A cat meets a prehistoric crustacean on a scale of 400: 1.
An Apollo module in the app.
A blue whale.
The crustacean is back in the app view.
Neil Armstrong's spacesuit.
Today, Google announced that it has partnered with institutions such as the State Darwin Museum in Moscow and the Natural History Museum in London to add new virtual exhibits to its arts and culture app for Android and iOS that will allow users to augment- Reality assets can place real space, visible on a phone screen.
Additions include a 400: 1 model of a prehistoric crustacean called Cambropachycope, the Apollo 11 capsule, Neil Armstrong's spacesuit, and artwork by Frida Kahlo and other artists. The app also includes an almost 500 million year old marine animal called aegirocassis, a boxfish, a shark and several more – most of which can also be viewed as 3D models on one of the Google websites.
Both Google and its main competitor in the mobile sector (Apple) have invested heavily in augmented reality for mobile devices. They each provide APIs for developers of AR apps for their platforms – ARCore for Android and ARKit for iOS and iPadOS.
In recent years, these APIs have become much more sophisticated, introducing features such as realistic shadows, whole body motion detection, and occlusion. However, aside from furniture shopping, most of the apps are curios rather than critically useful, in part because of the limitations associated with displaying AR content on a phone screen rather than in 3D space with AR glasses or the like to experience.
Google's plan for AR glasses is unclear, but it is common knowledge that Apple has allocated resources to developing AR glasses for a consumer adoption over the next several years. Working on ARCore and ARKit now leads to such curiosities, but it could provide a foundation for more useful uses when a new device top comes out later.
Even so, many museums around the world are still closed during the COVID-19 pandemic. Hence, bringing natural and historical artifacts into people's homes in an immersive format seems to be as good an application for technology as it is now.
Google isn't the only big tech company to take steps in this area this week. Amazon has unveiled a new AR shopping tool that allows users to place multiple pieces of furniture in their home at the same time (the most popular AR shopping apps only support one item at a time). Apple has acquired a VR company that scans real human faces and places them in virtual reality using avatars.
While virtual reality and augmented reality are different, application and experience developers for both use many of the same technologies and concepts under the common umbrella of XR, and work that applies to one can sometimes be applied to the other.
The new objects are currently visible to all users in both the Android and iOS versions of the Android app.