Augmented reality is a technology that has the potential to be amazing, yet most apps seem to fall short. Thankfully, a great collection of AR apps for Android actually achieve that potential.
Read on to discover 12 augmented reality apps for Android that you’ll find useful enough to use every day. All you need is an Android phone with a camera!
If you love traveling, hiking, biking, or generally exploring new areas, you’re going to love ViewRanger. It’s an app that’s designed especially for hikers looking for the next great trail to go on an adventure.
It includes a library of trails you can search through. More importantly, you can enable GPS to identify your location and use ViewRanger to log your own trail as you’re making your first trip into new territory.
Even if it’s your first time in the area, you can download topographical maps so you’ll know the terrain. The app includes street, aerial, satellite and terrain maps.
What makes ViewRanger a really cool augmented reality app is the Skyline feature. When you click on the Skyline icon and pan the landscape with your camera, the app will identify all mountain peaks, lakes, and other important locations near you.
You’ll see a tag with the name in the direction it is, and how far it’s located from you.
The app boasts a database of nine million locations across the world, and even more many possible routes for you to explore.
As an added bonus, the app includes a BuddyBeacon feature where you can send up a signal of your current location so that your friends can locate you no matter where they are.
Download: ViewRanger (Free)
2. Google Translate
Google Translate is one of the best apps for travelers. It enables you to have full conversations with people, even when you don’t speak the same language.
It isn’t just limited to the spoken word, though. In one of the best uses of augmented reality to date, you can point your phone’s camera at a road sign, menu, or any other piece of text—and you’ll get an instant translation.
This feature works in 59 languages (the app supports 103 overall) and you can download language packs to use offline.
In addition to the AR feature, the app lets you translate your own handwriting, audio, or even a real-time conversation you’re having with someone.
If you prefer not to use Google for whatever reason, you can also give Microsoft Translator a try. It works in a similar way, although it doesn’t have quite the same visual flair when translating written words.
Download: Google Translate (Free)
3. Google Lens
Google Lens is sort of the jackknife AR app. It’s a multi-feature offering that intelligently analyzes any photo you take and provides all the information Google can find about it.
During our testing of the app, Lens identified text from actual objects photographed. It identified objects in the photo, and sifted through Google results for as much information as it could find about it.
Google Lens was even able to use image analysis to identify the type of flower in the photograph. It’s very impressive.
We’ve covered the best ways to use Google Lens.
Download: Google Photos (includes Google Lens) (Free)
WallaMe lets you share secret messages with others by turning the whole world into a blank canvas.
Point your phone’s camera at an empty wall and write or draw a message on screen, then share it. No random passerby will even know that a message is there. But people with whom you’ve shared your creation, and who stand in the same location, will be able to see exactly what you’ve done.
The ability to draw freestyle on camera images of the world around you opens up a whole list of possible applications.
We recently described how you could use WallaMe to create a fun virtual adventure for your kids on a family vacation. You could also try exchanging ideas with your spouse or roomates on how to rearrange furniture in a room.
Another idea is to create a poster that you could print and post near any area to help people understand how items should be organized there.
That could even be useful in a work environment where you need to organize storage shelves, or parts of a machine. Just snap a picture and label the important areas.
Download: WallaMe (Free)
If you prefer using AR to play games, you need to check out Ingress.
Ingress is an engrossing virtual world where you need to choose a side—either the Resistance or the Enlightened. From that point on, your mission is to find virtual portals in the real world, and capture them for your side.
Ingress has converted millions of users to the wonders of augmented reality gaming. Set in a complex sci-fi world, the game requires that you roam around in the real world, capturing or protecting locations.
While it may lack the accessibility you get from other big games, if you do give it a go, you’ll find Ingress has a large community of hardcore players ready to welcome you to the ranks.
Download: Ingress (Free)
Holo is an AR app you probably can’t imagine using, but once you do, you’ll get hooked on using it all the time. With Holo, you implant holograms of characters and objects into the real world.
This makes for some pretty hilarious selfies and other photos you won’t be able to resist sharing on social media.
