Count on Pokemon Go to make 'augmented reality' a household name. If you haven't heard the term before, augmented reality refers to a genre of video game that takes a live video feed (usually from your smartphone camera) and 'augments' it by making in-game graphics and resources appear as though they were in the real-world. You might see a Doduo pecking and scratching around a grassy soccer field, or a Magikarp frolicking in your local pond.
Augmented reality games and apps have been around for quite a few years, but it took Pokemon Go to really open up the floodgates and bring the genre to a massive audience. If you've never played another augmented reality game or app, you'd be surprised and fascinated by what's out there.
So grab your smartphone and a comfy pair of walking shoes, and come explore our top picks of amazing augmented reality games and apps.
At the risk of sounding like an over-enthusiastic teenager, OMG, guys. This is the most amazing use of augmented reality ever. "lolwhut," you might be tempted to text back, "It's just Google Translate, isn't it?" It is. But it's so much more.
If you've spent any time traveling to a non-English speaking country, you've probably used Google's translation feature at least a few times (sometimes with hilarious results). For sure it's a handy and useful tool, and definitely a lot more convenient than lugging around a pocket dictionary. Just type in a word and hit the Translate button. Instant comprehension.
But what happens if you're in a country that doesn't use the standard Roman alphabet, say, in most parts of Asia like Japan? How are you going to type what you want to be translated into your phone?
That's where the Google Translate app comes in. Just point your phone up at the sign, menu, or other sample of text, and Google Translate will give you a full translation that overlays the real-world text. And all this without you having to type anything. How cool is that?
Even better, Google Translate is 100% free and available to download on Android and iOS.
Now you won't have an excuse to ignore signs that read "No Trespassing" or "Danger: Deadly Cliff Ahead" when you're hunting for Pokemon in a foreign country.
Built by Niantic, the same company that developed Pokemon Go, Ingress is an intense augmented reality game that casts you in the role of an agent carrying out missions for a secret society. That's right, you get to play spy games that involve running around your community in search of Exotic Matter (XM) leaking into our world.
All the while, you're competing for control of XM portals being held by other secret societies centering around famous buildings and landmarks.
Explore the world around you while engrossed in a plot worthy of a bestselling science fiction thriller. Fun fact, Pokemon Go was built on the same technology and engine that powers Ingress; in fact, many Pokestops are taken directly from GPS coordinates that correspond to portal locations in Ingress.
If you want to get in on this augmented reality thing but are looking for an entry point that doesn't involve hunting imaginary cartoon monsters, Ingress is definitely a more serious, grown-up gateway to the augmented world you-thought-you-knew.
3. Field Trip
Available as a free download for Android and iOS devices, Field Trip functions like an augmented reality tour guide.
When you first fire it up, the app lets you select a variety of location types that match your interest, whether they're historical landmarks, museums, nearby hotspots for nightlife or just a good place to eat.
By staying aware of your phone's GPS location, the app will inform you if you're near that spot, complete with a hovering pop-up card with information about the place that the app can even read aloud as you're driving. You can even save the place for later, and the app will store the location's GPS coordinates on your phone.
Perfect for kids, and those of us who are kids-at-heart, Crayola Color Alive lets you bring your coloring projects... well, to life.
Through the magic of augmented reality, the app pairs with Crayola's special line of Color Alive coloring books to bring a whole new dimension to having fun with colors. After coloring a page, simply fire up the app, aim your smartphone's camera at the page, and watch as the colors spring to life with a variety of animations and special effects.
Dragons roar and flap their wings, and Pokemon bounce and wobble and strut their Pokemon stuff all over your viewscreen. It's a cute, fun little app with a big wow factor. The app only works with Crayola's Color Alive coloring books, but there are free pages available to download and print online.
The app itself is available for free on Android and iOS, with optional in-app purchases for more coloring pages.
Product images are sourced from their respective app pages.