10 iPhone Apps That Will Make You Feel Like You're In The Future Through Augmented Reality

Augmented Reality Lecture

Photo: Turkletom via Flickr

Ever since Apple added gyroscopes to the iPhone and iPad, augmented reality apps have no longer been the sluggish and cumbersome oafs they used to be.Gyroscopes tell your iPhone which way you’re facing, and which way is up or down. Couple that with GPS and a built in compass, and suddenly your device has a good feel for where you are and which way you’re looking.

Using these tools, apps can create a virtual world right on top of the real one. You can see floating symbols of restaurants nearby, or floating pictures tagged to specific geo-locations. These apps tell you the direction to walk in, and how far away these places are.

For example, if you’re looking for a restaurant, you can hold up your phone in front of your face and the Yelp app will put restaurant names and logos on your screen based on which real direction they are in. Even if you move your phone, the restaurant logos will appear to remain stationary, just like when you move your head in real life.

Think of an augmented reality app as a lens through which you can see the world. One lens might be restaurants near you, and another might be pointing out exactly how far away the pin is on a golf course.

Wikitude points you to Wikipedia entries near you using geo-location

The developer calls Wikitude a 'World Browser,' an app that helps you explore your surroundings and view information about landmarks near you.

Simply hold up your smartphone and small icons will appear that represent things like Wikipedia articles, geo-tagged twitter posts, ATMs, and more depending on how you customise it. Wikitude tends to work well in big cities with many POI's (points of interest), but not as well in smaller cities and towns (even if they contain historic places).

Price: free from the App Store

AR: Augmented Car Finder will never let you lose track of your parked car again

Once you park your car, tap 'Car Finder' to lock on to your GPS location.

When you need to find your car again, the app uses a combination of GPS, compass, and gyroscope to help you find your car again using the onscreen guides. The app even features two levels of GPS accuracy in case you're trying to save battery or are in a rush.

Price: free from the App Store

Spyglass is a compass, gps, and rangefinder

Spyglass is a nerd's dream, giving you an incredibly detailed heads-up-display over anything you're seeing.

The app allows you to assign a 'primary target,' constantly updating your proximity, and also enables you to track the Sun, Moon, and some star positions. Additionally, the app can be used as a rangefinder and also as an inclinometer. This app is probably only for real outdoors enthusiasts, but can be fun for just about anyone.

Price: $3.99 from the App Store

Golfscape GPS Rangefinder is everything augmented reality is supposed to be

This incredible app can point out bunkers, tell you how far it is to the dog leg, and even remember which clubs you like to use for certain distances.

Yes, it's expensive, but for any avid golfer, this app could become your best friend. Containing over 35,000 courses all over the country, this app uses GPS, compass, and gyroscope to help you improve your golf game.

One app store reviewer said, 'On a recent trip I played an unfamiliar course. With Golfscape I was able to plan my shots and play the course like a regular.'

Price: $19.99 from the App Store

ZipReality Real Estate lets you check out prices on homes around you

In 25 major markets around the United States, ZipReality has over one million MLS-listed homes you can browse through augmented reality using its HomeScan feature.

You'll also have one-tap access to the Zip listing, as well as a map overlay so you can browse homes from a bird's eye view. On the iPad version, you can even request a showing from within the app.

Price: free from the App Store

Need a break? Master juggling a virtual soccer ball with ARSoccer

One of the first apps on the App Store to utilise augmented reality, ARSoccer is still one of the most fun.

No matter where you are, ARSoccer draws up a 3D ball on your floor that you can kick around at your discretion. See how many times you can juggle the ball in a row and brag to your friends--the app keeps track of high scores.

Price: free from the App Store

Metro AR Pro helps you find the closest metro or subway

If you live in New York, Chicago, Paris, London, or a couple other places, Metro AR Pro can help you find the closest subway or metro station.

Using a simple and easy to use interface, this app is a great bet for tourists and locals alike.

Price: $2.99 from the App Store

The official Yelp app uses augmented reality to help you find great food

Yelp is known for its reliable reviews and ratings, and what better way to browse restaurants nearby than through the lens of your device's camera? Tap 'Monocle' in the top right corner of the app to get started.

Each food joint displays stars, $ symbols for how expensive it is, and also proximity meters showing how far away you are. Tap one to get more details.

Price: free from the App Store

Layar has a library of over 1,500 layers you can super-impose on your world

Layar is an augmented reality browser that lets you download plugins to view places, tweets, deals, and photos in the world around you.

The database of layers is constantly updated so you'll always have fresh layers to check out--we see a lot of future potential with this app. One cool example is Panoramio, which has beautiful geo-tagged pictures that you can browse.

Lastly, while Layar appears to be experiencing technical difficulties with the update to iOS 4.3, expect an update soon to fix the bugs and crashing problems.

Price: free from the App Store

Star Walk is your guide to the sky

Star Walk is an 'interactive astronomy guide' that allows you to point your iPad into the sky and see real-time images pointing you to constellations, stars, and planets. Using your device's compass, GPS, and gyroscope, the app is incredibly accurate.

Depending on which way you point your device, you'll see a different view of the night sky.

Price: $4.99 for iPad, $2.99 for iPhone and iPod Touch on the App Store

Now that you've learned about our favourite augmented reality apps...

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