your virtual painting is saved to its approximate GPS location, allowing other World Brush users nearby to view your creations. And of course, there's a system to like, dislike, and report creations with offensive content.
Furniture giant IKEA has experimented in the past with AR in its catalog apps, but the new IKEA Place app is a marked improvement, taking advantage of ARKit to help users easily visualize how a variety of IKEA furniture designs would look like in their home. Users scan their floor plan with their phone, and then you can select furniture designs and drag and drop them into place using your smartphone as a viewfinder.