Back in May 2019, at its I/O developers conference, Google announced that it was bringing a neat feature to its search results: augmented reality models, which allow users to take a look at a 3D image of a search result. Shortly after, the company rolled out the feature to users with an ARCore or ARKit-ready Android phone or iPhone, as spotted by CNET, allowing them to place an AR animal right in their living room, bedroom, or backyard.
Today, with adults and kids stuck inside to avoid the COVID-19 pandemic, it can be a great distraction to place a pet tiger, wolf, or panda on your living room couch. When the feature first premiered, it only had a few animals that you could check out, such as a tiger, a lion, a giant panda, a Rottweiler, and a wolf. Now there are a bunch of others, including an alligator, a hedgehog, and a duck (specifically, a mallard). (9to5Google’s Damien Wilde has recently compiled a good list of available creatures.)
It’s AR of the tiger!
If you’ve got an AR-enabled phone, you can now bring select animals right into your space for a safari (or safe snuggle) with Search. pic.twitter.com/kWpudETgeq
— Google (@Google) May 31, 2019
To use the feature, navigate to Google on a compatible device, and search for the animal in question in Google search. If the animal you’ve searched for (say, a wolf) is available, it’ll show up in a small box with some statistics, an animated thumbnail, and an invitation to “Meet a life-sized wolf up close.”
From there, tap “View in 3D,” and the site will put an animated 3D model on your screen. Click on “View in your space,” point your phone at the floor, and it’ll switch you to an AR view of the animal on your phone. This step may take a couple of minutes: it had me move my phone around before populating a handful of animals, but eventually, it displayed a tiger, a golden eagle, and a wolf hanging out in my backyard. It’ll let you take a clean screenshot, minus all the tabs and buttons.
The feature is pretty cool: it’s a good way to see just how large some of these animals really are up close (I kept thinking that they were too large, until I looked at their stats), and I could see this being useful in a classroom or educational setting.
At I/O 2019, Google noted that the feature would be used for some more practical things, like shopping, where you could see what a product looked like without actually having it in hand, or if you wanted to check out how the muscular system looked on a person — it would overlay your search result in AR. Since then, in fact, Google has released an AR navigation feature for Google Maps and has been releasing AR Playmoji stickers for users to play with.
The feature isn’t the first time that Google has inserted some sort of interactive, animal-related feature into its search results. Back in 2016, it launched a feature that allows people to listen to animal sounds in search results, although you have to specifically search for “Animal Sounds” to access that — searching for “Wolf Sounds” just brings you to regular links, like clips from YouTube or other related pages.