Virtual Reality Apps: See Your Everyday World in a Whole New Way

You’ve probably run across the acronym AR or heard friends mention AR gear or games, but what is AR, exactly? Augmented reality (AR) merges computer-generated images with the real world around you. AR games, like Pokémon Go for example, use your body’s orientation and position to control what you see on your device’s touchscreen. Some AR apps and games make use of Apple’s ARKit platform to superimpose digital images on to your iPhone camera’s viewfinder and therefore the world around you. Others draw you into an AR world where you can use your positioning to maneuver through your surroundings and see different views. If you’re interested in free AR apps and AR apps and games for the whole family, here’s a collection of our favorite augmented reality apps that will get your feet wet with this groundbreaking technology.

Related: Best 12 iOS Action Gaming Apps of 2017

Euclidean Lands ($ 3.99)

Euclidean Lands is a unique mashup of a rotating Rubik’s Cube puzzler, turn-based strategy game, and first-person adventure. Immerse yourself in this medieval game world with its beautiful isometric cubic architecture, complex combat strategies, and boss battles with enemies. Euclidean Lands is all the more immersive when you factor in its AR component, allowing players to interact with this game superimposed over your real-world environment. If you enjoy brain-teasers and story-driven platformers that call for careful strategizing, you’ll love Euclidean Lands.  

INKHUNTER (Free)

INKHUNTER lets you virtually try on custom tattoo designs through the world of augmented reality. Choose any design that you like, point the camera somewhere on your body, and INKHUNTER will let you view your future tattoo on your skin from many different angles. This is a great app for anyone planning a larger tattoo who wants to get a good idea of how the design will flow with the natural contours of their body. It’s also ideal for anyone getting their first tattoo, as it lets them get a visual what their first tattoo might look like.

Sky Guide AR ($ 2.99)

With Sky Guide AR you simply open the app, hold your iPhone or iPad skyward, and begin automatically finding constellations, planets, and satellites. Sky Guide AR is an effortless way to learn about what’s going on in the skies above. It has a simple and intuitive interface, packed with informative celestial details that make it perfect for all ages and experience levels. Whether you’re an astronomy buff or total newbie, Sky Guide AR will satisfy your curious mind. Conveniently, this app works without Wi-Fi, cellular service, or GPS and keeps your eyes comfortable with its a night mode. It even sends you notifications when the International Space Station passes overhead.

ARise ($ 2.99)

ARise is an intriguing AR game in which you have to move your iPhone or iPad around to gain perspective and navigate through puzzles and obstacles in this advance puzzler/platformer hybrid. In ARise, you solve puzzles by physically moving around in the real world. You get to explore (from a third-person perspective) a vivid, living world in which your pint-sized avatar solves puzzles using visual cues and by looking at the game from every angle. You cross chasms, scale cliffs, and blaze new 3D trails. Built from the ground up to support Apple’s ARkit, ARise is a game the children will love, as will any fan of games such as Mario and Monument Valley.

magicplan (Free)

Magicplan is ideal for craftspeople, real estate agents, architects, home inspectors, interior designers, and do-it-yourselfers. You can use magicplan to view and map your space in 3D, generate job estimates, plan DIY projects, or furnish your home. Magicplan makes it easy to create floor plans in minutes and edit them with annotations, objects, and tasks, all with just a few taps. The app is free to download and use, but you will need to make an in-app purchase to download floor plans in certain shareable formats.

bubbli (Free)

Bubbli lets you record AR images that effectively transport the viewer to the time and place the image was captured. With Bubbli, you simply do a slow and steady pan around your environment, standing in one place as you move your iPhone around you. This produces an immersive, 360-degree image that you can share with friends and family via a variety of messaging platforms, including Facebook, iMessage, email, and more. To fully appreciate the Bubbli image, viewers have to physically turn in a circle and look up and down to view the entire scene, which really makes the viewer feel like they are seeing exactly what you saw when you captured the shot. It really is the next best thing to being there.

Dinosaurs Everywhere! (Free)

Dinosaurs Everywhere is a great app for young kids as well as dinosaur enthusiasts. Just hold your iPhone up like you’re going to take a picture and watch as huge, 3D dinosaurs go stomping through the world around you. Dinosaurs are all shown to scale, and by tapping on a dinosaur you can quickly learn more about the species and zoom in on the dinosaurs to get a closer look at their details. There are 10 different dinosaur species available in this game that you can superimpose over your day-to-day environment. You can also play this game through Google Cardboard for an even more immersive VR experience.

