January 14, 2015

5 Augmented Reality Apps that Make the Journey as Fun as the Destination

While we’re all accustomed to having information and entertainment at our fingertips, yet another novel advent enabled by smartphones is augmented reality, or the blending of the physical with the virtual.

Augmented reality, or AR, is what technophiles see displayed on their Google Glassand what made the Terminator so ruthlessly precise.

Now, the same technology is being adapted by developers who are building AR into existing apps and making it the centerpiece of new ones. AR apps are often as fun as they are informative, and below, we’ve aggregated five of our favorites.

Spyglass

In addition to the information any smartphone can access through the Internet, most devices are loaded with gyroscopes, barometers and other sensors that provide a plethora of data about your surroundings. Spyglass takes all of this and overlays actionable information onto the real world through your camera’s viewfinder.

Think of it as a heads-up display that can show real-time object positions, directions and even star charts. You can also use it to snap photos with location data overlaid on the digital image.

Yelp Monocle

You’re probably already familiar with Yelp, but its built-in Monocle feature isn’t as widely known. To access it, go to the “More” tab in the mobile app and scroll down near the bottom of the list.

When you select the Monocle feature, it’ll pull up your camera’s viewfinder. As you look around, the names of the various businesses indexed by Yelp will appear over their actual locations. The screen can be a overwhelming in very dense places like Manhattan, but it’s often a great way to find what you’re looking for.

Wikitude

Wikitude bills itself as “computer vision,” and in many ways, the offering lives up to that description. Simply hold up the viewfinder, and the app will tell you what you’re looking at. There are obviously limitations, but Wikitude recognizes more than 100 million places.

In addition, the app allows you to access various hidden content embedded in everything from magazines to product packaging. It works like a QR code, but without the QR code. Simply scan over an item as if taking a picture, and if the retailer or publisher has embedded an image or video, it will populate in the app.

Find Your Car with AR: Augmented Car Finder

One of the more common sense AR offerings, Find Your Car, does exactly what it promises. After parking your vehicle, simply tap the “I parked here” button to drop a geo pin at your location. The app can then help you trace your steps back to your car with simple “follow-the-arrow” style navigation.

Localscope

Localscope is like a turbo-charged amalgamation between Spyglass and Yelp. Nearly anywhere you happen to find yourself, you can use it to explore and navigate and learn about your surroundings. The app’s ability to integrate with Twitter, Wikipedia, Flickr and many others makes it a standout in the field.