iOS: Augmented reality feels a little gimmicky — there are only so many games you can play on your coffee table, monsters you can drop into your backyard, and items you can sort-of measure. However, augmented reality apps that are thoughtful in their approach, such as Fields, are incredibly fun to play with.
Even though it’s only available for iOS, Fields allows you to experience audio in a new way. Instead of just walking around and listening to a song in your headphones, snippets of audio are placed around whatever location you’re at.
As you approach each of these — represented by a large globe on your iPhone’s screen — you’ll start to hear a specific audio track. As you move away, the track fades. Move your iPhone around, and the sound will shift its position within your headphones (and, yes, you’ll want to use this app with headphones).
Pitchfork puts it best:
Imagine standing in a forest, hearing different animals and noises as you step through your living room, or being able to experience a choral performance while nestled among the singers. Fields makes that possible.
While the app is a little low on examples you can play with, the eight experiences you can load into your environment are enough to keep you busy for an afternoon or so. Just head over to your local park, put on your headphones, and wander around like you would anyway — just visit the glowing orbs of sound instead of your favourite real-life landmarks.
Where Fields shines is its ability to allow you to record your own audio experiences.
Stand (or walk) in a point, hit the record button (in the View menu), and the app will capture any noise you’re making and where you made it. You can then walk around and create your own sonic landscape, and even pepper it with tracks from Field’s existing library of sounds. (Tap on “Library”, then tap on the sound you want to add to your landscape when you’re standing where you want to add it.)
Will you end up using Fields for more than an day’s worth of play? For most people, probably not. It’s still a fun audio experiment and worth showing off to your friends if you come up with some interesting, dynamic sound project. Or, better yet, strap your phone to your pet’s collar so it can walk around and hear what a good boy or girl they are from various spots in your house all day long.