Lions, tigers and bears … these are some of the animals that have been prowling around my sofa and desk the past few days. I haven’t smuggled them from a zoo, though that would be one way to deal with lockdown boredom. Instead I’m beaming them with the help of my smartphone and Google’s augmented reality search feature.
AR overlays digital content and information onto the physical world via your smartphone screen. First announced at Google’s I/O conference last year, the AR search feature allows people to explore objects in 3D on their phone screen. It means you can see the scale of an object and more details up close that you can’t in a normal image.
“It’s one thing to read that a great white shark can be 18 feet long. It’s another to see it up close in relation to the things around you,” explains Aparna Chennapragada, VP of Google Lens and AR.
The company has reported a sharp increase in usage as people in isolation seek to entertain themselves (and their children).
First check your smartphone can support AR. Samsung phones from the Galaxy S8, iPhones from the 6S and upwards, as well as all Google Pixel phones have the function.
Then search for an animal (or skeleton or planet), and look for the knowledge box inviting you to view the animal in 3D. Watch out: it does bring the animal up almost full-size so make sure to shrink it down to fit in the space.
Google uses AR in other ways, too. This year it launched Live View in Google Maps which superimposes arrows and directions on your screen. It’s more accurate than the blue-arrow-on-a-grey-path.
AR is also a handy feature in the Google Lens app. Need to translate a physical document? Open the app and point the camera lens at the text, which the app scans and then overlays the translation. It can even read the text out loud to you, highlighting words as they’re spoken to enhance understanding.
Supplement your daily Duolingo lessons with some AR language learning and once the lockdown’s over, you’ll be almost fluent — at least in theory.