WorkSnug is one of those apps that comes in handy often enough to earn a spot on my phone’s homescreen. Essentially, its an AR app that sniffs out free WiFi near you and helps you navigate to suitable workplaces in whatever city you happen to reside in. It’s even got a decibel meter that assesses the general noise level of locations tagged by users, so you can know beforehand if you’ll need headphones.
The AugMeasure app is a handy little tool that can measure short distances with just your iPhone. The app displays distances on screen by using your iPhone’s camera and overlaying the measurements on screen with live pictures from the phones camera. The picture will adjust in real time to measure wherever’s in front of your camera. It comes in handy more than you’d think, especially since most of us don’t walk around with a ruler in our pocket.
One of the first augmented reality apps to go live in the iPhone AppStore, this handy app will pinpoint where the nearest subway or light rail stations are. Acrossair also has specific apps, similar to this one, for the Pairs Metro, Tokyo Subway, Barcelona Metro, San Francisco Transit, Madrid Metro, and New York Subways. Check out their site for more info and other useful AR apps.
Social reviewing service Yelp provided the iPhone with its first augmented reality app, the Yelp Monocle. If you’re in a strange city and you’re looking for good eats, Monocle is your best friend. It’ll use the phone’s GPS and compass to display AR markers for nearby restaurants, bars, and other businesses in real time. Given how Yelp’s high level of success as a user-generated restaurant review service, Monocle is hands down the best app for finding a quick bite to eat.
Layar is another all-purpose AR browser, and although it’s got many of the same functions as Wikitude World Browser, it does them all with a different style and UI. In addition to giving you detailed information on your surroundings, it can also be used to create ‘interactive print’ on pages that would otherwise be static. Check out this video for an example. You don’t have to be a coding whiz to use these features either — the app’s developers have gone out of their way to make using Layar extremely simple.
Are you the type that’s always curious about your latitude, longitude, and elevation when you venture out to new places? If so, Theodolite is the app for you. It turns your world (or at least the one through your iPhone’s camera) into a very informative topographical scene, and overlays the data in your camera’s viewfinder. It even lets you learn your inclination, bearing, and where the horizon is behind obstacles. Great for adventurers.
We’ve all done it before — you finish up your grocery shopping and head out into the parking lot to make your way home, but unfortunately have no idea where you parked. This AR app will help guide you to your hiding vehicle. Once the car’s location is set, the app creates a visible marker showing the car, the distance you are from it, and the direction you should walk to find it. We’ve found that it’s most useful for places like stadiums, convention centers, and outdoor concert venues that have massive parking lots. You can also use it for finding your seat in large theaters and concert halls.
This app will magically instill you with Carl Sagan-like powers and give you the ability to identify everything in the night sky. Just point your phone upward when it’s reasonably dark and clear outside, and Google will point out all the different stars, constellations, and planets that are visible to your phone’s camera. As you’d expect from Google, the app is super smooth and does all the identifications in real time.
If you want to splatter your friends without actually buying paintball guns, face masks, and compressed air, then check this app out. Using nothing more than your smartphone, this app enables you to blast virtual paintballs at other players and unsuspecting bystanders. Just select the color of your enemy’s shirt, sync up your phones, and let the battle begin. The app keeps track of points, and will periodically award you with bonuses when you rack up a high enough score.
PK is an AR MMORPG. For those of you not savvy with acronyms, that’s an augmented reality massively multiplayer online role playing game. The developers tout the game as a portal to another world where you can fight mythical beasts, gather/trade resources, and build your kingdom — all based on your real-world location and surroundings. It’s available on both Android and iOS, and has quite possibly the largest user base of any AR game out there.
Ingress is Google’s entry into the AR game market, and it’s easily one of the most creative AR applications we’ve ever seen. Basically, the game is an MMO that puts players into two factions — the Enlightened and the Resistance — and has them fight for control of virtual territories in a giant game of king of the hill. Players gain a material called Exotic Matter (XM) by simply walking around, and can use that XM to take over virtual portals. When three or more portals are taken over by either team, they gain control of the area between the portals. The game is currently in closed beta, but those who were fortunate enough to get an invite are saying it’s wildly immersive and fun to play.
SpecTrek is an AR game that essentially brings Ghostbusters to life on your smartphone — but without all the vacuum cleaners and cheesy lines from Dan Aykroid. The game populates your surrounding environment with virtual poltergeists and invites you to hunt down and capture them with your phone. Hold the phone flat to display a map of the area, use your ghost radar to track them down, and then hold it vertically to bring up scanner mode and capture them. It’s a good bit of fun, and makes a great sunday afternoon boredom killer.