In my testing of the app, I placed Spider-Man on my deck, Einstein on the roof of our shed, and a raccoon on the floor right next to our cat—and he didn’t even notice!
Download: Holo (Free)
7-8. Augmented Reality Compass and AR Compass 3D
One obvious application of AR technology is real-time navigation. So augmented reality compass apps for Android make sense. However, there are really only two good ones available now.
The first is called Augmented Reality Compass. It overlays compass coordinates on top of your camera view.
This app is useful while hiking off-trail. It saves time checking your bearings via a traditional compass and having to mark landmarks every so often.
The only drawback is that keeping the camera running can suck up battery power. But if you bring along one or two extra portable charger packs for your phone, you should be all set.
A second AR compass app you may want to try is AR Compass 3D. This app also overlays compass coordinates over your camera image, but alongside this it provides your current GPS location on a map.
Keep in mind that both of these apps require an active internet/data connection in addition to satellite GPS.
Most of the time you’ll have access to both, but if you’re planning a deep-woods expedition someplace like Alaska, you may not want to count on this app to avoid getting lost.
W.A.R. stands for Widespread Augmented Reality. It’s designed as an augmented social app that lets people share information by tagging a location.
When you first sign up on the app, you can search for any publicly-accessible geotagged locations in your area. These are identified on a map by a lightning bolt.
The real intent of this app is to use it with friends. It’s especially useful if you’re traveling together in a group and you want to leave messages for one another at different locations.
Picture a scenario where you get split up from your group of friends and they start texting you to ask where you are. You could try to describe your location, or better yet, via this app you could simply geotag your current location.
All of your friends can use the augmented reality app to see your location light up with a green dot.
The app does have a bit of a learning curve. But just keep in mind that the process flows from left to right on the screen. The app also blinks the button that’s next in the process.
Basically, you take the picture of a location, geotag it with a title and coordinates, and then share it to the W.A.R. network.
It’s less of a social app and more of a fun way to travel with friends without losing one another when you split up.
Download: W.A.R. (Free)
10. My Augmented Reality
While W.A.R. helps you keep track of where you are, My Augmented Reality helps you keep track of where places are.
Imagine you’re walking around a city on the first day of vacation. Each time you come across a wonderful restaurant or shop that you want to visit later, you can geotag that location.
The next day when you’re walking through the city again, you can hold up your phone and see where those locations are, and how far you need to walk to get there.
Other great potential uses for this app:
- Mark important locations while you’re hiking in the woods (like where you parked your car).
- Geotag rides you want to revisit when exploring a theme park.
- Keep track of the locations for all your classes on a large college campus (great for first year-students).
- Geotag the edges of your property to do an unofficial “survey” of your land.
There are many ways to use this app, so it’s sure to become one of those apps you’re glad you’ve installed.
Download: My Augmented Reality (Free)
11. Star Walk 2
There’s no quicker or simpler demonstration of the wonders of augmented reality than Star Walk 2. If you’re a NASA junkie or love anything to do with outer space, you’ll love this app.
Just open it and point your phone at the sky. All the planets, stars, constellations, and even satellites that may be passing by will be laid out right in front of you.
This pocket planetarium is great for teachers or amateur astronomers. It’s also helpful for identifying whether that light in sky is a star, Mars, or the International Space Station.
It even works fine during the day. The stars are a little more faint, but everything still shows up fine overlaid over your view of the sky.
Download: Star Walk 2 (Free)
If you’ve ever considered getting a tattoo, but you’re not sure how one would look, then this app is perfect for you.
It includes a huge library of tattoos (keep in mind that not all areas of the library are free).
Pick one, and just point it at the part of your body where you’re considering getting the tattoo.
Inkhunter uses AR to display your chosen tattoo design on your arm or anywhere else. Moving your arm or phone allows you to check that it’ll look great from every angle. It’s easy to save and share the results, too.
Download: Inkhunter (Free)
Augment Your Reality
These 12 augmented reality apps for Android actually real use. Whether you want to get more information about the objects around you, need help navigating, or just want to play some games, they’ll help you out. You’ll never look through your phone the same way again!
If virtual reality is more your style, check out the best VR games for your smartphone.