Smartphone AR: Hey, this is really useful!

Smartphone AR: Hey, this is really useful!

Augmented reality on smartphones is still a gimmick. But it can provide real benefits. A field report.

A month ago, I started a new project. I wanted to redecorate my old apartment. It should get a more personal touch and inspire. As a former student of philosophy and German studies, the choice was easy: I decided to hang pictures of thinkers and poets.

This task confronted me with a series of practical questions to which there were no easy answers: On which walls should the pictures hang, in what size, upright or landscape, and with what kind of frame?

Room decoration: analog vs. digital

I first thought about using an AR app. However, just searching for it put me off. There are certainly dozens of such AR apps and many are likely to offer advertising rather than functionality, I feared.

So I went the safe, analog route. I taped together A4 sheets of paper in the sizes I had in mind and attached the stencils upright and crosswise in the places I was considering. I used photos to document the space from different perspectives. This procedure was laborious and did not show how certain image motifs would work, nor which frame would be suitable for them.

Papierschablonen von Bilderrahmen verschiedener Größe.

I first made stencils in various frame sizes. That must have taken me an hour. | Image: MIXED

I find a better solution - AR

Dissatisfied with the result, I then gave in and browsed the App Store. The second AR app was already what I was looking for, and it even exceeded my expectations.

With Wallary, I could import my image motifs and combine them with different frames to then project them onto a wall of my choice. With my finger, I adjust the size and aspect ratio of the image and move it freely on the wall. With the touch of a button, I create a photo that I save and send.


An der Wand hängt die Papierschablone eines Bilderrahmens.

The image as an empty paper template. | Image: MIXED

Wohnung mit AR-Bildrahmen an der Wand.

The image as an AR overlay. | Image: MIXED

That's all I needed. Nothing more, nothing less, and with a user-friendly interface that didn't put any obstacles in my way. Based on these photos, I was able to make the right decisions. I sent the images to print and ordered the frames.

Smartphone AR: More meaningful use, please!

Augmented Reality apps like Wallary are neither new nor critical in the sense that people use them frequently and that they have the potential to change lives. But they do provide real utility and - in this very specific use case - are more straightforward and better than any other technology. That's a start.

An der Wohnungswand hängen zwei virtuelle AR-Bilder.

If you like, you can display multiple images on the wall at the same time. However, that is a premium feature. The poster on the right is real. | Image: MIXED

AR games like Pokémon Go, face filters, and Google's AR search are probably the most popular applications for AR on smartphones right now. For me, these are all gimmicks. I only want to use what is useful in my everyday life. And there are still far too few of these smartphone AR applications.

You can download Wallary for free from Apple's App Store. An Android version is not yet available.

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