Augmented reality apps are allowing us to see the digital world within the context of the real world for the first time. Augmented reality technology creates an entirely new space where the digital and real worlds converge. So far, developers have found plenty of uses for AR in everyday life. Nowadays, the best apps with AR can help you find the best furniture, help you turn photos into 3D images, and identify objects and locations around you.
In this article, we’ll take a look at some of the best AR apps available on the market and the different ways AR can help us in everyday life.
Inside this Article
- What is Augmented Reality?
- 14 Best Augmented Reality Apps to Try in 2021
- How Do Augmented Reality Apps Work?
- Why Do Augmented Reality Apps Matter?
- Final Thoughts on the 14 Best Augmented Reality Apps to Try in 2021
Augmented reality is a type of technology that superimposes digital images over real-time footage of the real world. This gives the impression of digital objects being present in the real world. This in contrast to virtual reality, where everything is purely digital but at the same time engages all the five senses to give the impression of a real-life experience. Check out this article to find out more about the differences between AR and VR.
There are a number of elements that may count as AR. These include digital images, animations, videos, or 3D models superimposed on photos and videos. AR can be applied on different types of surfaces as well. Other than smartphones, they also work with screens, glasses, handheld devices, mobile phones, and head-mounted displays.
The tech industry has only recently adopted AR for gaming and retail apps. But even in the early stages of its development, it’s already evident that there are a lot of ways to apply the technology to make it useful in daily life. Fortunately, many industry leaders believe in the potential of AR. And it is only a matter of time before the technology becomes ubiquitous.
Augmented reality apps are here with us, whether we are prepared for it or not. And thanks to this new technology, we are now moving towards a more personalized digital atmosphere where we can interact with digital images for information and entertainment.
This hype for augmented reality technology all started with the release of Niantic’s Pokemon Go back in 2016. Since then, developers have thought of a hundred different ways to use the technology to make things easier. Let’s take a look at some of the best augmented reality apps in the market and their practical uses.
Smartify is an art-based AR app that gives users information about famous artworks from all over the world. The project is a partnership with some of the world’s most prestigious museums such as the Smithsonian National Museum, National Gallery of Art, and the Louvre Museum in Paris. The project aims to provide a digital space where people can view artworks and read information about them. The program has over 2 million scanned artworks in its database.
For each artwork, there is an inlaid caption or background story. You can also listen to curated audio tours of your favorite art collections. Other than that, you can also get art recommendations every day. The program also has image recognition technology that you can use to scan paintings to learn more about them. However, this particular feature only works in select venues.
Google Translate is a powerful translation tool and augmented reality app. It is perhaps the internet’s most popular resource for translating short texts. The app can translate text from over 90 languages. The basic translations don’t make use of AR, but the app does have a little-known AR feature. With basic translation, users need to key in the input and output language. And then they need to key in the phrase that needs to be translated.
This is easy when you’re translating from your own language to another. It’s not so easy when you’re dealing with written text with foreign characters. The AR mode was built specifically for these types of scenarios. This mode captures visual text and then translates it in real-time.
To use this feature, simply select the Camera icon under the standard translation tab. Make sure to identify the text input and output as well. This is important since the AR can’t automatically recognize the language yet. Note that it’s crucial to identify the input language correctly. Otherwise, the translation might not work. We also need to note that you’ll need an internet connection for AR to work. That’s because the app needs to retrieve that information to compare the text.
If you will be going to a place without internet, you can download the available language packs instead. These language packs will allow you to translate text even without an internet connection.
Sketch AR is a mobile app that can help you create remarkable drawings with a little help. The app essentially turns your mobile phone into a drawing aid. It also provides you with a sketch that you can copy on paper. Users can choose from a wide selection of drawings that are traceable on paper.
Once you’ve selected a drawing, the app will show you a larger version of it that you can trace onto the paper. Sometimes the app will ask you to draw a circular marker on the blank sheet. This marker would serve as a reference for the actual sketch. Most drawings are vertical and are designed to fit into A4-sized paper. We surmise this is because it’s the only type of paper that can fully fit in with most phone cameras at close range.
