The public can now get a sense of the much-talked about augmented reality (AR) experience by going into a virtual rainforest at Marina Bay Sands’ ArtScience Museum.
Visitors can use a Lenovo Phab 2 Pro phone, touted as the first to offer Google’s Tango AR feature, to explore a virtual rainforest within the confines of the museum. Their jobs? Replant the rainforest trains in Southeast Asia.
How good is the AR experience? At a media event yesterday, I had a brief experience with it. Getting started is easy.
At the starting point, I use the Phab 2 Pro’s camera to scan the area so that the device knows its location in relation to the environment it is in. Once done, you are prompted to click virtual buttons to interact with the environment.
I followed instructions to get on the on-screen trails along the corridors of the ArtScience museum. Here, the screen suddenly brought me into a full-grown jungle where I could look for animals such as the Sumatran tiger, orangutans, mousedeers, pangolins and tapirs.
Not only did I experience a new world through the huge screen of Phab 2 Pro, it also educated me about the rainforest’s flora and fauna through pop-up screens whenever I chanced on points of interests in the augmented environment.
At the end of the whole exhibit, you can even plant a virtual seed on the fourth floor of the museum. If there’s a pledge to go along with the planting, a real tree will be planted at Rimbang Baling, one of the last pristine rainforest reserves in Indonesia.
The experience I had was largely good. However, with so many people walking around, the Phab 2 Pro’s camera can take some time to recognise the area it is in. That affects the loading speed of the on-screen content. If you visit during quieter times, the experience should be much better.
I can see how AR will help to enrich the experience when visiting public places. For example, when I am in a mall, I can simply point my camera around the area I am in and get directions to the nearest coffee joint or pharmacy.
Students can get information quickly about a certain plant straight from the screen instead of flipping through textbooks. AR also gives an element of fun and interaction that makes the experience more enjoyable.
For now, Lenovo’s Phab 2 Pro is the only phone out that supports the Tango AR feature. Asus’ ZenFone AR should also do so but there’s still no news about the launch date here yet.
For Tango to succeed, it would certainly need more handsets and content to convince the public of its usefulness and applications.
I am certainly looking forward to using this in more public places and finding more uses. Imagine playing Resident Evil using my own home as the backdrop.
Meanwhile, the ArtScience Museum exhibit is a teaser of what may come in future. Good news is, the AR feature is free to try out for all museum visitors.