Photo: iStockphoto
Photo: iStockphoto

Augmented Reality goes mainstream

Apps for your iPhone and Android phone let you intersperse the real with the not so real

It had retreated from the spotlight for a while, overshadowed by its (literally) virtual counterpart, but the arrival of Pokemon Go and the huge investments by Google and Apple have brought augmented reality (AR) back into the spotlight. Augmented reality is all about placing digital objects in the real world—so, for instance, you could see messages written on a wall when seeing the wall through an AR app, even though the wall would seem bare otherwise. Initially restricted to just casual games, AR is now entering mainstream usage with apps. So if you want a dose of AR on your device, go right ahead and try the following apps. Your world will not seem the same again.


iOS and Android

Imagine being able to see stars and planets regardless of where you are. Launch the app and you can see the location of different stars relative to your position, whether you are sitting in your living room, in a meeting or a café. You can search for planets and constellations, and tap on those that you see to get more information. It is a little like having a planetarium in your pocket. It’s best used at night, and we would suggest switching off the music, which can sometimes be distracting.


iOS, Android

If you thought making floor plans was a task best left to engineers and architects, just wait until you use MagicPlan. All you have to do is launch the app, point to different corners of a room, and the app will work its magic to deliver a floor plan of that area. You can then go right ahead and add furniture and fixtures to it, and even view it in 3D. A number of features are locked to payment but you can get basic floor planning, complete with accurate dimensions, even with the free version.



JigSpace, a learning app, uses AR to help you better understand how things work, placing 3D objects around you and letting you interact with them on your device. So you can open up a lock and see it from different angles, look at different parts of a lightsaber, and even learn how castling works in chess, all by moving 3D objects on the display of your device. The number of Jigs (as the tutorials are called) is limited at the moment, but the educational potential of this app is immense.


iOS, Android

If you are the kind of person who likes to place digital objects in the real world, Holo is the app for you. As its name indicates, it allows you to place a number of 3D digital holograms all around you. These could range from objects to superheroes to popular characters—as they are in 3D, you can actually place them, even walk around them, and, of course, take pictures where they are visible only to you. Placing and sizing the holograms can get a little tricky though.

World Brush


The world is your canvas with this app. Literally. Launching World Brush opens the camera and gives you the option of making and placing paintings or anything you choose to write on the display. And if you keep your scribbling public, anyone who uses the app can see what you have written when they visit the same location or venue. Call it a sort of digital graffiti, without the mess that real graffiti creates. Yes, you have to be in the exact location where someone was standing when they scribbled something to see it really clearly, but it remains an amazing application, especially for those who like to leave cryptic messages.

AR Measurekit


There are times when one needs to measure just how big or small an object is. Launching this app opens the camera; all you have to do then is point to the beginning of where you want to start measuring and go right up to the end—the app will tell you the length, height, width or distance. The numbers are rounded off, but as a rough and ready reckoner, this is invaluable. You can also unlock features like the ability to measure angles, place marker pins to measure the distance between the phone’s camera and a fixed point in space, measure face attributes and even height if you are willing to spend, but if you stay with the free option, you will still get a digital ruler on your phone.