The software also offers art lessons for different levels of drawing skills. With these tutorials, you can learn how to draw animals, cartoons, among other drawings. They also have a special feature that can turn your personal photos into pencil illustrations. And if you don’t have paper, they offer a drawing space where you can practice your drawing skills through the app. You can even demonstrate your drawing skills by taking a video of yourself as you draw. The app will then save the drawing as a time-lapse tutorial.
Houzz is an all-in-one interior design AR app that offers multiple ways for you to get design ideas for your home. The app offers over 20 million high-resolution photos of home interiors and exteriors. You can browse through the database by text. You can also narrow down your search according to room type, budget, or color code that you want. Once you find an image that you like, you can save the photos into your Idea Book or share them with family and friends.
But the most interesting feature of Houzz should be the Sketch tool. If designing your own furniture in the Sims 4 was your favorite part of the game, then you’ll enjoy this app greatly. With Sketch, you can select any photo from Houzz or upload a photo that you took yourself. After you’ve uploaded the photo, you can start picking out furniture from the Houzz Shop to try out in the photo. You can move the furniture around, change its colors, or delete them. A series of drawing tools are also available for settings measurements and other specifications.
Other sections include a Shop section where you can purchase actual furniture. You can also set up personalized recommendations for items that you want. You can find a directory of interior designers in the Find Pros section. There’s also a Stories section that contains testimonials from other users. Besides this, there is also an Advice section where you can seek the help of the community.
Civilisations is an educational app that will take you on a tour of some of the most prominent artifacts from around the world. The app features a compilation of more than 40 artifacts from all over the world. The most amazing part about this project is that they are using actual 3D scans of the artifacts. This means that you can expect the details on those 3D images to be as close to the original as possible. BBC worked with over 30 museums around the world to gather many of these artifacts.
A globe represents the main menu of the app. This globe has some pins of each, each of which represents a different artifact. To view an artifact, simply select a pin that will take you to the close-up 3D image of the artifact. The app also features some interactive functions through the magic spotlight tool. This tool allows the user to interact with the artifacts in different ways.
Let’s say you want to look at scans of an Egyptian tomb, or a restoration of an ancient Greek helmet. You can also turn the artifacts around or zoom in and out of view to get a closer look. Each artifact also comes with its own information page. You can access this by clicking on the book symbol at the bottom of each artifact.
Spyglass is an all-in-one navigation and GPS app for outdoor enthusiasts. The software uses the camera as a viewfinder to relay your positional information. It uses every available sensor on your phone to determine your exact coordinates and displays this information in Decimal Degrees (DD) format and other formats. The AR function also adapts the information accordingly as you move about. You can use it as a waypoints tool, speedometer, and much more. Spyglass also has its own gyro horizon, sniper’s rangefinder, coordinate converter, angular calculator, and acts as a pair of binoculars.
It also lets you convert your saved coordinates into other formats. It’s also equipped with a calculator that can provide estimates about the angles of objects. Another thing you can do with Spyglass is to track the positions of Polaris, Sun, and Moon. This is useful for identifying your position without relying on coordinates. Lastly, the app also lets you zoom in on faraway objects, binoculars style.
Blippar is another AR browser that tries to identify objects, people, and places in real-time. The app was originally created as an advertising tool. Users could get extra content about products after scanning the product packaging. However, the users could see through the intent to lead them towards more advertising and the advertising scheme failed. And so the company was forced to shift its focus towards revamping the app into an AI search engine. Nowadays, the app offers up information about almost anything under the sun.
Simply point the app at an object, building, or gadget and the computer vision will try to identify it. It doesn’t matter what that thing is, whether it be a spoon, a dog, a shopping bag, a pair of shoes, or a tall building. The app doesn’t discriminate. However, usually the more common or popular a thing is, the easier it will be for the app to retrieve information about it.
