If everyday life is getting a bit boring, you can turn it into a game at the touch of a button. Augmented reality (AR) apps overlay exciting digital content on top of real things with the help of your phone’s camera, allowing you to effortlessly unlock new knowledge on a day out, outrun ghosts or transform your carpet into a race circuit. Here are 10 apps to make life more fun.
Snapchat may be best known for its self-destructing messages, but its Lenses feature uses a phone’s camera and AR technology to let people overlay 3D stickers over their faces in real-time. These filters automatically align with facial features, turning the user into a moving zombie, flirtatious fox - or even capable of vomiting a rainbow. They can be activated in the app by pressing and holding on the face when taking a selfie. And for people who want the fun outside Snapchat, there’s an app that offers similar functionality called Mybrana.
Ingress is an AR game designed to be played by thousands of people at once where the ‘board’ is the world itself – a little like AR Risk. It lets players choose a side – either ‘The Enlightened,’ which wants to embrace a new type of energy or ‘The Resistance,’ which wants to protect what’s left of humanity. Players can discover and tap sources of the mysterious energy seen as neon ‘blobs’ overlaid on images of the real world, as well as interact with other players and capture territory such as famous landmarks. Great if you like a bit of world domination on your commute.
If you’re addicted to learning snippets of ‘useless’ information on Wikipedia, the Wikitude app will give you lots of relevant information about what’s in front of you, on the go. It lets users scan a landscape or object in front of them to reveal hidden facts and content. For example, a user holding their phone aloft in a city could learn the names of buildings, while someone scanning a magazine, could access videos, 3D models and ‘buy now’ buttons, making it a futuristic shopping tool as well as a techie travel companion.
Kick Ball (ARSoccer)
If watching Euro 2016 has got you itching for a game of football, but you don’t want to risk stepping away from the TV set, there’s an AR game that gives you a virtual football to kick. Users of Kick Ball, also known as ARSoccer simply need to point their phone’s camera at their feet to see a virtual ball on the screen, which they can kick, making it possible to perform tricks and practice keepy uppies in the living room without the fear of breakages.
Star Walk 2 Constellations
Oscar Wilde famously said ‘We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars’ and now there’s no better excuse to enjoy some stargazing, because an AR app called Star Walk 2 can tell you exactly what you’re looking at, whether it’s a star, planet, comet, meteor or nebula. Users simply need to point their phone or tablet’s camera at the sky for the app to discern their location and name a particular constellation, for example, as well as offering a host of facts and figures. Users can also learn using 3D models and there’s no need for an internet connection, which is handy for camping trips in the wilderness.
Adult colouring books are having a moment, but the Quiver app can bring drawings to life. Users simply have to choose a drawing to downloaded and print via Quiver’s site or app then get colouring it in with any old pens or pencils. They can watch their artwork move by hovering their phone’s camera over it. Users can play games with animated characters by touching the screen and see them in 3D using a Cardboard headset.
Everyone’s fallen in love with a squishy new sofa or covetable coffee table in a palatial show room, only to find it’s too big when they get it home. But Ikea’s Catalogue app uses AR to show shoppers what a piece of furniture would look like in their home. The app works by measuring the size of the paper catalogue on the floor, then shows the desired piece of furniture in-situ on the screen. There, users can play with colours and positioning. The app also lets people scan the catalogue with their phone’s camera to unlock films and 360-degree room sets.
There’s no need to call the Ghostbusters with the SpecTrek app. The AR game lets users hunt their own ghosts, overlaying the spooky images onto a view of their current location, as spied by their phone’s camera. The game is a race against the clock to track down virtual ghosts shown on a map, with hunts lasting between 15 minutes and eight hours – making it an alternative fitness app designed to get people walking, as well as lots of fun for kids.
If you struggle reading signs and menus when on holiday aboard, Google has an app that can help. The Lens part of its Translate app uses augmented reality to translate text. Users need only hold their phone’s camera in front of the words they wish to decipher and watch the screen as the letters magically rearrange themselves into English, or one of 28 other languages. Best of all, no data connection is needed so you can use the handy tool without paying for data abroad.
Toy Car RC
Gone are the days when kids were content with racing little cars on carpet. Now they can the Toy Car RC app to drive a virtual car around imaginative courses overlaid onto their immediate surroundings. Children put paper markers on the place they wish to become a race track, which become crazy obstacles in the app. This means they can drive across their bed collecting gold pieces in the Wild West or swerve between pots and pans in the kitchen while negotiating candy cane bridges in a sweet-themed world. Designed for children aged six and up, there are multiple steering options and no set course or finish line, to fire up the imagination.