Today my previous HCI mentor in MSRA, Xiang Cao, published their new Augmented Reality iOS App called RealMagic, which can be downloaded on the App Store.

The main idea of this app is very simple but fascinating: cast magic with your own hand! Though this app is still at an early stage, we can already foresee the terrific madness among social networks 🙂 (The initial advertisement might be the most challenging part for any startups)


For now, this app provides fire, ice, rainbow, dark particle effects. I guess the rendering position is based on optical flow (or a simplified version) as well as skin color model.

As for the future work, I suggest the developers to come up with more vivid particle effects (refer to Fruit Ninja, and this fire shader); background replacement might be another interesting direction to deal with.


However, this idea is not new. In IEEE VR 2013 & ISMAR 2011, Weir et al. presented BurnAR (click for paper), which uses a Head Mouted Display (HMD) and presents the design, implementation, and evaluation of BurnAR, a novel demonstration which enables users to experience the illusion of seeing their own hands burning, which we achieve by overlaying virtual flames and smoke on their hands. Surprisingly, some users reported an involuntary warming sensation of their hands. Here is their video:


The future of Augmented Reality is endless. There are already several splendid augmented reality app on the market. For example:

  • Anatomy 4D (Android, iOS), an augmented reality app that gives you a virtual tour of the human body. Print out the image target, lay it out on a flat surface and aim your camera at it. Then the Anatomy 4D will display a 3D computer graphics rendering of the human body and its various organ systems. Users can zoom in and out on the model, change the viewing angle by moving your phone around the target, and selectively view particular systems in the body, such as the skeletal, lymphatic, or respiratory system. A newly added feature is support for a human heart target, that displays a 3D model of the human heart.

Anatomy 4D

  • Aurasma (Android, iOS) is another augmented reality app for viewing embedded content (or “Auras”) in a variety of print ads, locations or packages. A neat feature that comes in Aurasma is the ability to create your own Auras using your photos and videos, or via a library of pre-built Auras available online. Simply choose your Aura’s effect, then select a trigger image, and you’re all set.

Aurasma 3.5.0

  • Augment (Android, iOS) is an AR app aimed squarely at sales and marketing, as well as design visualization. Through the use of an Augmentedev account, marketers and designers can upload 3D models that they can associate with custom tracker images, which they can then print out and view with the app in order to visualize their models in physical space. You can visualize new product packaging, demo the appearance of new appliances, furniture and toys or create your own interactive display.


  • Google Goggles is an Android visual search app that takes advantage of your phone or tablet’s camera to look up famous landmarks, scan bar and QR codes for information, translate foreign language text and more. Simply fire up the app, center the camera on a building, painting, book or just about anything, and the app will quickly scan to see what it can find, from historical facts or encyclopedia entries, publishing details, related products, reviews and more.


  • iOnRoad Augmented Driving (Android, iOS) assists drivers on the road by providing collision warnings, alerts and other data. The app’s “Visual Radar” uses your device’s sensors and camera to track your speed and distance of cars in front of you. It then provides audio and visual collision warnings and lane departure and speeding alerts, even when other apps are onscreen. The app also has a provision for recording your drive, as well as taking geotagged snapshots, driving analytics and other data. You will need a good mount for your device that keeps the forward camera clear, and you may want to look up local ordinances on using a smartphone while driving before you use iOnRoad.


  • Theodolite is a digital viewfinder app that provides users with an impressive data overlay reminiscent of military heads-up display. The app combines numerous navigational tools together using your camera’s internal sensors and GPS, such as a compass, inclinometer, rangefinder and mapping features. Users can also take geo-tagged photos and videos. In-app purchases include the ability to share your location with a team, as well as more precise geodetic datum packs. Whether you’re an outdoors hobbyist, sportsman or serious surveyor, Theodolite has a myriad of applications.


  • Take augmented reality to the heavens with Star Walk (Android, iOS), an AR app that takes advantage of your device’s sensors and location data to present you with an augmented view of the heavens. All you need to do is point your device skyward, and Star Walk will display a matching view of constellations, planets and other celestial bodies that you can view, updated in real time. Users can tap on planets and other notable objects to view more details, or check out the Time Machine feature to view the starscape at a past or future date, and a Night Mode allows you to to stargaze without burning out your night vision. It’s a great app to have along on a clear night or when out camping.

Star Walk

  • Snapshop is another augmented reality app that lets you visualize how furniture might appear within your room. The app takes advantage of your iPhone or iPad’s camera and photo roll in order to display overlays of a variety of furniture from leading brands such as IKEA, Crate & Barrel, Pier 1 and more. Users can easily browse products and view dimensions, as well as display overlays live on their camera, complete with options for color variations and other viewing tools. Users can then save these previews, email them to friends, or go straight to the retailer’s website to buy or get more information.


  • Ingress (Android, iOS) is a massively multiplayer augmented reality game, and the playing field is the world itself. Developed by Google’s Niantic Labs, Ingress sees players taking the role of members of rival secret societies fighting for control of a mysterious energy source. Players take their Android devices and then travel to real world locations to gather “XM” and gain control of portals around buildings and landmarks. Fly the flag for the Enlightened or the Resistance in a game that encourages you to explore the world around you.