Warmer weather is coming, the days are getting longer, and we’re all starting to venture outside more — depending on which hemisphere you live in, and what your local coronavirus restrictions look like, of course. If you’re going to be exploring more of the great outdoors in the coming months, these augmented reality apps give you more reasons to leave the house (and make doing so more fun).
Exploring the world is a lot more fun with Spyglass installed on your smartphone. This is essentially a GPS and compass navigation tool, but the way its features are implemented means it’s much more appealing than your standard mapping app. It works offline, it’ll track your pace and altitude, it can log waypoints as you go, and plenty more besides.
As far as the augmented reality features go, you can overlay the compass on top of whatever your camera is seeing in front of you, see the current position of the sun as you move your phone around, and even use the AR capabilities to find your way around using the stars. It’s an app that’s packed with detail and features to enhance any journey.
PeakVisor’s mission is to help you identify mountains that you come across on your travels. You can point it at a range in front of you and find out which summit is which, thanks to the magic of AR. The app should at least make sure that you don’t spend half a day hiking up the wrong trail, and end up at the top of the wrong mountain peak.
If you don’t know what a particular peak is called, you can simply point your phone’s camera at it to find out, and the app gives you elevation readings and information about different ranges as well. There are apparently around a million hills and mountains stored in the PeakVisor database, so it’s unlikely that you’re going to be able to stump it.
If you’re in an unfamiliar part of the world (or even a familiar one), then sometimes you never know what’s around the corner — and that’s where the World Around Me (WAM) app can come in handy. It works like a mapping app in the way it directs you toward places of interest, but you access everything through your phone’s camera and the power of AR.
Whether you’re looking for a landmark, a restaurant, or an ATM, just scan your surroundings with WAM and you’ll be able to see what’s nearby. There are 31 categories of places to look for, and it works really well whether you’re trying to find somewhere specific or you’re just wandering around the neighbourhood hoping to discover interesting places.
Everyone’s heard of Snapchat, though you might not have realised the extent of the AR features inside it. You can summon up all kinds of animations, stickers, effects, creatures and characters in augmented reality, then use them to adorn the photos and videos you send. If you want your social media posts to stand out, this is one way to do it.
The AR lenses and effects that are available to you in Snapchat rotate over time, and they’re sometimes dependent on where you are in the world (several are tied to famous landmarks). You can even create your own if you want to. Then there’s everything else Snapchat offers, including looking up your contacts on an interactive map.
5. Lines Of Play (free for Android)
Lines of Play is an interesting little experimental app from Google to show off some of the capabilities of ARCore on Android — so it’s not available on iPhones, unfortunately. The app lets you drop in augmented reality blocks on top of the real world and have some fun with them. It’s quite limited in what it does, but it’s a good showcase for the potential of AR tech.
On your next jaunt outside, you can set up a series of coloured blocks and have them fall one after another, domino-style. The clever part is the way that the graphics can interact with the real world, whether that’s by the line of blocks disappearing as it goes behind an object, or the cascading movement of the line stopping when it hits a real-world obstacle.
What’s not to like about dinosaurs rampaging around your neighbourhood? You don’t have to be a fan of the movie franchise to enjoy Jurassic World Alive, although it certainly helps — you make progress by exploring your local surroundings and discovering new dino DNA, and it’s then up to you to train and develop your dinosaur team inside the app.
You can put your creatures into battles with other players, share your augmented reality creations on social media, or just challenge yourself to develop the best crew of dinosaurs possible. There’s a good blend of elements, with parts that involve going outdoors and parts that don’t, and the game is varied enough to keep you interested over time too.
You don’t have to limit your outdoor adventuring to just the daytime of course, and if you’re out in the evening or at night, then Star Chart will give you an augmented reality guide to the heavens above you. Just point your mobile device at the sky, and you’ll see labels next to stars, constellations, and planets as you move the viewpoint around.
If you want to dig deeper into information about the universe, then Star Chart can help here, too: You’re not just limited to learning about the celestial view in front of you, because Star Chart can take you on a tour across the galaxies. You can even go backwards and forwards in time to see how the constellations have shifted over thousands of years.
You may already be taking Google Maps around with you on your travels, but make sure you’re fully aware of the AR elements you can find inside it. We’re mostly talking about the Live View part of the walking navigation mode — you’ll see a button to launch Live View at the bottom of the screen when you look for walking directions in the app.
You can also enable Live View while you’re actually mid-navigation, just by tapping the icon on the map. As you scan around your location with your phone’s camera, you’ll see AR objects dotted over the view, showing the direction you need to head in, where your next turn is, etc. A recent upgrade means it’ll work in many indoor locations, too.
Zombies, Run! is part exercise app, part AR experiment, and part zombie game, and it somehow pulls off that combination. In this case, the AR isn’t actually overlaid on top of your phone’s camera; it’s coming through your headphones in the form of an audio adventure you’re in the middle of. The goal is to complete missions, collect supplies, and more.
Get your running gear on, load up the game, and get outside. If the thought of undead hordes chasing after you doesn’t improve your average running times around the block, then it’s possible that nothing will. The game works at any speed you like, and you can even use it while walking around, so it’s suitable no matter what your level of fitness.