Augmented reality often gets confused with virtual reality, and people can use them interchangeably. But, AR and VR are quite different. Virtual reality is a completely digital experience, while augmented reality combines actual reality with digital or virtual reality overlays. One of the most recognizable AR experiences to date is Pokémon Go! You see your actual surroundings through the lens of your phone’s camera and then bam! There’s a Pidgee right in front of you! You can throw your digital pokeball to catch the pocket monster or let it escape. This is an augmented reality experience. For those of you lucky enough to try Google Glass back in the day, that was a great example of a more practical AR experience. Digital overlays of maps, photos and videos, time etc could be overlayed to what you were actually seeing to make daily tasks a little easier. They were like having robot eyes, but for real. Well that’s what they were supposed to be like – and then they were not nearly as cool – but I digress! Luckily, AR tech has grown tremendously since then. Apple, in particular, has done a lot to champion augmented reality and make it accessible to the masses via the iPhone. As part of iOS 11, Apple included ARKit framework, allowing developers to easily create AR experiences. By giving more devs more access, new experiences and uses for this tech blossomed.
Let’s take a look at some of the more popular AR apps you can use right now. Ikea Place is an app that lets you see how new furniture will look in your home. Ooooh check out that table! Edmunds has an app that shows you whether a car you are considering will fit in your garage! Modiface virtual beautycounter lets you try on makeup and purchase directly from the app, so weird! And, if need you to measure something but can’t find a ruler? No problem! There’s MeasureKit to take care of that. Those were all great practical uses of AR, but if you just want to have some fun, you check out games like HoloGrid: Monster Battle! These AR monsters will battle in any real-world environment you choose. Or if you prefer robots, then The Machines is an app that lets you deck out your battle mech and wage war in the comfort of your own home! If you love spray painting art on the world around you but don’t want to get in trouble, maybe World Brush or Paint Space AR will fill that urge. ARZombie is a first-person zombie shoot ‘em up – that nightmare’s a little too close to home! Or you can bring some crime solving/escape room goodness to you with CS:AR as long as you don’t mind turning your place into the crime scene.
Those are just a few of the examples of AR apps out right now, but iOS 12 has promised even more AR for the masses. iOS 12 will release ARKit 2, giving devs enhanced capabilities like improved face tracking, 3D object detection and shared AR spaces – meaning you and your friends could view the same thing, each from each of your own devices, making AR tabletop closer than ever before. Apple will also release their own Measure app, which is supposed to be a simpler and easier to use compared to a lot of the other measurement apps out there and last but not least, Apple even created a new file format called USDZ specifically for AR objects. Whether or not it will be adopted as the standard outside of Apple devices remains to be seen. It’s pretty crazy that you can do all that with an iPhone. AR really has the potential to bring us to technological levels only before seen in science fiction. Holograms, J.A.R.V.I.S and more are much closer than we think.