How to Use Augmented Reality on iPhone

Augmented Reality on iPhone
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Augmented reality doesn't get the same kind of hype as virtual reality, but it has the potential to be a much more widely used, and much more world-changing, technology. And, unlike VR, you can use augmented reality today without buying any accessories.

Read on to learn more about augmented reality, how to use it on the iPhone, and what the future holds for the technology and Apple.

What Is Augmented Reality?

Augmented Reality, or AR, is a technology that overlays digital information onto the real world, using apps on smartphones and other devices.

Generally speaking, augmented reality apps let users "see" through the cameras on their devices and then add data delivered from the app and the Internet to the image being shown.

Probably the most famous example of augmented reality is Pokemon Go. It also happens to be a terrific example of how the technology can work.

With Pokemon Go, you open the app and then point your smartphone at something. The app displays what's being "seen" through your phone's camera. Then, if there is a Pokemon nearby, the digital character appears to exist in the real world.

Another useful example is the Vivino app, which helps you track the wines you drink. With augmented reality, you hold a restaurant's wine list up for your phone's camera to "see." The app recognizes every wine on the list and overlays the average rating of that wine onto the list to help you make a good choice.

Because AR works with existing smartphones, and because you can use it much more naturally in daily life and don't need to put on a headset that cuts you off from the world like with VR, many observers foresee augmented reality becoming widely used and potentially changing the way we do many things.

What You Need To Use Augmented Reality On the iPhone or iPad 

Unlike virtual reality, which requires hardware along with apps, almost anyone you can use augmented reality on their iPhone. All you need is an app that offers augmented reality. Some apps may require other features, such as GPS or Wi-Fi, but if you've got a phone that can run apps, you've got those features, too.

As of the release of iOS 11, virtually all recent iPhones have OS-level augmented reality support. That's due to the ARKit framework, which Apple created to help app developers more easily create AR apps. Thanks to iOS 11 and ARKit, there's been an explosion of AR apps. 

If you're really into the technology, there are also some toys and other gadgets that have AR features.

Notable Augmented Reality Apps for iPhone and iPad

If you want to check out augmented reality on the iPhone today, here are some great apps to check out:

  • Amikasa—The hardest part of furniture shopping is figuring out if a piece will work well in your space. Amikasa solves that by superimposing furniture into your room. Free Download at iTunes
  • Makeup Genius—Want to see how a particular makeup product or style will look on your face without having to try it all on? This app applies makeup to your selfies to help you imagine new styles. Free Download at iTunes
  • Pokemon Go—In this smash hit game, Pokemon are "hidden" all over the place and you can find, capture, train, and fight them using your smartphone's camera. Free, with in-app purchases Download at iTunes
  • String—Print out special images and point your phone's camera at them to see them come to 3D life. As much as basic demonstration of AR technology as anything, this app delivers a "wow" factor. Free Download at iTunes
  • Vivino—Take pictures of the bottle of wine you drink and the app recognizes it. Rate wines to create a taste profile and track your favorites, then use the app to find the best prices nearby. Free, with in-app purchases Download at iTunes
  • Zombies GO!—Think of Pokemon Go, but put zombies in place of cute creatures and you've got the basic idea. The fun is that the zombies show up in the real world, right in front of you. Free, with in-app purchases Download at iTunes

The Future of Augmented Reality on iPhone

Even cooler than the AR features built into iOS 11 and the hardware to support them in the iPhone X, there are rumors that Apple is working on eyeglasses with augmented reality features built in.

These would be like Google Glass or Snap Spectacles—which are used for taking pictures in Snapchat—but connected to your iPhone. Apps on your iPhone would feed data to the glasses, and that data would be displayed on the lens of the glasses where only the user can see it.

Only time will tell whether those glasses are ever released and, if they are, whether they are a success. Google Glass, for instance, was largely a failure and is no longer produced. But Apple has a track record of making technology fashionable and integrated into our daily lives. If any company can produce AR glasses that are widely used, Apple is probably the one.

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