There are some exciting possibilities for a VR exercise experience, but when it comes to getting out into the world, nothing beats AR. Augmented Reality is like a heads-up display in a first-person video game.
AR can make you feel like you’re surviving the apocalypse, you’re fighting for freedom in a dystopian society, or digging for treasure. Here are the five best AR fitness apps that will motivate you to get out and see the world around you.
In this app, you’re a runner trying to deliver vital messages and supplies to new colonies while avoiding zombies trying to chase you. Few in your position have survived, so you’ll need to stay focused and maintain a good pace if you want to live to see the next day. Gradually, something much bigger is unveiled.
Use earbuds to listen to the story and follow the voice prompts that tell you when to sprint, when to rest, and how to proceed. Collecting objects along the way (passing GPS points on your map) allows for players to build up a base and maintain a community of survivors for another layer of fun.
Every runner of any skill will enjoy the app, even cyclists, thanks to the app adjusting to your speed.
Developer/Publisher: Six to Start/ Naomi Alderman
Compatible with: iPhone and Android Smartphones (almost any with GPS will do)
Price: Free, with a Premium option. The cost is monthly or yearly and supports new content in the form of “seasons” which generally have 4 hours of story per season.
Strava is an app that allows you to show off your run, hike or cycling session after you’ve finished. Using Apple’s ARKit, you can “pin” a topographical map of your trail to any flat surface and explore a three dimensional model of the terrain you just hiked. Share video and pictures too.
For those who like to tell the story of a hike, this app has a lot of potential. Hiking works the entire body, especially when you commit to a day hike that requires carrying supplies. Fitness AR is social by nature, so recruit some friends and share your adventures. Just make sure you pack accordingly.
Compatible with: iPhone 6s and higher
In Pokemon Go, you use your phone to find Pokemon in the real world. Swipe to toss Pokeballs you can use to catch each monster. Collecting all is the name of the game, and you’ll need to travel all over your city (and the US) to complete your collection.
Pokemon Go encourages you to vary your workout sessions and explore the world around you. Seasoned runners might scoff, because the app is better for walking than for running thanks to frequent stops for the “catching” mini-game, but Pokemon Go shines as an app to play with friends or as couples. It’s an easy way to cover several miles a day without feeling like you’re working out.
Developer/Publisher: Niantic/The Pokemon Company
Compatible with: iPhone 6s or higher, Android 4.4 or higher
Price: Free with In-App Purchases
Niantic’s first game, and the company’s namesake, was an app called Ingress. Ingress is a location-based app where players choose to play as “Enlightened” or “Resistance.” The goal is to physically travel to landmarks in your city and claim them for your side, while stealing items from other players along the way using GPS points on the map.
Similar to Pokemon Go, this app feeds on your interest to get out and about. It’s a good way to explore more of the world around you, and maybe take a road trip to other cities to see what else you can claim. Players do have to stop and interact with terminals from time to time, so it’s best used as a method to get those steps in for the day.
Compatible with: iOS 7 or higher, Android 4.4 or higher
Price: Free for players, businesses pay for advertising (to become a hub for players)
Temple Treasure Hunt
Use a treasure map to travel to real-world locations in order to collect clues that lead to treasures in the virtual world. You win by capturing 11 guardians that will then point the way to the ultimate treasure. Groups can play using a single device, and there’s an indoor mode you can play with kids.You can also view and interact with the guardians using your phone’s camera.
Another get out and about app, but this one doesn’t require as much stopping. You could go for a brisk run and collect a few clues every day, but you’ll get the most in-game benefit if you vary where you run or hike. It’s similar to geocaching, so be prepared to do some exploring.
Developer/Publisher: ThoughtShastra/MobiTech Solutions
Compatible With: Android 3.3 or higher
Price: Free with $0.99 In-App Purchases