AR you ready?
Augmented reality apps have been around for some time now, but they’ve often been clunky or rudimentary. But Apple is pushing hard on an AR future with iOS 11, thanks to ARKit. The tech allows developers to create smarter, more responsive apps that tweak and enhance your real world via the lens of your iPhone or iPad screen.
And creators were ready and waiting. When iOS 11 dropped in September, there were dozens of ARKit-ready apps available, some of which built upon past AR ideas and others that debuted new concepts. If you’re eager to see what’s possible, whether it’s with apps or games, we’ve picked out 10 of the most impressive ARKit experiences so far.
Sky Guide AR ($3)
Star-finding apps have been iOS highlights for years now, letting you use GPS to get the approximate location of stars and constellations in the night sky—but with augmented reality, now they can go a step further. We see that impressively with Sky Guide AR. You’ll still point your device towards the heavens, but now the info is overlaid atop your real world sights.
When aiming towards the unobstructed sky, you’ll see the overlay of stars and constellations right atop the sky, completing the illusion that you’re looking at the real thing… even if it’s daytime. Of course, it’s more handy at night, as it’ll let you pinpoint stars and sights with ease. Be sure to pack this tool for your next stargazing trip.
Augmented reality can be extremely useful for envisioning how something would look in the real world, albeit without the hassle, expense, and commitment of the physical object. That’s definitely true with furniture, and Housecraft is a surprisingly fun—yes, fun!—early ARKit app that lets you position and experiment with different pieces within your living space.
Unlike the IKEA Place app, the furniture here is generic: this isn’t a shopping app, and it’s just meant to get your mind moving about what could work in your space. But it’s incredibly intuitive, the faux furniture looks pretty sharp (but also fairly natural against your own backdrop), and just for kicks, you can even toss in a tornado to kick things around when you’re done. Sure, why not?
Domino World AR ($2)
Knocking down an elaborate trail of intricately-placed dominos is one of life’s great pleasures, but taking the time to set them all up—while carefully avoiding an early downfall—can be a stressful, tiring excursion. Luckily, this is one of those scenarios that augmented reality can solve, and Domino World lets you build with ease before toppling your creation.
It’s as simple as finding a flat surface, holding down a button, and then “drawing” trails of dominos by moving your device. You can even add in little stairs and toys for amusing twists. True, without the risk and effort of building the real thing, the reward isn’t quite as sweet… but it’s still pretty entertaining, all the same.
AR MeasureKit (Free)
It’s time to throw out your tape measures, rulers, yard sticks, and levels. Why? Because now there’s an app for all of that. AR MeasureKit uses the power of ARKit to measure distance, letting you figure out the length or height of something simply via the camera. You’ll tap to set a starting point and then point where you’d like to stop, and just like that, you’ve got a measurement.
OK, so you might want to keep some of those traditional tools to confirm any ultra-precise distances (and make sure the app is working as it should), but for a ballpark measurement, AR MeasureKit seems to do the trick. The ruler tool is free, while tools to measure trajectory, height, and angles require a single $3 in-app purchase for the whole bundle of additions.
Monster Park – Dino World ($3)
Have you see the Apple demo that shows an enormous, realistic-looking Tyrannosaurus Rex dropped into the real world? Yeah, that’s Monster Park – Dino World in action, and indeed, it’s one of the more compelling visual experiences available using ARKit tech right now.
There’s not a lot to it, admittedly: you’ll start the scene, which puts the big T-Rex in front of a portal to a prehistoric world, plus there’s a Pteranodon flying about. You can prod the dinosaurs a bit and step through the portal into the other environment, all while freely looking at the beasts from all angles, but that’s about the extent of it. Luckily, it looks so good that Monster Park is perfect for taking fun gag photos and videos, or for letting kids explore a bit.
Giphy World (Free)
Animated GIFs are over the place, whether it’s on social media or in our messages—and now they can physically be all around you in Giphy World. Well, digitally physically, at least. Giphy World taps into the GIF repository’s vast libraries of moving images and lets you drop GIFs and themed GIF-scapes into the world around you using your device camera.
And they’ll stay in place as you move your iPhone or iPad around, letting you concoct elaborate and quite likely obnoxious GIF collages in the augmented version of your space. Look, there’s nothing critically important about Giphy World, and it’s clearly just meant for a laugh. But that’s fine: that’s what GIFs do best anyway.
Stack AR (Free)
The standard version of Stack is a one-tap game that you’ll be tempted to play over and over again, and the new Stack AR simply shifts the action to your coffee table, desk, or wherever else you have a flat surface. As before, the goal is to tap to place a moving block atop your ever-growing tower—and if you don’t time it perfectly, the overlapping edge gets cut off.
Over time, that gives you less and less space to place the new block, and eventually it’ll be game over. It’s a simple, yet perfectly-executed concept. AR doesn’t do anything tremendously special for the experience, but it’s cool to have the game in your living space, almost like it’s a super-sized Jenga tower. The pop-up ads are aggressive, but $2 within kills them forever.
AR Runner (Free)
Using AR apps might be mostly centered on staring at your phone or tablet screen, but AR Runner is the rare exception—well, sort of. You’ll still keep your eyes on your screen, since that’s where the reality gets augmented, but this fitness experience is all about getting up and moving in a hurry.
AR Runner creates a little race path to run in your space, setting up virtual gates in the world for you to pass through, and then it challenges you to run the best time you can. Races comes in different sizes and shapes, plus you can compare times on the online leaderboards and even run local races with pals. It’s short, fast, active fun, and an inventive use of ARKit.
Human Anatomy Atlas 2018 ($1)
You might not want to see a real dead body up close, or handle real, excavated body parts—but with augmented reality, you can get all the knowledge without any of the mess or icky feelings. Human Anatomy Atlas 2018 lets you pull up an impressively realistic 3D model of a cadaver, eyeball, or other body part, drop it on a surface, and then examine it from all angles.
That’s perfect for getting an inside look at a part of the human body and understanding its components and dimensions. The app itself is a bit confusing to navigate, however, and only some of the elements have AR experiences. That might throw you off at first, but once you’re staring into the abdomen of a fake-real corpse, surely all frustrations will be forgiven.
My Very Hungry Caterpillar AR ($3)
Eric Carle’s iconic storybook The Very Hungry Caterpillar has transcended generations, so both you and your young ones might get a real kick out of My Very Hungry Caterpillar AR. It turns the classic storybook into a compact augmented reality playground, letting you feed the bug and have it play around with toys until it ultimately grows and transforms into a butterfly.
It’s not another telling of the classic story, unfortunately, and there isn’t a lot of depth to the experience. However, it looks really slick, especially if you play outside in the grass or another natural backdrop, and it’s extremely easy to understand and interact with. This one’s perfect for the little ones to play around with.