Quick! Catch Pikachu! Augmented-reality (sometimes abbreviated “AR”) apps and games for mobile devices have been around for years, but the ascendance of Pokemon Go really put the genre on the popular map. Thanks to the game’s millions of downloads, even casual gamers understand and embrace a version of reality where computer-generated digital images are superimposed on the world around us.
You may be a dedicated Pokemon Go player, or perhaps you just dabbled in the game. If your favorite part is seeing the cute animated monsters appearing beside park benches or on the sidewalk, then you owe it to yourself to check out some of the other fantastic augmented-reality apps out there.
Before there was Pokemon Go, there was Ingress. The multiplayer, team-based game comes from the same development company, Niantic, and laid the groundwork for the monster-hunting game. Ingress involves an ongoing sci-fi struggle pitting two factions against each other for control of the buildings and landmarks around you.
This is a great game for people who really enjoy the physical movement aspects of Pokemon Go, but want to get involved in a deeper, darker storyline.
Google’s translation app isn’t strictly about augmented-reality, but it has a nifty AR feature that magically transforms other languages into your language of choice right on your phone screen.
In the translate window, instead of typing in text, choose the camera icon. Hold up your phone and position the message you want to translate between the brackets. The text on the screen then changes into readable form. It even works with a lot of signs, giving you quick translations when you need it most.
It’s a Google app that comes pre-installed on many Android devices, but you can also download the iOS version for your iPhone. Don’t travel to a faraway land without it.
So, you want a tattoo? You’ve thought about it. You have an idea for the design. Maybe you’re even researching tattoo artists, but it’s still a little hard to imagine exactly what it would look like perched permanently on your skin. There’s an app that can help with that. Inkhunter lets you try on virtual tattoos with augmented reality.
Inkhunter comes stocked with pre-set tattoo designs in a gallery, or you can try out your own design in real time and look at it from different angles. It will place the digital tattoo on your skin using your phone’s camera. You just might change your mind about getting that Justin Bieber-riding-a-dolphin tattoo on your forearm.
Mobile-phone apps have revolutionized the way we see the stars. Star Chart is one of the most exciting stargazing apps out there thanks to its augmented-reality approach to viewing the heavens.
Star Chart logs your location using GPS and then overlays constellations and star names on your display as you hold it up to the night sky. You will know right away if that bright pinpoint of reddish light is a star or if it’s the planet Mars. While Star Chart works just fine on a mobile phone, it can be extra-exciting when seen on the bigger screen of a tablet. It’s like having a portable planetarium.
Sorry iPhone users, you’re out of luck when it comes the AR ghost-hunting game SpecTrek. The app is designed to get you out and moving around your area, similar to Pokemon Go.
Instead of cute critters, you’re on the trail of ghosts. A map shows you where they are in your vicinity. Hold the phone up to see them haunting the world around you. SpecTrek is not as sophisticated as Pokemon Go or Ingress, but it’s a fun, slightly spooky game that encourages you to go out for a walk.
Round up the family for an interactive experience that brings some artistic flare to the world of AR apps. Download coloring-book pages from Quiver, decorate them and then fire up the Quiver app to watch them come to animated life.
What makes this so entertaining is the combination of the modern coloring-book revival with the fun augmented-reality technology. Quiver offers a variety of free coloring pages, including a cute cow on a farm, a fire truck, and a set of firecrackers. You can also buy premium packs if you really get into the app.