10 Augmented Reality Apps That Will Amaze You

Augmented reality is a term that is given to mean apps, websites etc that add supplementary digital material to a real-world environment. This could be sounds, graphics, video or other media. Apps with augmented reality add to your experience of the real world with added functions, whereas virtual reality gives you a simulated world to take the place of the real one. I love showing people AR book apps as their reaction is always pleasing - it’s usually a definite 'wow' moment! These apps really bring out the potential for reading being an immersive experience and engage kids of all ages. Here are some of my favourites:

Two Left Feet (iOS & Android)

Two Left Feet is based on the delightful picture book by Adam Stower. It tells the story of Rufus, a monster who loves to dance - but hasn’t got very good coordination! The book stands alone as a gorgeously illustrated book and there is an e-book version included in the app, but when you add the app’s augmented reality function the magic really takes off. Even as a, well, shall we just say ‘mature’ adult - I was totally entranced to see Rufus twirling right in front of me when I held my device over the book. You can use the augmented reality function without having the actual book by printing out a canvas to use as a trigger, but I’m sure a book purchase would follow!

Fantastic Flying Books of Mr Morris Lessmore & Numberlys (iOS)

I have mentioned my good friend Morris in a previous blog post but just couldn’t bring myself to leave him out! Morris is reading on his front porch one day when he is swept up in a hurricane and finds himself in a strange land. He enters a large building ‘where many books apparently nested’ and becomes the keeper of the books. The story book has an accompanying app called Imag-N-O-Tron which allows you to enter Morris’s library and see a 360 degree view as well as being swept up in the hurricane and seeing bicycles etc flying around your living room. Numberlys is from the same fantastic team of developers, Moonbot Studios. The Numberlys live in a land where there is initially no alphabet, only numbers. The book, which tells the story of how they create the alphabet, is in the style of a vintage black-and-white film. Again the book stands alone but the Imag-N-O-Tron app brings it to life with letters flying everywhere and a toy box of extras you can drag into scenes. Great for helping children recognise upper case letters.

Idinosaur (iOS & Android)

The Carlton Publishing Group publish several AR books, some featuring well-known characters from Monsters Inc and Thomas the Tank Engine, but I think Idinosaur is one of the most impressive. Lots of boys and girls are fascinated by dinosaurs and the Idinosaur book is packed with facts to keep them reading. When you hold your device with the app open over the full-colour pages and tap to open wooden crates, a very realistic looking dinosaur appears in front of you complete with sound effects. The T Rex is particularly awe inspiring! The app has been re-developed in the last few years and lots of extra content has been added.

Horrible Hauntings (iOS & Android)

This one is for older children as it is a little scary. The Horrible Hauntings book is text rich and gives details of famous ghost stories. Lavish full-page illustrations accompany each ghostly tale but there are no ghosts to be seen in the images - until you use the app. The pages then show you the ghosts on your device screen, from skeletons playing football to Abraham Lincoln pacing around. Sound effects are included too, as well as interactive elements - watch out for Bloody Mary at the end, you have to call her name three times before she appears and when she walks away wait a moment - there is a fright still to come!

Aurasma (iOS & Android)

Aurasma is an app that allows you to attach videos or animation to anything - the page of a book, pictures, an object - that will only appear when you hold a device over them. It’s great fun for adding extra content to your favourite books and some publishers now add an Aurasma element to the front cover of books. Advertisers sometimes use Aurasma too; when you see the purple A open your Aurasma app to find interactive elements. I’ve used Aurasma to add fun elements, or auras, to book covers: a ringmaster added to The Night Circus, for example, and they’ve always gone down well with kids.

Dragons Detector / Dinosaurs Everywhere! / Zombies Everywhere! / Tardis (iOS)

These are just some of the apps from developer Useless Creations. You can add dinosaurs to the world in front of your camera, fight zombies, watch dragons flying around your bedroom or land the tardis anywhere you like. You could use these for a story starter or take screen shots whilst using the apps, hopefully sparking writing ideas. Otherwise, just use them for fun, but don’t get too scared of the zombies!

If you have the Guinness World Records books for 2013, 2014 or 2015 these all include augmented reality elements. There are only a few in each book but they are very interesting. A warning to arachnophobes, however - there are several large, hairy spiders lurking in these books and you might prefer that they stay on the page instead of running over your screen! The Star Wars Annual 2015 and the Disney Princess Annual 2015 have augmented reality apps from Egmont if your children have these. I loved blowing up the Death Star on the Star Wars app!

Augmented reality can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear as they say; you do need good quality content as a base, but it can certainly add excitement and enjoyment to your reading experience.


Want to learn more about how technology can enhance the reading experience? Check out Bev's other blogs and discover some fantastic book-related apps!

Top image by Clara Don on Flickr under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic

Bev Humphrey

If you're interested in literacy, Bev is a fantastic person to keep up with on Twitter or through her blog. She is a literacy, school libraries and technology consultant with 10 years' experience of working in school libraries, where she championed her passions for books and technology to inspire young readers. She is also the creator of The Write Path, an ongoing international collaborative writing project which was shortlisted for a TES New Literacy Initiative Award in 2009.