Augmented reality is one of the hottest new techs to hit the Google and Apple app stores, with both companies releasing powerful new SDKs to bring AR to the masses. One area that has especially benefited is educational games. Kids love to explore new technology. Leveraging that curiosity for education is a natural step.
Things are just getting started in this exciting new space, but already there are some clear frontrunners. Here are our favorite augmented reality learning games available today.
ARise – The Augmented Reality Puzzle Game
Similar to the groundbreaking game Monument Valley, ARise has players guide a hapless knight through impossible architectural puzzles. The game takes place in a world where seeing is believing, and obstacles in the adventurer’s path may simply be a matter of perspective.
By physically reorienting themselves, the player can view the level from new angles, uncovering new solutions. It’s a great way to teach spatial awareness and critical thinking skills.
CyberChase Shape Quest
The latest in PBS Kids’ line of augmented reality learning games, Cyberchase Shape Quest features beloved alien robots Buzz and Delete as they try to get their Botopolis friends back home. Along the way, kids will help them by tossing them food, figuring out how they fit into geometric shapes, and more.
The star of the show is “Patch the Path” a minigame in which the players become pieces in a larger-than-life board game, moving around the room to deduce clues, assemble shapes, and ultimately reach the end of the board.
Link: iOS (Individual app for each game)
Osmo goes beyond typical AR by including a physical object. Players slot their iPad into a slick white frame that serves to turn it into a sort of augmented reality game console. The camera ends up perfectly positioned to view the player’s face and a wide area on the table in front of it, allowing for “digital board games” the likes of which most kids have never seen.
The company offers a wide range of educational games for the platform that teach subjects from math (Pizza Co.) to art (Monster), and even coding (Coding Family). Osmo requires more of a financial outlay than other AR education games, but it’s well worth it for a birthday present or other occasion.
Our Discovery Island: Phonic Tricksters
The Phonic Tricksters are loose, and only you and your device can catch them! Players stalk through their house, classroom, park, or anywhere they can move around. Looking through the phone screen, they’ll spot the eponymous baddies running, bouncing, or trying to hide.
Once they’ve locked onto a Trickster, kids are asked a phonics question. Get it right, and they’ll send the critter home, earning a point. Get it wrong, and it will escape, and the chase begins anew. It’s a fun, colorful, and very engaging way to keep kids interested in phonics.
Chromville is a fun and creative AR-enhanced take on a coloring book. Parents or teachers print out free coloring pages from the Chromville website, which students can color in using crayon or pencil, just like a conventional coloring book.
Once they’re done, the free Apple or Android app scans the pages and animates them, bringing the scene to life. Coloring books are proven to improve focus and motor skills. Using augmented reality, Chromville ensures this time-tested educational tool will keep the interest of even the most tech-savvy children.
Shifu is another company exploring the use of physical objects in the augmented reality EdTech space. Their flagship product is Orboot, a desktop globe that enables a collection of AR learning games. The globe itself is well-constructed and gorgeously painted with colorful representations of every country on Earth.
Point the Orboot app at it, and all those little people and animals dotting the surface come to life. Through a series of animations and games, students learn about everything from the animals and plants of a region, to the food and scientific achievements of its people. It’s perfect for a classroom setting, or for home schooling.
Alphabet Learning Game – Augmented Reality
Alphabet Learning Game is targeted squarely at young children, helping two- to four-year-olds learn their letters. It’s a simple game that runs kids through the alphabet by having them pan the device around the room, aiming at each on in order. The letters are accompanied by animals, with D sitting next to a deer, M next to a monkey, and so on.
As AR technology becomes more and more mainstream, simple applications like this will be more important. Already, children are learning to use touchscreens before they can even read. It won’t be long before simple AR learning apps will be as intuitive to kids as flashcards were to their parents.
Sudoku – AR & Color Mode
Sudoku has been used to teach mathematical thinking and puzzle-solving skills for nearly fifty years. It’s a mainstay of newspapers and puzzle books, and countless apps. Now, one of those apps has finally integrated the latest AR tech.
Sudoku – AR & Color Mode takes the obvious but revolutionary step of laying the Sudoku board out on a table or other surface in the real world. The ability to walk around the square and view it from different angles is surprisingly good for the thought process, and even experienced Sudoku solvers might find it difficult to go back to old-fashioned presentations.
For kids, of course, it’s the perfect way to introduce them to this time-honored activity. Once they’re done enthusing about the graphics and augmented reality features, they’ll quickly get addicted to the mind-expanding puzzle itself.
Brain Voyagers AR
One of the most visually stunning educational AR games available, Brain Voyagers AR pits kids against Terminator-like alien foes called nanobots. The game takes a cue from Ingress or Pokémon GO, requiring players to physically travel to game areas at schools or parks. Once there, opening the app will reveal the hulking alien monsters looming over buildings or scurrying around at ground level.
The only thing that can destroy them? Math.
As of this writing, Brain Voyagers AR is just getting started, with geo-marked play fields set up at 28 elementary schools. If the game takes off as the developers hope, they will certainly set up more across the world.
Brain Voyagers AR requires a monthly subscription, but it offers graphics, gameplay, and design a cut above other apps in return.
ARCraft – AR Sandbox
Taking a cue from Minecraft, ARCraft lets kids express their creativity and nurture their inner engineers by building objects, characters, or even whole environments. Everything is presented in a blocky style that will be appealingly familiar to the millions of players of the classic building game.
Using augmented reality, blocks can be placed in the real world, even on top of tables or other objects. It’s a powerful effect, as kids can create entire “hidden worlds”, only visible by looking through the phone. The developers have even added a selection of multiplayer challenges and other activities to take the experience beyond freeform building.
More AR Education Game Opportunities
We’re only seeing the beginning of the AR learning game revolution. The selection, already good, is only increasing every day. So far, the demand has more than kept up.
The release of the ARCore and ARKit augmented reality SDKs means more and more developers are dipping their toe into AR. It’s a great time for innovators to get involved as well, with the abundance of talented third-party development houses available for partnerships.