Walk with the animals: How to use Google’s new AR features

Google AR animals netflix and chillin
Image: Sabih Khan / The Burn-In

Google made waves at its I/O conference when it announced a new feature that users can find in search results: augmented reality (AR) models. The most entertaining part is overlaying a 3D image of several animals atop what your phone camera sees.

From sharks swimming overhead to tigers prowling across the living room, users have been loving this new feature. Of course, this may not be the most impactful use of this technology right now, but it certainly gives hints for future applications of the tech.

So, how can users access it to spruce up their own pictures and video?

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How to Use New AR Search Features

To find the AR feature, users will need to perform a Google search for an animal that is currently available. Not all animals are AR-ready just yet, but there’s plenty of fun to be had with the ones that are.

Users will recognize the box that pops up when searching for an animal. A search for “Tiger” will return a brief Wikipedia overview, some normal images, and a few statistics. Underneath, another box allows users to “Meet a life-sized tiger up close.”

In that box, simply tap “View in 3D” and a 3D model will appear on the screen. Those wanting to view the animal in their environment can click on the AR tab near the top of the screen. Wait patiently for a moment and the tiger will appear on screen overlaid atop the user’s habitat.

Here, someone can stand next to it for size comparison or simply snap a screenshot of themselves next to a tiger. The new feature is both entertaining and eye-opening.

Technology in Progress

When Google released the new feature, people started rushing to the search engine to render their own AR animals. Unfortunately, the feature is still rolling out to some users.

In addition to having some luck to get on top of the rollout list, users will need an ARCore or ARKit-ready phone. Fortunately, most of the popular smartphones today fall into this category. For most users, it is just a matter of time until the feature is available.

More Than Animals

While this tech has instantly captured the imagination of people everywhere, it has far more useful applications ahead. Not that seeing wild animals in the backyard isn’t cool, but the AR overlay will one day help surgeons prepare for operations and give educators a powerful teaching tool.

Google also plans to upgrade Maps with AR. This would let users see a display of real-life locations from their screen. Of course, this would be incredibly helpful at busy concert venues, museums, schools, and more; where the tech could highlight locations like bathrooms, aid stations, and snack shops.

The company also noted that the feature can be used for commerce. It would give buyers the power to see what a product looks like without taking it out of the package. This would be useful for ecommerce as well since users could see an item from home in more vivid detail.

As the AR feature continues to roll out, users can look forward to the many applications that will come with it. From healthcare to directions and animals to shopping, AR will certainly have an impact on daily life.