Augmented Reality (AR) can be fun technology to play with. The basic premise of AR is to overlay digital content on top of real things using something like a map, a camera, or sometimes the sky. Aside from being awesome, AR is also one of the more polarizing categories of apps and games in Google Play. It seems like an app is either really good or really terrible. In this list, we’ll take a look at the best AR apps and games for Android.
First up is the venerable Barcode Scanner. It has over 100 million downloads in the Google Play Store and is one of those very basic tools that most people should have. It allows phone and tablet cameras to read QR codes, barcodes, and similar content so that it can be opened on your device. It’s a simple app that works well and it’s even been pre-installed on devices in the past. Even if you don’t use it every day, keep it in mind in case you ever do.
[Price: Free demo / $1.39]
CamGun is a fun little camera app that lets you superimpose various weapons on your camera and gun down your friends. It likens itself to call of duty but the graphics are more like something you’d see in an old Duke Nukem or Doom game. It’s a fun app that lets you goof around and uses some AR tech in the process. You can try it out for free but the full version costs $1.39.
Google Goggles was among the first efforts by any developers to actually make use of AR tech on Android. You can use it to “scan” various objects and Google Search will try to identify what it is for you. This works for things like landmarks and artwork along with things like consumer products and other media. You can also use it as a barcode/QR code scanner if you want. Perhaps its most useful feature is the ability to translate foreign text which was later added directly into Google Translate.
You’re about as shocked as I was when I saw that this was actually an AR app. For the most part it is the IKEA catalog so you can go searching and sifting through various items they have on sale. However, one feature in this app is the ability to superimpose the various furniture you want into a living room setting to see how it would look. You can also scan physical copies of the IKEA catalog to search for it in the app. We wish more large stores did stuff like that.
Ingress is GPS-location based game where you must hack and build up portals. In the game you choose between two sides (The Resistance and The Enlightened) as you do battle. Instead of a game board, Ingress takes place over a map of the real world and you must travel to destinations and hack portals. The game is world renowned for its ability to get geeks off the couch and out meeting one another. The game also has things like Missions which are scavenger hunts that agents can complete.
[Price: Free with in app purchases]
Life is Crime is another GPS-location based game but unlike Ingress, this one is a tad more risque. Life is Crime features gangs that you can join, a live chat so you can talk with fellow players, and you use these things to fight with other gangs for actual territory and complete missions. It’s a fairly entertaining game with a decent sized player base. Folks from smaller towns may have some issues finding people to play with but otherwise, it’s a good way to live a life of crime without being thrown in prison.
[Price: Free with in app purchases]
Parallel Kingdom is a location based MMORPG that has you running around slaying monsters and completing quests in the safety of your actual backyard. It features 40 levels, the ability to trade with other players, PvP, 30 different leaderboards, and chat rooms. It’s also available in six languages and boasts two million players in 100 countries with no ads. It’s definitely an interesting experience.
[Price: Free / $2.49]
SpecTrek is a ghost hunting game that uses location and GPS to help you track and hunt down the paranormal. While it is a game designed for all ages, user reviews have raved about how much fun this game is to play with kids and that’s definitely a good demographic to be into. Along with the game, you’ll have access to stats, titles, records, and more. It’s a simple game but still fun.
Star Walk is similar to the old Google Sky Map in that it shows you the stars over your head. This is great for fans of star gazing, astronomers who don’t have it memorized yet, and those genuinely curious about what the sky looks like right above them. It can be used to find constellations and notable stars. If you’re running an older version of Android, Sky Map is a good option as well but beware because that one hasn’t been updated in many years.
Yes, much like IKEA, Yelp does have some AR features built in that many people don’t know about. Under the settings you can access a feature called Yelp Monocle. Using that, you can see where things are such as restaurants. It’s not a huge feature but definitely one of the more interesting uses of AR in an app and a great way to find stuff that is literally near you.
Zombie, Run! is an older game and one of the first to utilize AR as a gaming platform. The premise is extremely simple. You are surrounded by virtual zombies and you must get away from them. Unfortunately, the developer has abandoned this project which means eventually it won’t work on modern Android devices. It won’t be on this list forever, but it had a good run.
If we missed any great AR apps and games for Android (and we likely did!), let us know in the comments!