Virtual Reality Apps: See Your Everyday World in a Whole New Way

You've probably run across the acronym AR or heard friends mention AR gear or games, but what is AR, exactly? Augmented reality (AR) merges computer-generated images with the real world around you. AR games, like Pokémon Go for example, use your body’s orientation and position to control what you see on your device’s touchscreen. Some AR apps and games make use of Apple’s ARKit platform to superimpose digital images on to your iPhone camera’s viewfinder and therefore the world around you. Others draw you into an AR world where you can use your positioning to maneuver through your surroundings and see different views. If you're interested in free AR apps and AR apps and games for the whole family, here's a collection of our favorite augmented reality apps that will get your feet wet with this groundbreaking technology.

Related: Best 12 iOS Action Gaming Apps of 2017

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Euclidean Lands ($3.99)

Euclidean Lands is a unique mashup of a rotating Rubik’s Cube puzzler, turn-based strategy game, and first-person adventure. Immerse yourself in this medieval game world with its beautiful isometric cubic architecture, complex combat strategies, and boss battles with enemies. Euclidean Lands is all the more immersive when you factor in its AR component, allowing players to interact with this game superimposed over your real-world environment. If you enjoy brain-teasers and story-driven platformers that call for careful strategizing, you’ll love Euclidean Lands.  

INKHUNTER (Free)

INKHUNTER lets you virtually try on custom tattoo designs through the world of augmented reality. Choose any design that you like, point the camera somewhere on your body, and INKHUNTER will let you view your future tattoo on your skin from many different angles. This is a great app for anyone planning a larger tattoo who wants to get a good idea of how the design will flow with the natural contours of their body. It’s also ideal for anyone getting their first tattoo, as it lets them get a visual what their first tattoo might look like.

Sky Guide AR ($2.99)

With Sky Guide AR you simply open the app, hold your iPhone or iPad skyward, and begin automatically finding constellations, planets, and satellites. Sky Guide AR is an effortless way to learn about what’s going on in the skies above. It has a simple and intuitive interface, packed with informative celestial details that make it perfect for all ages and experience levels. Whether you’re an astronomy buff or total newbie, Sky Guide AR will satisfy your curious mind. Conveniently, this app works without Wi-Fi, cellular service, or GPS and keeps your eyes comfortable with its a night mode. It even sends you notifications when the International Space Station passes overhead.

ARise ($2.99)

ARise is an intriguing AR game in which you have to move your iPhone or iPad around to gain perspective and navigate through puzzles and obstacles in this advance puzzler/platformer hybrid. In ARise, you solve puzzles by physically moving around in the real world. You get to explore (from a third-person perspective) a vivid, living world in which your pint-sized avatar solves puzzles using visual cues and by looking at the game from every angle. You cross chasms, scale cliffs, and blaze new 3D trails. Built from the ground up to support Apple’s ARkit, ARise is a game the children will love, as will any fan of games such as Mario and Monument Valley.

magicplan (Free)

Magicplan is ideal for craftspeople, real estate agents, architects, home inspectors, interior designers, and do-it-yourselfers. You can use magicplan to view and map your space in 3D, generate job estimates, plan DIY projects, or furnish your home. Magicplan makes it easy to create floor plans in minutes and edit them with annotations, objects, and tasks, all with just a few taps. The app is free to download and use, but you will need to make an in-app purchase to download floor plans in certain shareable formats.

bubbli (Free)

Bubbli lets you record AR images that effectively transport the viewer to the time and place the image was captured. With Bubbli, you simply do a slow and steady pan around your environment, standing in one place as you move your iPhone around you. This produces an immersive, 360-degree image that you can share with friends and family via a variety of messaging platforms, including Facebook, iMessage, email, and more. To fully appreciate the Bubbli image, viewers have to physically turn in a circle and look up and down to view the entire scene, which really makes the viewer feel like they are seeing exactly what you saw when you captured the shot. It really is the next best thing to being there.

Dinosaurs Everywhere! (Free)

Dinosaurs Everywhere is a great app for young kids as well as dinosaur enthusiasts. Just hold your iPhone up like you’re going to take a picture and watch as huge, 3D dinosaurs go stomping through the world around you. Dinosaurs are all shown to scale, and by tapping on a dinosaur you can quickly learn more about the species and zoom in on the dinosaurs to get a closer look at their details. There are 10 different dinosaur species available in this game that you can superimpose over your day-to-day environment. You can also play this game through Google Cardboard for an even more immersive VR experience.

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As Senior Gear Editor at iPhone Life, Dig reports on the latest and greatest accessories built for the iOS ecosystem. From rugged gear and Bluetooth speakers, to headphones, unique iDevice cases, and iOS remote controlled vehicles, Dig's articles cover a wide range of great gear for the iPhone and iPad. A core gamer for over three decades, Dig also writes iPhone Life's Game Centered column, which focuses on the best iOS games and game related news. Additionally, Dig's company, iDoc Tech Support, offers web design and administration services as well as iPhone and iPad repairs. When not at his work desk, Dig loves spending time with family and enjoying the wonders of nature. You can follow him on Twitter @idoctech