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We’re supposed to stay inside right now, but that shouldn’t stop us from exploring things we’d normally see in museums or shops thanks to 3D models available in Google Search on Android and iOS. We’ve already covered which animals and pets you can lure into your home, but if you and your kids get tired of acting as an amateur zoologist, there is a whole world to explore, starting with planets and space crafts courtesy of NASA over anatomy all the way to shopping for shoes.
To get started with AR objects, all you need is reasonably modern phone or tablet running Android 7.0 or higher — Google has a list of all supported devices that includes handsets from Google, Nokia, Huawei, Motorola, Oppo, Samsung, and Xiaomi. You can then simply search for the terms listed here and should see a result that says “View in 3D.” Adding “3D” to your search might make that show up further at the top.
Look for the “View in 3D” button in search results, then “View in your space,” et voilà — Pluto in your house.
If you want to know how the AR technology works (and explain it to your kid), you can check out our previous coverage.
Google and NASA teamed up to bring a vast collection of celestial bodies into your home, starting with good ol’ planets and moons, but also some more outlandish objects such as asteroids like Ceres and Vesta. You can find the AR versions of most of these by just searching for their names and scrolling down until you find a result from NASA’s website that gives you the option to “View in 3D.” Appending the names with “3d” in search might help you find that result faster.
Other than planets, NASA also lets you see some of its rovers and satellites as 3D models. Here are just some search terms you can try, appended by “3D:”
There are a few prominent absentees, among them the ISS, but don’t fret — you can still see the space station in your living room. Just download NASA’s Spacecraft AR app, which has some additional models not available on Google Search. It’s based on the same AR technology Google uses, too.
Once you’ve explored space, you might be interested in exploring what you’re made of yourself. Visible Body, the company that provides educators with accurate 3D models of the body, also gives anyone using Google Search access to some of its detailed material. You can try entering “visible body 3d” followed by these search terms, but there are likely many more:
Some of these will give you multiple results, like “intestine,” “shoulder,” and “lung.” The human skeleton could be one that’s particularly fun for kids to explore — I can imagine small children would love to pose with one for a picture.
While driving a car currently isn’t an option for many due to the widespread lockdowns, you can at least look at some to alleviate the pain of not being able to drive — and your kids might find it interesting to see a car parked inside the house. Volvo has a collection of 3D models available on Google Search, like the XC90 and the S60. You can find them without adding “3d” to the term. Depending on your location, you might find a lot more cars from all kinds of different manufacturers, so just enter one you’re interested in seeing, and you might get lucky.
American sports brand New Balance also teamed up with Google to let you see some of its products in 3D. This is particularly handy during the coronavirus crisis when you can’t go to the store, but it has been available since May 2019.
You can search for some of the company’s more recent shoes, like the FuelCell Echo or the 1080 v9, as presented during Google I/O 2019. Unfortunately, it’s not possible to try on these digital shoes just yet, so you’ll be left draping the rest of your outfit around the shoe to see if you like it.
Yes, even though it’s spring, you can still view Santa in 3D, too, if you (and more importantly, your kids) are so inclined. This one is a little unintuitive, though: You need to enter “Santa search” in Google to get the 3D model of Santa Claus.
In a blog post, Google says there are even more partners, including Wayfair, Samsung, and Target, but we haven’t been able to find any 3D models from these companies. If you know a search term that works for a product from them, feel free to share in the comments.
Note that some results might be region-locked — for example, I couldn’t see any of the New Balance shoe models in Germany, while they were readily available for our own Rita in Lebanon. If you can’t recreate some of the results here, they might just not be available to you.
Once you’re done putting all of these 3D models into your home, you can go on a virtual vacation with some Google tools — Rita collected a few apps that help you.
While all of the previously presented searches here are focused on bringing some 3D objects to you, it’s also possible to enter other worlds in your living room. We found out that when you search for the Chauvet Cave, the famous pre-historic art site with the best-preserved wall paintings from over 25,000 years ago, Google will throw up an immersive 3D wall for you to explore. When you turn around, you can still see your living room, but one side of your immediate surroundings will be completely swallowed by the cave and some of its artworks.