Leave Reality Behind with Inception – The App

Picture this: I just took a walk with my iPhone, but it was no ordinary stroll I assure you. If you would’ve seen me, headphones in, strutting along, you would’ve had only one possible conclusion for my behavior, that I had completely lost my freaking mind.

At certain points, I would stop and try to remain as still and quiet as possible. At other points I was moving fast while vigorously shaking my iPhone. There was even a time where you could’ve seen me yelling and clapping while blaring iTunes to try to create a noisy environment.

Now as I type this article, my keystrokes and mouse clicks echo wildly in my ears with the sounds of a raging storm, altering reality in a way unlike anything I’ve ever experienced.

Have I gone mad? What possible reason could a man have to engage in such ludicrous acts? The answer lies in an app from two of my absolute favorite people in Hollywood: Christopher Nolan and Hans Zimmer (along with Last.fm founder Michael Breidenbruecker).

Inception – The App

Once in a while, someone takes a look at a piece of technology that we see and interact with every day, and they think of something absolutely unconventional to do with it. Whoever first dreamed up augmented reality apps was just such a person. This now booming genre allows you to use your iPhone’s camera to immerse yourself into a visually altered version of what your eyes perceive.

The Inception app is the same kind of revolution, only this time with sound, not video. In fact, there’s very little to the app in a visual sense, hence the lackluster nature of the screenshots in this article. Instead, you’re taken on an auditory journey based on the fantastically immersive score of the movie Inception (head nod to composer Hans Zimmer).

How it Works

The Inception app is quite hard to describe to someone who has never experienced it. It makes very little use of the touchscreen and instead requires real-world actions on your part to trigger events.


The app walks you through gameplay so you get the hang of it quickly.

When you open the app, you’ll see a few instructions that gradually get you started, so don’t worry about not understanding the concept right away. Eventually you are taken to an overhead map of a city. This map has portions that are highlighted in addition to those that are dark.

The visible portions of the map represent the “dreams” that you have currently unlocked and can now experience. Tapping on a space will “induce” the dream. Each dream is different, but all that I’ve experienced thus far mix various parts of the Inception soundtrack with a mixture of pre-fab sound effects and the audio from your own environment.


Dreams aren't much visually, the experience is all auditory

The sounds around you are pumped into your ears in a distorted fashion that is meant to imitate what you might experience in a dream. There’s an infinity mode that allows you to go on forever in a single dream, or you can opt to explore the rabbit hole a little further.

Going Deeper

If you’re familiar with the movie Inception, you know that it’s all about engaging in multiple levels of the dream world: dreams within dreams. The Inception app seeks to mimic this by allowing you to launch other dreams while inside of your current dream.


Each dream has instructions for how to induce it

For instance, a sunny day triggers the “Sunshine Dream.” This dream takes the sounds from your sunny day and mixes them with the sound of rain and thunder (and of course, music from Inception). From here, if you shake your phone and move around, you can launch the “Action Dream,” which opens yet another distorted reality that can be enjoyed or used to trigger something deeper.

Unlocking Dreams

Tapping on dark sections of the dream map will pop up a description of the actions necessary to unlock that dream. This helps you progress through the game fairly easily rather than leaving you clueless. Many of the actions take a good amount of time though so don’t expect to breeze through the app in a few minutes or even a single sitting. As mentioned above, one dream can only be unlocked on a sunny day, another only after 11pm.


Some dreams are harder to induce than others!

The dream that has most fans of the app enraged can only be unlocked by opening the app while you are in Africa. You read that right, unless you live in Africa, are planning a trip there soon or happen to have access to a private jet, you won’t be able to fully unlock every dream.

I personally don’t mind the developers including certain levels that can only be unlocked by major achievements such as traveling across the world. It adds to the novelty of the app and doesn’t really take away from the experience for those who will never get to Africa.

As a bonus, more dreams are promised soon, so even if you’ve unlocked all you can for the time being, you’ll be able to come back and have more mind-trip experiences later!

Worth a Download?

I can confidently say that most people who download the app won’t connect with the bizarre nature of the gameplay. If you prefer a good round of Sudoku or Checkers over something bizarre and new, don’t waste your time with the Inception app.

However, if you’re the kind of person who has an iPhone loaded with augmented reality apps, this could be right up your alley. Being an avid Hans Zimmer fan doesn’t hurt either, so go check out the soundtracks for Batman Begins, Inception, Gladiator and Pirates of the Caribbean if you’re unfamiliar with his body of work.

Fortunately, the app is free so you can go check it out now to see what you think!


To sum up, you’ll either find Inception – The App to be a delightfully original use of your iPhone’s technology or a complete waste of time. Personally, I found it to be the former. I hope that developers continue to push the limits of immersive technology and I think the iPhone is one of the most promising platforms for this type of venture.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I just slipped into a new dream and must commence making crazy noises into the microphone.


An augmented reality app that distorts the sounds around you and combines them with music from the movie "Inception" to create a unique dream-like state.