Fans of science fiction have been longing for realistic, full immersion, virtual worlds since the early 1980s when the potential implications of slipping away—either by choice or by force—into a virtually concocted universe both captivated and horrified audiences of movies such as Lawnmower Man and later The Matrix. Unfortunately, despite the immense effort and research devoted to making virtual reality technologies accessible to mass audiences in the 1990s, and despite the substantial developments in at-home gaming and hand-held devices over the last two decades, no clear path to the fulfillment of the virtual reality dream has been forged. Until recently, that is, with the advent of something called Augmented Reality
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Today, many people have used the Star Walk app to learn the name of an overhead constellation, or have seen a Yelp review pop up on their smartphone’s screen as they scan for nearby restaurants. These are just basic examples of what is possible with Augmented Reality, a hybrid technology that doesn’t usually rely on a wholly digital world, but instead adds (or in some cases subtracts) elements from reality and relies on GPS to create an enhanced experience. A relatively recent increase in Augmented Reality application development brings the joys, wonders, and horrors of virtual reality into the palm of the consumer’s hand, and with future technologies like Google’s Augmented Reality glasses, will soon make them hands-free.
The best way to celebrate technology’s triumph over the obstacle of virtual reality is to play a game. Here are some of the best apps the industry currently has to offer:
This free app is exclusive to Android operating systems (although its cousin, Paintball Arena is available on iOS), which should resonate as a real win with Android users who feel like they are frequently handed the short end of the app-stick. A multi-player game, Paintball allows everyone to choose a paint-slinging weapon and engage in an all-out assault against selected friends. Just like going to the paintball park, only free. The best part is about this game is that it takes the fun of shooting and de-emphasizes the violence, making it more all-age accessible than other popular first-person shooters.
An adult alternative to the more family friendly Paintball, iSnipeYou is a graphic, gory, and detailed game that turns the phone’s camera in to the scope of a sniper rifle. The user shoots anything they wish and earns points for extra precision. Stills of quality shots can be saved for posterity.
If the pumpkins in the yard, the leaves falling from the trees, and the fact that season two of The Walking Dead is finally streaming on Netflix isn’t enough to possess someone with the spirit of the Halloween season, then this excellent app for Android will surely do the trick. Once the player selects a play space and the number of zombies they’d like to be chased by, the game turns their world into a post apocalyptic battle ground where the only way to stay alive is to run!
Being virtually scared is fun, and so is hunting for virtual ghosts. This app allows the user to become a hunter of phantasms, capturing them with the phone’s camera and protecting the world from their frightful ways. With levels that increase in difficulty as the game progresses, and a world that expands the more the game is played, this app provides endless hours of active entertainment.
The parallel Kingdom is no stranger to having its praises sung, it’s been getting nominated for Best Augmented Reality Game for gamers since before Augmented Reality was invented, and despite the fact that it’s been around longer than most, it stands the test of time with well-conceived gameplay that uses GPS to turn your world into one of magical kingdoms and fantasy. Luckily, it’s a free app that both iOS and Android users can enjoy.