One thing that might have seemed like a passing fad, but still catches people’s attention (at least according to new likes to an old Twitter thread that I wrote about it) are animals in augmented reality that you can superimpose in the real world by doing a simple Google search. In these times of quarantine, when many of us have been forced not to leave home, animals in augmented reality (AR) have once again caused a furor.
A few days ago, my first-grade son asked what another boy was doing in his school’s video chat: It turns out he was making a cat appear on his head and in his room, all through augmented reality. Thanks to them – and to you – I offer you here my 2020 version of how to magically make animals appear in your room.
The simplest way
Google put 3D objects in Google searches almost a year ago. To find them, you must Google the correct animals. Think of an animal. Write it. Look what happens. Google has many animals and also some space objects like planets and satellites through NASA. And the list of 3D objects may increase, as Google has hinted.
Of course, first make sure you have a device ready for RA. For iPhones and iPads, you will need iOS 11 or higher. You will need a phone or iPad that is not older than an iPhone 6S or SE, or a 3rd generation iPad Air or 5th generation iPad or any iPad Pro. Or a seventh generation iPod Touch. (Yes, Apple’s model names get super confusing.)
Android phones need to be compatible with ARCore, which includes a bunch of models running Android 7 or newer. Here is a useful list of all compatible Android phones compiled by 9to5Google.
Next, launch Google Chrome (and / or Safari on an iPhone or iPad), search for your favorite animal, it doesn’t just have to be a tiger, and somewhere on the page there will be a Google info box that also has a button of “View in 3D”. To see this option, make sure you are on the mobile version of the browser and not the desktop version.
Click on it, then a viewer will appear showing where you can place your virtual animal. Move your phone as directed, so you can scan the floor a bit. Leave a little extra space to place it.
Congratulations, you already have an animal in augmented reality!
Pinch on it to zoom and make it bigger or smaller.
Another tip: To record it, you can take a screenshot (touch the power and volume button or the power and start button on an iPhone / iPad), or make a screenshot video on iOS if you want. Another professional tip: You can add the screenshot recording to your Control Center tools in the Control Center settings, allowing you to easily start and stop the recordings and save them to your photo reel.
What virtual animals are available? I have found quite a few and there is also a very comprehensive list of 9to5Google which includes the following:
- Pez rape
- Bear Cafe
- Pero (bulldog, pomeranian, Labrador, rottweiler, pug)
- Emperor penguin
- giant panda
Option 2: Even more animals
You can download some AR compatible apps to try on the App Store or Google Play. A free app with tons of AR-compatible 3D objects is Sketchfab (an online 3D object repository that has its own app, and was recently updated to better support Apple’s AR). It’s a little harder to navigate, but there are tons of user-created stuff that can be placed in the real world.
I found a scorpion, many dinosaurs and more. However, this is not a great option for children: it is better to do it with your children and check if there is something strange in Sketchfab that is not appropriate or that is too scary.
Option 3: Remember Snapchat
Snap’s excellent facial filters and AR effects also offer some animal costumes and transformations (or even room-altering effects, depending on the day). You will need a Snapchat account, and I suggest that parents do this with the children together rather than having them play alone; not all options may be appropriate.
Once on Snapchat, the smiley face to the right of the larger circle at the bottom shows the facial filters. You can navigate through tons of weird and fun experiments. I suggest that parents examine the scary ones first, as they may not be suitable for children.
But you can try one and have fun, and not record any of them. Or press the shutter button (circle) to adjust or hold to record a clip. When you’re done, you can save locally to your phone by hitting the “save” icon in the lower left corner of the screen, and it’s saved in your own photos so you don’t have to post anything online if you don’t want to.