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Best augmented-reality apps

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AR games and entertainment

Ingress (free)

Google Ingress (Android)

Ingress was Google’s first entry into the AR game market, and it’s easily one of the most creative AR applications we’ve ever seen. Basically, the game is an MMO that puts players into two factions — the Enlightened and the Resistance — and has them fight for control of virtual territories in a giant game of king of the hill. Players gain a material called Exotic Matter (XM) by simply walking around, and can use that XM to take over virtual portals. When three or more portals are taken over by either team, they gain control of the area between the portals. It’s a comprehensive strategy title at its core, heavily rooted in science fiction and bolstered by a continuous open narrative, while offering the most social experience of any AR app on our list. Ingress was initially developed by Niantic as an Android exclusive, but you can get it on iOS now, too.

Download now for:

Android iOS

SpecTrek ($2.50)

SpecTrek (Android)

SpecTrek is an AR game that essentially brings Ghostbusters to life on your smartphone — but without all the vacuum cleaners and cheesy lines from Dan Aykroyd. The game populates your surrounding environment with virtual poltergeists and invites you to hunt down and capture them with your phone. Hold the phone flat to display an overhead map of the surrounding area, use your ghost radar to track them down, and then hold it vertically to bring up scanner mode, and capture them with your smartphone’s built-in camera. Additionally, the game offers statistics, awards, titles, records, and other in-game features, and though the coupled animation is nothing to write home about, there are far less enticing ways of killing boredom on a Sunday afternoon than gallivanting around and netting ghosts in the local park.

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Android

Zombies GO! (free)

The Walking Dead is still a wildly popular TV show and graphic novel, and sometimes you may find yourself wondering how you would fare in the zombie apocalypse. Zombies GO doesn’t give you specific answers for that particular thought, but it does let you fight zombies while walking around outside, waiting for the bus, or even while shopping for groceries. You may have noticed the “Zombies GO” name resembles that of Pokemon Go, and you wouldn’t be completely wrong to expect some similarities — mostly, it’s the concept of holding your phone up, seeing a creature, and choosing how to deal with it. If you do get tired of fighting the undead, though, you can turn on the game’s safe mode to keep from being attacked. It’s perfect for those times when you don’t want to fight, but want to get some amusement out of seeing zombies patiently waiting near a pool or drive through.

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iOS

Quiver (free)

Quiver (Android/iOS)

Given smartphones are more tailored for adults than adolescents, the staggering dearth of AR content for children isn’t exactly surprising. Thankfully, Quiver (formerly known as ColAR Mix) works to bring your child’s 2D color books to life with animated images that spring directly from the Crayola-lined pages upon your kitchen table. Although the app requires printed color pages, users can download one of several free coloring packs on the Quiver’s website, each of which encompasses everything from fire-breathing dragons and cuddly teddy bears, to towering dinosaurs and wild stallions. Once drawn, users merely need to ensure the entirety of the page is viewable within their smartphone camera’s peripheral, thus allowing the image to come to life with the drawn details and accompanying music. Users can watch the animations from any angle once started, pause the content, or even zoom in and out as if viewing a real-life object — and despite being geared toward children — there’s no denying it’s a bit of fun for all ages.

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Android iOS

Ghost Snap (Free)

If you’re ever at home or in an abandoned building and want to play a horror game on your phone, Ghost Snap has you covered. Inspired by found footage movies like The Blair Witch Project and [Rec], and games like Outlast, Ghost Snap tasks you with snapping images of ghosts while listening for disturbing sounds and encountering even more disturbing creatures. There’s no way to win this particular game, however, and it’s simply a matter of surviving for as long as you can. The game’s own page on the Google Play store makes this clear: “You cannot run away, there will be no escape.” It’s best played with headphones on (though we understand if you’re against that) and, of course, at night. After all, no found footage movie ever had its biggest scares happen in the middle of the day.

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Android

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