Over the past year Google has been adding augmented reality (AR) objects to Google Search, including 3D animals, human anatomical systems, and even cellular structures.
Although the COVID-19 lockdown is preventing us from visiting zoos, we can still entertain and educate ourselves at home about the relative size of a lot of these animals.
To find the AR objects, you’ll need to type the name of the animal into Google Search using a modern mobile device – the 3D objects generally won’t work on desktops.
But on smartphones or tablets running a recent version of Android or iOS (Android 7, or iOS 11) users will see a box showing a model of the animal and a button offering them a chance to “View in 3D”.
There’s a long list of animals available for viewing, including tigers, giant pandas, cheetahs, ponies, timber wolves, octopus, angler fish and sea turtles.
On top of this, there are some more unusual cellular structures for visualisation too.
For anyone trying to learn about biology without an expensive set of microscopes at home, the ability to see what and where a smooth endoplasmic reticulum is could be a very valuable tool.
The objects can be resized by pinching the screen, and because the AR technology treats them as if they were an actual object in the room, you can walk around to view different angles.
Additional anatomical systems are available too, including both male and female reproductive systems, which are fortunately educational to spare your blushes.
And if the hassle of placing one of the 3D models on a table is too much, you can switch from AR view to Object view to simply put the model against a plain background and then manipulate it with your fingers.
A number of NASA objects are also available in 3D, including the planets (and Pluto) and the Apollo 11 command module.