Remember, that was in 2016. Much of the world was in hysteria with gambling. Pokémon Go. The principle was simple: with your smartphone, you had to go hunting for Pokémon around you. This game was one of the first to popularize augmented reality, a mix between the real and virtual world. The player saw, on the screen, what was happening around him through the camera of his phone. And superimposed on it baits and Pokémon made of pixels.
Five years later, the frenzy around Pokémon Go calmed down. And if some games have also incorporated elements of augmented reality, this technology is much less talked about. And yet, we are probably only at the beginning of its use. The recent release of the Museum Alive app is proof of this. This app shows that augmented reality can be used for educational purposes.
Museum Alive is the opportunity to take the famous British naturalist David Attenborough with you. The man has already collaborated on an impressive number of films, documentaries and virtual reality projects, notably with the work Hold the world presented in 2018 at the Geneva International Film Festival (GIFF). Today, David Attenborough returns to the heart of an app intended to immerse us millions of years ago. Museum Alive, based on the 2014 documentary Living natural history museum, invites us to go and meet three animals: the smilodon, the dimorphodon and the opabinia.
No, here, no Brontosaurus or Tyrannosaurus: the app does not play in the register of the gigantic and the spectacular and relies on sobriety. Let’s start by downloading the app. It is large (1 GB of memory is required), it currently only works on iPhone (version 11 or later of the iOS system required) and costs 3 francs. Then, you have to choose between one of the three animals offered. Then you have to choose a flat surface in front of you, for example a table or simply the floor.
Then appears the virtual decor, which is superimposed on what you see in front of you. And there, we touch perfection. Not only does the app allow you to zoom in and out, to see details of the scenery, for example the leaves of prehistoric trees. Museum Alive also offers the possibility of moving around this miniature setting. We begin to observe the dimorphodon, a flying dinosaur one meter long, quietly clinging to a tree. He then spots a kind of giant dragonfly and flies off in pursuit. In order not to take your eyes off it, you have to move your phone around this setting to then see it catch its prey in its huge beak.
We also enjoy seeing the opabinia gracefully evolve, a kind of small marine insect five centimeters long. And we also like to observe the smilodon, a big feline with canines that can measure up to 28 centimeters. The smilodon spots a kind of antelope, stealthily approaches and then grabs it. Note for the faint of heart and children: there is no bloodshed.
It is very nicely done and embellished with explanatory bonuses, in the form of texts, images and videos (with David Attenborough). We regret the fact that there are, for the price of the app, only three animals presented. But a future update will see the appearance of the dodo, say the creators of the app (Alchemy Immersive Studios and Atlantic Productions). During our test, it was not possible to activate the sound, but it was probably only a temporary bug.
This example shows that augmented reality is progressing. The increased power of smartphones and 5G could give it new perspectives. We remember the Ikea app allowing you to virtually place your future furniture at home. Since last summer, Etsy has made it possible, for example, to do the same with a work of art, which can be hung on its walls in augmented reality, before acquiring it. Google and Apple seem to be developing new functions of this type. In the meantime, in a lighter radius, the hit game Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp It has also just integrated augmented reality functions. And of course, Snapchat and its clones keep offering accessories, filters, stickers and other gadgets to add to their photos.