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January 13, 2018

Escape reality with the best augmented reality apps for Android and iOS

by John_A

Augmented reality (AR) has long sounded like a wild futuristic concept, but the technology has actually been around for years. AR is all about superimposing computer-generated images on top of your view of reality, thus creating a composite view that augments the real world. AR apps run the gamut, from interactive map overlays and virtual showrooms to massive multiplayer skirmishes. More and more ARKit apps are rolling out on Apple’s iOS, and, while Google has killed off Project Tango, it’s still looking at ARCore as the future.

The available selection of augmented reality apps is diverse. Here are our top picks for the best augmented reality apps available, whether you’re searching for iOS or Android apps.

The best AR apps

‘Pokémon Go’ (Free)

It wouldn’t be a list of the best AR apps without mentioning Niantic’s Pokémon Go, a game that has quickly captured everyone’s attention and given them a reason to go out into the world, walk around, and catch Pokémon. The game uses GPS to mark your location, and move your in-game avatar, while your smartphone camera is used to show Pokémon in the real world. For the most part, it works, provided the game hasn’t crashed or frozen. There aren’t a lot of instructions when you first start, or information regarding game mechanics like the colored rings around wild Pokémon, but thanks to the nature of the internet, figuring out what to do isn’t that tough.

Players of Ingress, another Niantic creation, will see many similarities between the developer’s two games, right down to the locations marked as Pokéstops and Gyms. So far the game has received multiple updates, and hundreds of new Pokémon have been added, and Niantic is set to continue updating the game to improve its performance and add new features like trading, so we imagine Pokémon Go will stick around for a good, long while.

Download now for:

Android iOS

Ink Hunter (Free)

Ink Hunter is the app you should use when deciding on a tattoo and where to put it. The app lets you try out pre-made tattoos, as well as your own designs, and they can be oriented in whatever position you like and placed on any part of the body. Tattoos placed on the body using the camera look as close to real life as you’re going to get — without actually going under the needle that is — and that’s all thanks to the in-app editor and the way Ink Hunter renders tattoos. The app previously only supported black-and-white tattoos, but its latest update added support for color tattoos as well, meaning you can get a better understanding of what the design will look like before you make it permanent.

Download now for:

Android iOS

Holo (Free)

Remember the AR stickers on the Google Pixel? This app is pretty much where it all began. Holo allows you to take characters from both fictional worlds and the real world, and drag and drop them into your immediate surroundings; a process Holo refers to as “Holo-mixing”. Each of the characters, which range from YouTube celebrities to fictional characters, performs a range of set animations and sounds when placed in the world, and can be shrunk and expanded to match your ideal placement.

The actual execution can be a little glitchy, and the AR functionality isn’t without its bugs — you might find that the characters you’ve placed like to move with you, rather than letting you move around them — but as an app that’s available across both Android and iOS, it’s certainly an impressive endeavor nonetheless.

Download now for:

Android iOS

WallaMe (Free)

WallaMe lets you leave hidden messages in various locations around the world that can only be read by other people using the WallaMe app. When using the app, you can take a picture of a nearby wall, street, or sign, then use the in-app drawing and painting tools to create your own special messages. You can also attach pictures to the areas you’ve chosen, if only to prove you were actually there. The augmented reality really comes into play when you’re in a location that has a hidden message, but it can only be found by using WallaMe and your device’s camera. Messages can be made private, too, so that only friends using the app can see them, or they can be made public for everyone to discover.

WallaMe’s biggest strength also works against it, in a way. Those that aren’t aware of the app’s existence, or those that don’t regularly use it, may never see the clever messages created by others. That being said, fans of the app may want to keep it that way, in order to maintain the feel of exclusivity.

Download now for:

Android iOS

Google Translate (Free)

Google Translate isn’t strictly an AR app, but it does have one AR feature that’s incredibly useful for translating text. That particular feature is part of the app’s camera mode. Simply snap a photo of the text you don’t understand, and the app will translate the text in your photo in real time. When connected to Wi-Fi, the app supports a vast number of languages, but users can also download a number of language packs if they want to continue using the instant translation feature while offline or without a cellular connection. Next time you take a trip to a country with a language you aren’t fluent in, Google Translate could be your best friend and the only thing that will keep you from getting lost in a strange land.

Download now for:

Android iOS

Amikasa (Free)

Amikasa helps you style your room and figure out your desired layout before you ever buy a piece of furniture. Using your iPhone or iPad’s camera, you can easily walk around your bedroom, kitchen, work office, or any other room you decide to furnish, and place 3D models of various items to see how they look, or to discover their ideal placement. This includes the ability to tweak the color, because maybe that cherry red chair suits the room better than the peach. The app uses name brand items, which you can buy while using Amikasa, and if you’re ever unsure of your own style, your augmented rooms can be shared with friends and family through the app. The most recent update also added more kitchen faucets, cabinets, burners, and wallpapers, giving you even more options to design your perfect room.

Unfortunately, there’s no Android version available yet, but the IKEA Catalog app can offer similar functionality.

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