We're still awaiting the arrival of consumer-grade AR smartglasses from the likes of Apple and Facebook. But that doesn't mean there aren't AR products out there to try this holiday season.
The year 2020 marked the arrival of mobile devices equipped with sensors that are designed for augmented reality. That's right, 3D displays that make the holograms of science fiction a reality are now priced to move. Even the AR toys have gotten better, bringing video game classics from the screen to your living room.
Then again, 2020 has been a rough year, so no one will blame you if you just decide to "treat yo self" to some AR goodies. Here are the best options out there now.
Ever since the advent of ARKit, practically any modern iPhone or iPad qualifies as the ideal AR gift, particularly since a consumer-grade AR wearable hasn't landed yet. However, this year, Apple has added LiDAR depth sensors to the iPad Pro and the iPhone 12 Pro lineup, which holds the promise for more robust AR experiences. If you or your loved ones have held off on an upgrade for a few iPhone generations, and you've got an interest in AR, then now is the time to upgrade.
- Buy iPad Pro starting at $899 from Amazon
- Buy iPhone 12 Pro at $999 from Amazon
The third generation of Snap Spectacles aren't smartglasses yet, but they are the closest thing you can get to it from Snapchat's parent company at the moment. Compared to previous editions, Spectacles 3 has two cameras for capturing photos and video in 3D and then adding AR effects to them in Snapchat. And, if you have a working pair of the original Spectacles, you can save $130 on the $380 Spectacles 3 through the company's Trade Up program. If you don't have a pair of the original Spectacles, they are available for purchase from Amazon for $99. So, technically, you'd be getting another $30 back.
- Buy Snap Spectacles 3 for $380 from Amazon
The 3D displays from Looking Glass Factory are starting to approach impulse buy territory with the Looking Glass Portrait. The 7.9-inch lightfield display and embedded computer makes 3D images and video appear to pop out of the screen, no glasses required. The device won't ship until the first half of 2021, but, if the recipient you have in mind doesn't mind waiting, you can reserve one for $199 until Dec. 7 and for $249 until Jan. 14.
- Buy Looking Glass Portrait (MSRP $349) via Kickstarter
Facebook's line of smart displays/cameras has a secret weapon compared to the Amazon Echo Show and Google's Nest Hub Max, namely, adding augmented reality, adding AR effects and games to video calls. For those socially-distancing from young family members, the Story Time feature is a great way to connect via video and AR remotely. Or, you can rock out with friends via the Mic Drop lip-synching game. At $149, Portal TV is a pretty low price point entry to dedicated virtual meeting hardware (assuming you have a TV), though it does not support Zoom calls (yet).
- Buy Facebook Portal TV at Amazon
While Universal Studios is bringing Mario Kart to life at Super Nintendo World next year, Nintendo is taking the racing action to the living rooms of Nintendo Switch owners with Mario Kart Live: Home Circuit. For $100, you get a camera-equipped remote control car with Mario or Luigi behind the wheel plus all the accessories to build out a physical race course. Then, download the free game to your Nintendo Switch to race the course, with AR opponents and obstacles projected on the screen.
- Buy Mario Kart Live at Amazon
For Android users who want the added benefit of a depth sensor, which enhances ARCore features like Depth API, the Samsung Galaxy S20+ 5G fits the bill with its Depth Vision camera. The depth sensor has disappeared from the latest generation of Note devices, but they do have the added benefit of AR Doodle, which enables users to draw virtually in space with the S-Pen.
- Samsung Galaxy S20+ 5G for $949.99 from Amazon
- Samsung Galaxy S20+ 5G for $1,299.99 from Amazon