Just when you thought you’d heard the catchphrase “Gotta catch ’em all!” for the last time, it rises from the dead in 2016. The Pokémon GO app brought the cartoon phenomenon of the late nineties back with a vengeance, while also catapulting augmented reality (AR) technology to the fore. Judging by the way Pokémon GO has taken the world by storm, you would think it’s the lone pioneer of AR technology for apps.
Think again. A sizable list of app developers blazed the AR trail long before you could capture a Snorlax in the supermarket. Here are five apps that incorporated AR way before virtual Pikachu starting showing up at your gym.
Furniture always looks great at the store or in a catalog, but how it will actually look in your place is always a guessing game. That is, until Ikea released its AR furniture catalog app in 2014. This app has all the traditional features of a catalog app, allowing users to browse through available pieces, sales, etc.
But the most innovative feature is the app’s ability to superimpose different pieces of furniture in 3D into your living room, bedroom, or wherever you intend to put them. All you need is a camera-equipped smartphone and the app. You can then rotate and reposition the furniture to your heart’s content to see exactly what it’s going to look like in your living space. A smartphone such as the Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge would be a great companion for the app, due to it’s large screen and high-quality camera.
The Google Goggles app was one of the first attempts to bring AR technology to the Android phone. Almost six years ago, Google released this app that scans objects with the user’s camera and then uses Google search to identify what they are. Google Goggles can identify landmarks, artwork, products, and barcodes, among other things. Users also have the ability to scan and translate foreign text in English, French, German, Spanish, Russian, Portuguese, and Turkish. The app is no longer available for iOS, but you can still find it for Android.
Pokemon Go may be causing stampedes in Taiwan in 2016, but Ingress, an AR game app, has been galvanizing gaming geeks off couches all over the world since 2012. This free, GPS-location-driven game requires players to hack and construct portals. Rather than using a ho-hum game board, Ingress relies on a map of the real world. Players have to move to different locations to hack new portals.
One of the most recent updates allows players to create scavenger hunts, known as missions, that begin at a designated portal. From there, the mission leads players to various points of interest in the community, such as landmarks, art, and historical locations.
This AR-fueled astronomy app has been around for years. Using the camera on your phone, you point your phone toward the night sky and the app automatically identifies the various constellations, planets, and major stars. The app follows users’ movements in real time, giving them the power to identify more than 200,000 celestial bodies. Users get more than just names with this app — Star Walk will also provide extensive facts about the various bodies users spot.
Hailed as the first augmented reality app for the iPhone, Yelp Monocle made its debut in 2009. Using your phone’s GPS, camera, and compass, the Yelp app shows virtual information in the real world. For example, you could hold your camera up to the sign of a local restaurant, and Yelp will display hours, reviews, and other information about that place as well as info like Twitter users nearby.
You can also use it in a particular location to see what businesses are nearby, how late they’re open, etc. Initially, this “Monocle” feature of the app was secret, requiring users to open the Yelp app and shake their phones three times to activate the AR.
As you can see, years before Squirtle and Vaporeon became your coworkers and neighbors, the developers of these five apps were already on the vanguard of augmented reality. If the Pokémon GO craze ever peters out, only time will tell who will lead the AR charge from there.