The Pokémon Go craze may be so 2016, but augmented reality apps aren't going anywhere. The iPhone has seen a bunch of AR-powered apps in the past year, thanks to ARKit developer tools released as part of iOS 11. Google has developer tools of its own in the form of ARCore, and it's introducing changes that will enable even more features such as shared AR experiences. AR-powered directions are even going to find their way into Google's Maps app. All things considered, the future of AR is pretty exciting.
But the present shouldn't be overlooked either. 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: Philip Michaels/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.
ARise is another excellent showcase of augmented reality's potential as a gaming medium, with the game's environmental platform puzzles laid out in AR-space that you can then explore and interact with. Unlike traditional AR experiences, the marker-less capabilities of ARKit lets you turn just about any space, whether it's home, the bus stop, or the office break room into a gaming space.
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. 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.
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.
Thyng (Android, iOS) is a toolkit for creating your own augmented reality experiences, with tools to create a variety of AR effects, such as placing animated figures and 3D models on top of surfaces and targets, suspending videos and photographs in mid-air, and more. You can then take snapshots of your creations, or record 30-second videos. The app is available on Android and iOS, powered by ARCore and ARKit respectively.
WWF Free Rivers is a neat educational tool that shows the powerful impact that river systems have on nature and human civilization, and how we can damage or preserve these vital natural systems. The app takes advantage of ARKit technology to render different river systems, such as those in the African savannas, Himalayan mountains or the river deltas of Southeast Asia. Animated, interactive models show how rivers feed and nourish the environment, and how people in turn can affect the river's flow and health. It's an interesting showcase for how AR tech can educate, as well as entertain.