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Bitcoin could face new regulations in the U.S. after top financial cops and lawmakers raise new fears about virtual currency

A hearing Tuesday in the Senate could be a preview of what’s to come.

Leading U.S. financial regulators expressed an uneasiness Tuesday with the rapid rise of bitcoin — and signaled that new regulation of virtual currency could be on the horizon.

For lawmakers on the Senate Banking Committee, their hearing this morning elucidated a fresh sense that federal law may not be fully equipped to deal with a virtual currency that’s now valued at around $ 113 billion — not to mention the potential for theft and fraud and the arrival of so-called initial coin offerings, which are essentially fundraising rounds that rely on digital tokens.

In response, regulators at two key federal agencies — the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission — sought to strike a delicate balance in their testimony to the Senate panel. They acknowledged there are gaps in consumer and investor protections but stressed their interest in sparing a new, innovative market from too much early regulation.

Still, Democrats and Republicans alike continued to return to the same question: Is a new law governing bitcoin buying, selling and enforcement necessary?

“We may be back with our friends from Treasury and the Fed to ask for additional legislation,” said Jay Clayton, the leader of the SEC, referring to the Treasury Department and the Federal Reserve.

To be sure, bitcoin isn’t totally unregulated. By definition, the SEC regulates all securities — including bitcoin in cases where the virtual currency doubles as an investment vehicle, such as a stock. At the CFTC, meanwhile, the agency determined back in 2015 that bitcoin qualifies as a “commodity” that it can monitor under federal law.

But they do face limits in their oversight, which the agencies’ leaders acknowledged Tuesday. Neither entity has oversight when it comes to so-called “spot markets,” for example, or hubs like Coinbase where consumers can buy and sell bitcoin directly. Those largely are regulated by the individual states, and in the eyes of some critics, perhaps not very effectively.

“The spot market for bitcoin is not a regulated marketplace,” said the CFTC’s leader, Chairman J. Christopher Giancarlo. Federal enforcers can pursue “fraud and manipulation,” he said, “but we don’t have the ability to set the standards in those markets.”

For that to change, it would fall to Congress. While lawmakers on Tuesday didn’t offer any specific proposal to regulate bitcoin, many Democrats and Republicans came armed with a litany of concerns or criticisms about cryptocurrency — and the government’s ability to handle it.

Democratic Sens. Sherrod Brown and Jack Reed, for example, expressed doubts the federal regulators have enough technologists on hand to grapple with the rise of bitcoin.

For GOP Sen. Richard Shelby, the fear is “where the bottom is” when it comes to the value of virtual currency, which has whipsawed over the last few months — and lost as much as half its value in just weeks. After trading as high as $ 20,000 last year, it was worth under $ 7,000 as the hearing came to a close.

To Democratic Sen. Mark Warner, the cybersecurity of bitcoin platforms remains a challenge. His comments came on a day that South Korean officials alleged that North Korea is behind a major new theft of bitcoin.

Democratic Sen. Joe Donnelly pressed regulators on what they were doing to help “retail” investors — average Americans who have seized on bitcoin mania. In response, the CFTC’s Giancarlo said his agency and others had sought to arm libraries — where bitcoin is among frequent searches — with information about the industry.

Fellow Democratic Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto raised the recent trend of companies adding “blockchain” to their names to squeeze out more market value. Federal officials shared her complaints.

And many expressed their doubts with initial coin offerings, or ICOs. Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren sought to point out that none of the roughly $ 4 billion so far raised through ICOs had registered properly with the SEC, potentially depriving investors of information that might affect their decision making.

In recent weeks, the SEC has taken explicit aim at these ICOs, warning some and penalizing others. “Experience tells us that while some market participants may make fortunes, the risks to all investors are high. Caution is merited,” warned SEC and CFTC leaders in an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal last month.

On Tuesday, the agency’s leader, Clayton, stressed to the Senate: “We’ve made it clear what the law is.”

For now, though, committee leaders signaled they’d be interested in legislation that might address some of these ills. But Sen. Mike Crapo, the panel’s Republican chairman, suggested to the financial regulators who testified that they had to come to him with a proposal first.

“I would ask you to get back to me on recommendations … legislative system and whether we need to provide further clarification from Congress,” he said.


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