Cool apps for AR and VR

The terms "virtual reality" and "augmented reality" get thrown around a lot these days. Virtual reality and augmented reality accomplish two very different things in two very different ways. VR replaces reality, taking you somewhere else. AR adds to reality, projecting information on top of what you're already seeing. Both technologies have become more accessible than ever before. You can now experience what it would be like to travel into space or swim at the bottom of the ocean, all without leaving the comfort of your home.

Virtual Reality (VR) is a fascinating way to travel using nothing more than the power of technology. With a headset and motion tracking, VR lets you look around a virtual space as if you're actually there, or play a game like you're really in it. Users can be transported into a number of real-world and imagined environments such as the middle of a squawking penguin colony or even the back of a dragon.

Augmented Reality (AR) is a little different, it overlays information and virtual objects on real-world scenes in real-time. It uses the existing environment and adds information to it to make a new artificial environment. Examples of augmented reality experiences include Snapchat lenses and Pokemon Go.

Check out the picks below to find immersive worlds, 3D models, and tools to create your own AR and VR experiences. What you need to experience VR:

  • Download the suitable app
  • Mobile device
  • Optional: Cardboard

Virtual reality apps available on all platforms

Because of the immersive nature of virtual reality, users may find the experience much more intense than watching on a traditional screen, and some may experience symptoms of motion sickness. Read each app's privacy policy to find out about the kinds of information collected and shared.

  • Google Expeditions – From Mount Everest to the Louvre, there are over 900 VR Expeditions in the app for you to explore. Tours included 360-degree panoramas capturing museums, festivals, and far-flung wonders of the world.  
  • Fulldive VR – is a 100% user generated content and navigation platform. Fulldive allows you to browse and view a new generation of media, such as watching 3D and 360 photos and videos, and also browse the Internet like never before. It is also a social platform that allows you to follow what your friends watch, react, and comment on, and share your favorite reacted videos
  • Inmind 2 VR An adventure game about a scientific journey inside the emotions chemistry of human brain.  Greatly inspired by the Pizar/Disney movie “Inside Out” 
  • inCell VR is an action-packed VR game where players navigate through a world made of human cells. Mixing science and entertainment, players will outrun virus waves, save cells from destruction and experience the micro world of cells.
  • Discovery VR is a collection of dynamic 360 video experiences, you’ll find exclusive clips from behind-the-scenes of your favorite shows, heart-pounding adventures, and stunning celebrations of our incredible planet
  • King Tut VR lets you experience the Tomb of the legendary Egyptian King Tutankhamun on and get lost in the secret chambers full of hieroglyphics and treasures. The full 360 degree virtual environment lets you get a personal view of these impressive historical artifacts without having to worry about the curse of the Pharaohs. 
  • Within VR Sometimes you just want to explore different places, people, and scenes all through the lens of VR. Within is an immersive gateway for doing just that. This app brings you a variety of stories from animated adventures to fictional scenarios to real-life documentaries. 

Virtual reality apps for Android devices  

  • VR Space Blast off into space and tour the Sun Star and planet systems. This Immersive virtual reality allows you to discover the stars and the stunning views of vast galactic space.
  • Safari Tours Adventures VR 4D With realistic graphics and animations, the app provides you with the perfect environment for a Safari ride across the beautiful yet deadly Jungle. Save yourself from the deadly wild animals as they do not spare those who enter their territory.
  • Youtube VR is one of the best online resources to get your hands on 360-degree videos for free.
  • Zombie Shooter VR A post-apocalyptic world full of blood-thirsty zombies is waiting for you. Choose your weapon, explore the deserted subway tunnels and keep your eyes peeled: mutants can attack any time!

Virtual reality apps for iOS devices 

  • VR Roller Coaster The roller coaster takes you through the usual ups, downs, twists, and turns but also throws in some crazy loop-the-loops where you really feel the sensation of being upside down. Watch out! If you get dizzy on real roller coasters, you may feel a bit woozy on this virtual ride.
  • VR Mojo Orbulus Want to see other countries but cannot afford the airfare? VR Mojo Orbulus offers you a virtual trek of sights and sounds from around the world. The app starts by displaying floating photo spheres, each one a gateway to a different destination. Look at a sphere that interests you, and you're transported to that place and time.
  • VR Space stalker by FIBRUM packs in cool space battles, amazing graphics, and an ongoing storyline that takes you from one adventure to the next. Your objective, of course, is to blow up enemy ships before they reach you and before your shields give out. As you complete missions, you choose among three different weapons depending on the strength and number of your adversaries. 

Augmented reality apps available on all platforms

  • Monster park – AR Dino world will allow you to get up-close-and-personal with a variety of dinosaurs using your phone’s camera. They can view dinosaurs in real size in the real world.
  • Starwalk Learn more about the sky above with this cool augmented reality app. Star Walk works as a guide to the night sky by allowing you to identify more than 200,000 different celestial bodies and learn more about the constellations and stars in real-time.
  • Civilisations AR Enables users to explore historical artefacts from UK museums in virtual exhibitions.  You can view a collection of 41 artifacts thematically organized in alignment with the BBC TV series: Early Civilisations.  
  • Google Lens is the latest iteration of the Google Goggles concept, with the search giant using the power of its computing cloud to help identify text, images, objects and landmarks in your photographs in order to get more information. 
  • SketchAR turns your smartphone screen into an AR drawing aid, overlaying a sketch or line art image on a blank piece of paper that you can then trace over or use as the basis of your own sketch.  Choose from a library of sketches included in the app, or transform your own photos into traceable line art.  
  • Inkhunter Think before you ink. Tattoos let you show off your sense of style or immortalize something important to you right into your own skin. And planning out your tattoo is especially important as the results are going to be permanent. Enter Inkhunter, one of the best AR apps for previewing what a tattoo might look like on your skin.
  • Holo lets you add holograms of real people and animals into your world and take photos & videos to share with friends.
  • Wallame Create geotagged works of virtual art drawn or painted on walls, sidewalks, or buildings without having to spill a single drop of paint. You can share the locations of your messages or artwork with your friends so that they can view your work with their own smartphone camera using WallaMe. You can also search for other user-created WallaMe walls using a map interface.
  • Just a Line is an app that lets you make simple drawings in augmented reality, then share your creation with a short video. Touch the screen to draw, then hit record and share what you made with #justaline.

Create your own AR/VR

  • ZapWorks is a creation tool for combining images, videos, sounds, web links, and more to create AR experiences. The simplest way to create is using something like a QR code (called a "trigger") that can be printed and added to anything. Using Zappar, the platform's app for reading the triggers, you can hear, see, or watch a new layer of information or augmented reality added to just about any surface.
  • Metaverse is a platform for creating, sharing, and interacting with AR "experiences." New experiences begin with a blank storyboard that allows for nearly unlimited combinations of scenes, characters, commands, and navigation options. 
  • Tour Creator is a website by Google that allows users to create 360° tours for VR right from your computer. 

Top things to borrow 

More stuff

Watch The Internet and Virtual Reality on Kanopy. For all of their ubiquity, personal computers, email, and the Internet represent a major departure in the evolution of computer technology. Witness the exciting and improbable birth of personal computing in the 1970s, and explore the nature of the virtual world where more and more people now reside.

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