Of course, the app gets most of its information from the internet, so the less obscure the topic, the better. But of course, AR browsers are only just beginning to bloom, so we can hardly expect the app to be perfect. A small margin of error is to be expected, and it’s nothing to be concerned about. Nevertheless, the app is already reportedly using machine learning technology, which should allow it to get better and learn from its mistakes over time.
Mission to Mars is a space exploration app that lets people see into the NASA and Space X Mars missions. As you may know, NASA and Space X’s Perseverance Rover had just landed on Mars in February 2021. The organizers intended for the app to serve as a tribute to the series of missions that led to that landing.
With Mission to Mars, you can get an interactive look at rover designs, from science tools to camera power. You will also get the chance to drive a rover around in the simulated surface of Mars and snap photos. Just point your phone at a clear space. The app also features a full-view digital rendering of Mars, which you can view on a macro or micro scale. This digital map also contains information about the red planet and its landmarks.
Another feature lets you walk through the surface of Mars to see how Perseverance works. You can also jump into the future to see NASA and Space X plans for building a human colony on the planet. You can do is to simulate the landing experience and take over the controls yourself. They also offer up a game where you can drive around on Perseverance to complete different missions. The app is also integrated with some features from the Smithsonian Channel app. This special portal features a collection of real images and videos taken from Mars, plus quizzes about the planet and the NASA missions to explore it.
Ikea Place is an interior design app that lets you try out furniture designs. The app was built around Apple’s AR kit, which was released back in 2017. Like Houzz, you will first need to scan your floor plans before picking out furniture to try out. The AR function then superimposes the digital furniture on top of a picture of your home. All you have to do is to drag and drop the furniture into the picture.
Users can also purchase items straight from the app. By purchasing through the app, you can also get discounts and other perks. Any piece of furniture that you purchase will also be delivered straight to your home. And if you happen to change your mind about the item or discover a defect after purchase, you can return it to the store within 365 days after closing the purchase.
Wikitude is another AR browser that focuses on identifying locations and landmarks. It’s like Blippar and Google Lens, except that it only works with places and not objects. The app pulls up location information from Wikipedia and displays it with AR. All you have to do is to point the camera at any location or landmark, and the software will try to identify it for you.
The company behind Wikitude collected over 370,000 points of interest worldwide such as cafes, museums, caves, castles, archaeological sites, and battlefields. Wikitude is also the default landing spot for AR projects created with Studio Editor. That means it can serve as the go-to app for companies that want to create AR promotional materials and games.
Kings of Pool is a gaming AR app that lets you play pool on a digital pool table. With this game, you can choose your own background from among the list of creative backgrounds, or otherwise use a real-time background with AR. You can also choose to play against other players locally, or play against an AI opponent across six different levels. There’s also an in-app aiming guide to help you depending on your level of ability.
There are also controls for modifying the sensitivity of the screen to your touch, to make it easier to manage your movements. One of the most notable things about this game is its beautiful graphics with hyper-realistic physics. The way the cue balls move is worth noting since they roll and hit each other quite realistically.
Quiver is an artistic AR app for children and adults that turns coloring pages into interactive 3D images. Before you even download the app, you’ll need to retrieve coloring pages from the Quiver website. Their coloring pages feature a variety of characters and they also contain a QR code at the bottom, which you will need to scan later on. Once you’ve selected a page to color, you’ll need to print the page and color it like a normal coloring page.
Once that’s done, you can use the app to scan the page and the images will turn into moving 3D objects through the screen. However, we need to note that the app will only work with coloring pages taken from the Quiver website (with barcodes or QR codes). This means that you can’t use coloring pages from external sources, since the AR will not be able to recognize them. Nevertheless, during the animation phase, the app also provides an in-app video function for capturing the magic.
Google Lens is a highly popular and one of the more powerful AR browsers on the market. Like other AR browsers, this app tries to identify anything and everything around you. All you have to do is to activate your internet connection and point the app at any object, person, car, building, animal, what have you. It will then search online to try to identify what that object is or where you are.
