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Best augmented-reality apps

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AR games and entertaiment

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.

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Android iOS

SpecTrek ($3)

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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SnapShot Showroom (free)

SnapShot Showroom (iOS)

Retail isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but there will likely come a day when you’ll consider purchasing a decent sofa in lieu of the ratty, college-curated piece of work you call a couch. With SnapShop showroom, users can see what potential furniture may look like in the comfort of their living room, kitchen, bedroom, or any other desired area of their home. Once you capture an image of the room you wish to furnish, you can quickly browse and place assorted items (chairs, lamps, beds, tables, etc.) from the likes of big-name retailers like IKEA, Pier 1 Imports, Crate & Barrel, and Horchow, among others. Users can then resize the furniture, reposition it in the virtual environments, and try various patterns and color combinations until they find the right fit for their home. The furniture can even be purchased directly within the app afterward, conveniently saving you a trip to the store or the accompanying headache that goes hand-in-hand with the discovering you had the wrong dimensions all along.

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Augment (free)

Augment (Android/iOS)

Visualizing furniture in it’s potential environment is one thing, but being able visualize nearly any 3D model in augmented reality is something completely different. Although somewhat complex, Augment is an app specially designed to boost sales, bring print to life, and visually see the possibilities at hand. Once users sign up with a free Augment Manager account, the app allows users to upload their own 3D images and trackers from applications such as Cinema 4D, Sketchup, Maya, and the like, and place the 3D models in a virtual environment using the camera on their iOS device. A steep learning curve accompanies some of the more advanced features, but said features also make the software more capable. It handle’s print content in a similar fashion to Layer, offering additional multimedia features with a simple camera scan, but the sheer ability to upload your own 3D content helps it edge out the competition when it comes to deciding where to put that recently-purchased display kiosk or building model.

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Android 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

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