New Google Search feature will let you see life-size animals up close with AR

Google Search rolled out a new feature that allows owners of augmented reality-enabled smartphones to go on a safari in the comfort of their own living room.

At Google’s I/O conference in May,  Google’s vice president for camera and augmented reality products Aparna Chennapragada demonstrated how Google Search may use AR to layer 3D models on top of the real world. This will allow people to look at the 3D object from every angle, and place it in the location of their choice.

The feature is now available on Android smartphones and iPhones with AR technology, starting with animals.

The Google Search feature is easy to try out. Type in the name of an animal as a search query, and if it is among the ones currently supported by the feature, a small box with the text of “Meet a life-sized [animal] up close” will appear. Selecting the “View in 3D” option will bring up an animated, 3D model of the animal, and tapping on the AR tab at the top of the screen will bring up AR view on the smartphone. After moving the device’s camera for a while, the 3D model of the animal will appear in its actual size, overlaid on whatever the camera is seeing.

Google’s Twitter account reveals that the feature also supports the panda and Rottweilers, while CNET’s Scott Stein has made a list of animals that currently have 3D models available upon searching for them. It includes searches for alligator, brown bear, macaw, raccoon, penguin, pug, shark, and Shetland pony. AR-enabled smartphone owners are encouraged to search for their favorite animal to check if they can call a 3D model of it to their side.

At I/O, Chennapragada said that the feature will be helpful for tasks such as shopping. If 3D models are created for the Google Search results of products, people will be able to get a closer look at them to help them decide whether to purchase. For example, a 3D model of a desk spotted online may be overlaid on a bedroom or living room, to check if it fits into the allocated space or if it coordinates well with the other furniture.

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