Other than computer vision capabilities, Google Lens is also equipped with unique features that other AR browsers don’t have. Examples of some of its other abilities include being able to capture the contact details of a person from a business card. You can also automatically copy URLs from a web page and scan book titles using actual or digital versions of books for Google Lens to look up. The app is currently exclusively available for Android devices, but might soon be available for iOS as well.
Google Lens can also spot the titles of music album titles, movie titles, and video games. If you encounter an interesting piece of architecture, it can also tell you more about its construction, architects, and more. The same recognition tool also works for artworks in museums. With it, you can scan the artwork and see if it contains information about its history.
If you’re going shopping, the app can pull up information about particular items or brands. It can also scan for bar codes and QR codes on the same. So far, Google Lens has proven itself accurate at identifying objects. But the technology isn’t perfect and will still occasionally get things wrong.
GIPHY World is another app that can give your photos and videos a digital makeover. A variation of the app called GIPHY is also available, but this version, in particular, contains AR functions. The app is mostly known as the world’s go-to for GIFs, stickers, and memes. But more than that, it’s also a place where you can create customized GIFs using AR.
You can upload photos and videos from your device into the app. Otherwise, you can take a picture or record a short clip to turn into a GIF using the in-app camera. The AR component of the app lets you add animated elements and moving graphics into static photos. Then there are your personal videos which you can convert into quality GIFs. Everything you create will be saved on the clipboard, and you can quickly share them with your friends on social media.
Augmented reality is a complicated technology. It combines a variety of technologies to come up with digital estimations that perfectly blend into the real world. These technologies include motion tracking, environmental understanding, and light estimation, among other things. You need a device with a camera-a smartphone, tablet, or a pair of smart glasses for these processes.
In the beginning, the augmented reality apps analyze a live video or camera feed. Then, the software connects with a 3D digital source of the object on the cloud called a digital twin. The data from the sensors will stream and may combine the real-world data with the digital data. The software will then superimpose the data on top of the user’s view. The user will also have the ability to interact with the object. This is usually accomplished with the help of touchscreen buttons or voice commands.
It’s also possible to customize the AR experience for different groups of people. An example would be setting different scripts for the same apps for engineers and maintenance crew in car manufacturing. Each group will only see the information that is relevant to their job, to make it easier for them to do their jobs. A similar concept is applied to AR games. In this case, developers can create different visual scripts for different target audiences, and it really depends on the depth and complexity of the application.
With the introduction of augmented reality apps, we have entered into a new realm where the real world and digital world and co-exist through the same lens. While the technology is mostly known for gaming apps, many other apps feature AR for more practical purposes. These are for things such as shopping, creating digital art, exploring languages, or culture and history. Its current applications in these fields successfully opened our eyes to its practical value. And thus far, these applications have led us to learn that there are more convenient ways to go about things that were not possible before.
Before augmented reality apps came along, games were only limited to fully digitized screens. But now, we have a more interactive experience with real-time 3D games. With AR, we can try out fashion items without leaving our homes. It’s also with AR that we can now translate foreign signs into languages we understand. It’s also with AR that non-artists can create beautiful works of art with a little guidance. Another sector that has benefitted from AR is marketing and retail. Retail companies use the technology to market their products and to provide more information about them.
The potential applications of AR also extend to much larger industries like medicine, automotive, aviation, insurance, manufacturing, mining, and warehousing industries. These are large industries with many intricate problems, and AR technology can solve some of them. Right now, the technology is very young, which means there is much left to explore. It will take some time before we see some results, but it will definitely be worth the wait.
Augmented reality apps are one of the most exciting developments in the tech world within the past few years. And as we can see from AR apps, there is so much more to the technology than pure entertainment value. It has much to offer when it comes to bringing information to our fingertips. Just imagine being able to try out items without ever leaving your home. Or being able to walk through a park and being able to put a name to everything through a single app.
Of course, it’s a given that technologies take time to develop fully, and augmented reality technology is no exception to that rule. But even as early as now, we can already see that there is so much more we can do with AR than for entertainment and gaming. Certainly, there will be more surprises ahead and we can’t wait to find out what comes next.