Six augmented reality apps to see the world in a different light

These apps project information over visuals of the real world


Augmented reality places a digital layer of information over visuals of the real world. Photo: Anthony Kwan/Bloomberg
Augmented reality places a digital layer of information over visuals of the real world. Photo: Anthony Kwan/Bloomberg

Augmented reality, or AR, is making news all over the world, thanks to the dramatic success of Pokémon GO.

AR places a digital layer of information over visuals of the real world. A lot of people tend to confuse it with virtual reality, or VR. In VR, you are essentially transported to a different digital world. In the case of AR, you are very much in the real world.

In Pokémon GO, for instance, the image of the Pokémon on your smartphone screen is projected on your surroundings, giving the impression that the Pokémon exists in the real world.

Try these AR apps to see the world around you in a different light.

Blippar will show you different terms related to the object, and you have to choose the one that fits best to get more information
Blippar will show you different terms related to the object, and you have to choose the one that fits best to get more information

Blippar (iOS, Android) 

Imagine getting information about an object by simply pointing your phone at it. Blippar attempts something on these lines. When you open the app, it launches the camera on your smartphone. You can point it at whatever object you want more information on. Garment, building, flower...just about anything. The app will show you different terms related to the object, and you have to choose the one that fits best to get more information. You can also access special content (mini games, videos, etc.) by pointing the phone's camera at anything that has a Blippar logo on it.

WallaMe allows you to draw or scribble digitally on real objects.
WallaMe allows you to draw or scribble digitally on real objects.

WallaMe (iOS, Android) 

Fancy leaving messages for your friends that only they can see? Try WallaMe. It allows you to draw or scribble digitally on real objects—so you open the app, take a picture of the object you want to write on (a shop signboard, a wall, a table, etc.) and then draw, type or scribble your message on it. Those for whom the message is meant can see it through the WallaMe app—they will get a notification when they are near the object where you left the message. Spooky? Kind of, but also very useful for making statements in the real world without messing up walls.

‘Ingress’ is built on the premise that scientists have unleashed a strange energy all over the world which can influence the way we think or behave
‘Ingress’ is built on the premise that scientists have unleashed a strange energy all over the world which can influence the way we think or behave

Ingress (iOS, Android) 

Before the arrival of ‘Pokémon GO’, its developer company, Niantic, had tried its hand at another AR-based game called ‘Ingress’. A multi-player game, ‘Ingress’ is built on the premise that scientists have unleashed a strange energy all over the world which can influence the way we think or behave. The purpose of this energy is unknown, but there are two sides—one which wants to explore its potential and the other which feels humanity has to be defended. Pick your side and walk around the real world, collecting energy, forming alliances and communicating with other players. 

Google translate app offers translations into more than 50 languages.
Google translate app offers translations into more than 50 languages.

Google Translate (iOS, Android) 

t’s best known for its ability to translate words from one language to another—you just need to speak the words into the app or type them in the space provided. See a signpost but don’t understand the language? Just point your phone's camera at the text you want translated and the app will translate it then and there, placing the translated words right above the original text. It can work with just about any sort of text, whether it’s in print, on a signboard or on a display, which makes it indispensable for travellers. At present, the app offers translations into more than 50 languages.

Sky Map shows you a map of the sky
Sky Map shows you a map of the sky

Sky Map (Android) 

This is for those who love to stargaze. As the name suggests, the app shows you a map of the sky. Open the app (be careful to calibrate the compass in accordance with the instructions given in the app) and point your phone towards the sky—the app will show you the planets, stars and constellations overhead. You can pinch to zoom in and out of the view, and if you want to go back in time to see what the sky would have been like, just use the Time Travel facility—you can go all the way back to 1900.

With InkHunter app, tattoo lovers will know exactly how a tattoo will look on their body before it is made.
With InkHunter app, tattoo lovers will know exactly how a tattoo will look on their body before it is made.

InkHunter (iOS) 

One problem tattoo lovers face is that they don’t know exactly how a tattoo will look on their body before it is made—there is no “preview” mode, so to say. InkHunter aims to change that. You choose a tattoo from the app's gallery or make a new one yourself on the app. Point the app at the part of your body on which you want the tattoo, and it will appear there, giving you a realistic preview. You can resize it, and even take a photograph to get a second opinion from your friends. And, of course, you can even pretend to have a tattoo without having to go through the needle-and-ink process.

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