Augmented reality, or AR, sounds like this crazy, futuristic technology. However, the reality is that AR apps are like little projectors that “augment” the real world.
We’ve seen how AR can help you catch Pokémon in Pokémon Go, but the technology goes so much further than catching Pidgey outside the train station.
Here, we’re looking at some other ways that the technology can add a little utility to your life. Below, we’ve compiled our favorite AR apps that do more than help you catch ’em all.
6 augmented reality apps you should try
Fitness AR isn’t necessarily a utility you absolutely need, but it’s rad. The app is a solid motivational tool. It is a way to visualize your Strava runs in an AR environment — like a 3D model of your hikes, bike rides, and jogs.
While you definitely don’t need Fitness AR to map out your next run, there’s something satisfying in using a 3D model. It’s like you’re the captain of your very own 3D ship.
Call it cheating if you like, but a resourceful artist uses the tools they have available. They don’t “take the high road” by free-handing every little detail.
Sketch AR is essentially a tracing app. However, it’s cooler than the lightboxes you might have used in an art class. The app has two core functions. The first is, it’s a digital art lesson of sorts. According to the App Store description, aspiring artists work their way through a series of lessons. In the lessons, you’ll be tracing everything from hands to pandas.
It’s a cool concept, but learning how to draw is less about tracing and trying to remember the movements. It is more about learning how to see — and how to represent spatial relationships. Tracing won’t teach you how to do this.
Where it’s actually useful is in blowing something up so you can transfer it to another surface. For example: let’s say you’ve found an image you’d like to paint — quickly trace it onto the canvas using your phone as a projector. You can also do the same with a small sketch you’d like to turn into a large piece of work.
If you’re trying to work out the specifics of your next piece of body art, Ink Hunter is a handy app that will let you try out tattoos on any part of your body. Choose from the app’s library of premade designs or upload your own designs.
In the app, you’ll draw a small dot on your body with a pen, which serves as a target. Later, you can project the designs on your skin. Upload to your camera roll to crowdsource an opinion, or share them with your tattoo artist ahead of the big appointment.
Mondly is a language learning app that teaches you new words and phrases on the go. There’s a VR version of the app compatible with the Oculus. The main app has AR technology built in, no headset needed.
Hit the AR button inside the app, and out pops an animated teacher —powered by chatbot technology. Mondly is available in 33 languages. It ranges from beginner to advanced, with settings for travelers and professionals as well. Language lessons involve dropping objects and animals into your own world. Lessons offer useful phrases for real-life situations.
The app is definitely a step-up from high school foreign language courses. You can learn actual helpful words and phrases rather than asking, “Wo ist der Bibliothek?”
Google Translate might not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think AR experience. However, it’s actually one of the most useful AR applications in the game. The app uses your camera for instant text translation. For example, you can scan a sign in another language and Google lets you know what it means immediately. This way, you can leave the hefty translation dictionaries behind and travel a little lighter. Just be sure to pack a charger.
You might be familiar with GIPHY, where you can create memes and GIFs of your own. GIPHY World is similar, except the creative process moves out of the confines of the screen and into the world around you. Choose animated objects from GIPHY’s library and arrange them within your viewfinder. You can then snap some AR pics, shoot a video, and share with your friends.
Admittedly some of these apps are marginally useful. Chances are we’ll all be okay whether or not we choose to download GIPHY World’s 3D GIF-maker or map-out a 3D diagram of our cycling routes. However, AR still hasn’t quite found its footing.
It goes to show that the technology is more than Pokémon GO and Snapchat filters. There are some cool apps from the experimental to the actually useful. Admittingly, we’re still waiting for the augmented reality app we just can’t live without. In the meantime, there are plenty of apps to capture our interest.