Your everyday reality could use a little enhancement.
Which is the dream of augmented reality, a technology that layers useful and/or entertaining graphics, sound and information over the real world.
With the announcement this week that Apple is working on a next-level VR/AR headset (after CEO Tim Cook stated that AR will be as essential as “eating three meals a day”), the recent intro of a sub-$100 AR headset and the success of Ready Player One, now might might be the moment that AR finally expands beyond Snapchat and Pokemon Go.
So we’ve rounded up the 10 best AR apps and devices currently (or very nearly) available, from a revolutionary method for decorating your home to a lamp that maps a computer onto your desk.
Plus: the new dongle that’ll turn you into a real-life Iron Man.
PictureThat: Map photos or artwork onto your walls before you buy, sized to scale and in any configuration you want.
Hutch: Not quite AR, but you can use this app’s 3D tool to virtually try out furniture – in the proper scale — before you buy. Right now the interior design is limited to rather generic living spaces, but soon you’ll be able to upload your own room.
Bose AR: Speaking of Bose ... Think of these just-released glasses prototypes as an auditory version of Magic Leap's much ballyhooed augmented-reality glasses. With the help of a smartphone and a little GPS magic, the glasses will be able to do things like deliver quick restaurant reviews or double as a historical docent in a museum ... and all you have to do is glance at a venue or object.
The U2 Experience: For the band’s upcoming tour, you’ll point your phone at a gigantic LED wall and this AR app will “trigger a specially curated audio-visual experience emerging through your mobile device.”
IKEA Place: Stop the arguments before they start: with this app, you can virtually place hundreds of IKEA furnishings around the living room before you buy.
Trixi Studios: They recently turned your living room into A-ha’s “Take On Me” video, and they had an AR first-person shooter in the works ... a lack of recent updates, however, suggests that this studio might have been ahead of its time.
Nike Makers Experience: At the shoe giant’s NYC store, a customer wears blank sneaks between a pair of projectors equipped with augmented-reality tech; then, using phrases and details of their choice, the AR software generates a custom pattern and projects it on the shoe. The customer can make adjustments until they are happy, then order the shoe. After about an hour behind closed doors, the custom pair emerges ready to lace up. (Not generally open to the public, though they’ve had recent events that were)
Hero Vision Iron Man AR: Put your phone within an Iron Man helmet and fight Thanos and his minions with virtual repulsor rays. For, uh, kids. (The Star Wars lightsaber game Jedi Challenges offers an equal amount of AR fun.)