10 AR apps every traveler should know about

It is the curse of every curious traveler -- you're walking through a new town and you can sense the history, you can smell the restaurant, you can hear the train you're meant to catch, but you have n

10 AR apps every traveler should know about

It is the curse of every curious traveler — you’re walking through a new town and you can sense the history, you can smell the restaurant, you can hear the train you’re meant to catch, but you have no idea how to get there or discover more.

Thank heavens for augmented reality.

Now, with apps that cost from nothing to a few bucks, you can lay digital worlds over the top of the real world through your phone’s camera view. Suddenly data on hotels, restaurants, shop offers, landmarks, social gaming, even menu translations, is at your fingertips.

Here are 10 fantastic AR apps that every traveler should know about.

1. Wikitude
Price: Free
Platforms: Android 1.5+, iPhone 4.0, Symbian with compass, Bada
Download link: http://www.wikitude.org/en/dedownloadendownload

Voted the best augmented reality browser of 2010 by readers of Augmented Planet, Wikitude comes with a multitude of “worlds” that can be overlayed onto the real world that you see through your mobile device’s camera.

For example, the Starbucks World shows you if any Starbucks cafes are in the direction you’re pointing your camera.

Check out all the various worlds you can access, including World Heritage List, Wildlife Parks in Asia, Irish Pubs Worldwide and more, by clicking here.

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2. Layar: ArchINFORM
Price: Free
Platforms: Android 1.5+, iPhone 3.1+
Download link: www.layar.com/download

A nifty AR layer for architecture buffs. ArchINFORM is available as a real-world-overlay on Junaio, Layar and Wikitude, but Layar’s version comes with special features.

It’s a huge database of interesting architectural works, existing and yet-to-be-built, that you can search for with architect names and/or keywords.

Within the 3D layer, there’s an AR-view perspective map and a walkable pedestrian route can be shown for every listed piece of architecture within the specified neighborhood.

3. Lonely Planet Compass City Guides
Price: $4.99
Platforms: All Android
Download link: Available in the Android Market

This is for those who travel by the Lonely Planet gospel, but can’t be bothered to lug around their tomes. Now all their expert advice for 25 key cities around the world is available on an Android screen complete with GPS-enabled maps and augmented reality camera views.

Selected cities include Amsterdam, Bangkok, Boston, Istanbul, Prague, Seoul, Singapore, Sydney, Tokyo and Vancouver.

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4. Etips City Guides
Price: $0.99-4.99
Platforms: iPhone 3.1+
Download link: iTunes.apple.com

Etips provides daily itineraries as well as GPS-enabled maps and on-screen recommendations of nearby hot spots using the camera view.

Etips provides 131 different apps for the iPhone and 49 different apps for the iPad, covering various cities worldwide.

Bonus feature: even if you’re not connected to the Internet, much of the content is available offline.

5. BuUuk
Price: Free
Platforms: All Android, iPhone 3.1+, Symbian
Download link: buuuk.com

A restaurant recommendation app, not unlike Urbanspoon. You can find nearby restaurants in camera view as well as where special deals are available. The data is user generated (140 characters or fewer, with links to Twitter and Facebook), and users can accompany their reviews with pictures.

BuUuk covers primarily Asian cities, but is expanding with Sydney, Perth, Phuket and Jakarta being recent additions.

6. Sekai Camera
Price: Free
Platforms: Android 2.1+, iPhone 3.1+
Download link: sekaicamera.com

Real-time air tagging, where air tagging means things people have written, photographed or said (using the voice message system) about stuff. These then float in your camera view like digital sticky labels.

You can comment on others’ air tags or just view the info about nearby restaurants, hotels and so on.

Sekai Camera also features augmented reality games through various Sekai apps such as Sekai Cafe AR, which allows you to “build” an AR cafe in a real location and do business with other users.

7. Metro AR Pro
Price: $0.99
Platforms: iPhone 3.1+
Download link: itunes.apple.com

Find the nearest metro or subway station in Seoul, Tokyo, New York, Chicago, Mexico, London or Paris.

Granted, it’s possible to do this in Google Maps, but there’s something fun about seeing the stations floating in camera view with the distance from your current location indicated.

8. Waalkz
Price: Free
Platforms: iPhone 3.0+
Download link: itunes.apple.com

Download informative walking tours and let them guide you through Singapore’s heritage Arab Quarter, Boat Quay, Chinatown and Little India neighborhood.

Check out the opium dens of old, sit in souk-like cafes, wander through temples and mosques. See sites pop up in camera view as you walk and once it’s downloaded there’s no need to be online to use it.

Would be great to see this extended to other cities.

9. iButterfly — Coupon & Entertainment
Price: Free
Platforms: iPhone 3.1+ (Japan iTunes store only)
Download link: itunes.apple.com

An augmented reality game created by advertising agency Dentsu that allows users to catch and collect “butterflies” that pop-up in camera view.

Once caught, the butterflies release offers for nearby shops and restaurants as well as other informative content.

Japan only at the moment, but soon to extended to the rest of Asia.

10. Google Goggles in Google Mobile
Price: Free
Platforms: Android 1.6+, iPhone 4.0
Download link: Android Market and iPhone

Google Goggles is still in Google Labs stage, but this is a visual search app to watch. Take a picture of famous paintings, wine labels or bar codes among other things and Google Goggles will return information on the image captured.

Of most practical use is the translation function. Photograph text (for example a menu item) in English, French, German, Italian or Spanish and have it translated into one of those other languages.

While slower than Word Lens, it offers the capability to translate more languages.

ArabicArmenianBengaliBulgarianChinese (Simplified)CroatianCzechDanishDutchEnglishFilipinoFinnishFrenchGeorgianGermanGreekHebrewHindiHungarianIcelandicIndonesianItalianJapaneseKoreanLatvianNepaliNorwegianPersianPolishPortugueseRomanianRussianSamoanSerbianSlovakSpanishSwahiliSwedishTamilThaiTurkishUkrainianUrdu
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