Although all of them are designed for entertainment, they are well-functioning and do not require expensive, heavy, high-end helmets. All can be experienced from any good average smartphone
You may have one of the best augmented reality (RA) and virtual reality (VR) devices in your pocket right now. Smartphones, especially the newest and most high-end models, are really performing well when it comes to combining the real and the virtual (as in RA) and transporting us to completely new places (as in VR). They still can’t offer the hyperrealistic sensations of helmets like Microsoft’s HoloLens or HTC’s Vive (which still need a lot of improvements), and it’s still not clear how useful they will be, but they can show incredible images without making a dent in our wallets or tying us to a computer.
Companies like Apple and Google, aware of the technology’s potential, have already released tools to help iOS and Android developers add augmented reality to applications to make them more realistic than ever before. And Google has also been a pioneer in the development of mobile virtual reality (see Google’s commitment to low-cost virtual reality with Android mobile phones). First launched Cardboard to visualize virtual reality content through a simple smartphone, and more recently launched its Daydream View helmet, which works with several Android smartphones for a comprehensive virtual experience.
These initiatives are leading to many augmented reality and virtual applications for mobile phones, especially as smartphones and software get better and better. The following list compiles some mobile applications of RA and RV that are worth trying, regardless of whether you are a pioneering user or just someone who is curious to know more about these technologies.
These applications have not been chosen for their usefulness, as they are all focused on entertainment. But it is worth trying them out because they can help us to think about the potential of augmented and virtual reality and to get an idea of where the technology is right now.
1. Euclidian Lands. EUR 4,99, iOS
The really augmented jigsaw puzzle for iPhone or iPad Euclidian Lands has a design reminiscent of the popular game Monument Valley. It consists of increasingly complicated castles in the shape of cubes that the player can turn and rotate in segments to help the male protagonist with a red cloak to defeat his enemies. Interactions with the application are intuitive and fluid: you slide your finger across the screen in the direction you want to turn a segment of the castle. And the sharpness of the architecture, not to mention the hero’s cloak, is impressive. However, to get a good view of the puzzle and define my strategy, I often had to walk around the castle. I even ended up looking underneath him to make sure I wasn’t missing anything. You’ll probably want to enjoy this game in an open space.
2. Parker 69.95 euros, iOS, Android, Kindle Fire
At first glance, Parker looks like a normal teddy bear with some pretty wooden accessories, but when combined with the Parker application on a smartphone or tablet, it comes to life. It’s like a Tamagotchi of augmented reality. The application includes a series of activities on Parker care. Children can place a virtual bandage over a small cut in their abdomen, x-ray it with an included bib or, in the iOS application, create a forest or submarine scene with (or without) the bear and take pictures of it. The clever thing about the product is that augmented reality is a great feature, but it does not represent the whole application approach. There are also many simple on-screen activities that encourage children to engage in imaginative games, such as taking the bear’s temperature with a toy thermometer or listening to its chest with a stethoscope.
4. Colour VR. Free, Google Daydream View
Coloring VR, which works with Google’s Daydream View helmet (about 85 euros) and a compatible mobile phone, allows users to color a giant virtual canvas instead of a small piece of paper, a simple switch that makes the activity surprising. There are free images that you can colorize by selecting a color from a palette on screen and then touching different parts of the image with the Daydream knob. For more image options, thematic packages with themes such as underwater and outer space scenes cost about 1.69 euros each. It is true that Coloring VR does not offer the freedom of a high-end 3D RV painting application such as Google’s Tilt Brush (which until now is only available for the expensive Oculus Rift and HTC Vive helmets). But it offers a huge white virtual canvas with a black outline image of, for example, a picturesque little town that the user can color perfectly.
5. Untethered. 4.95 euros per episode, Google Daydream View
Virtual reality is an excellent medium for presenting mysteries that develop slowly as users explore the world around them, and in Untethered, an episodic application that begins during a stormy night on an Oregon (USA) radio station, it is skillfully displayed with animations and voice interactions. In the first episode, the player plays a DJ who deals with a strange weather and an uninvited guest. As with other Daydream applications, Untethered can be controlled with the small remote control provided, which is ideal for playing discs and pressing the buttons on the electronic components of the old station. But the application also takes advantage of Google’s speech recognition technology to advance the plot through characters like a producer, who constantly screams from a speakerphone and asks the player to do things like record live ads, invite listeners to call and talk to callers and spread strange stories. Untethered moves slowly, but illustrates clear methods of storytelling and interaction of games that are still in their infancy in virtual reality.