If you can’t go to Australia to pet the koalas, the koalas will now come to you — sort of.
Google has added eight Australian animals to its collection of mobile AR creatures, allowing users to size up animated 3D renditions of the country’s native fauna. It’s an entertaining little update, and a good tool to help you determine which ones you could take in a fight.
(The answer, by the way, is “none of them,” because the Australian animals that won’t straight up disembowel you with their feet are so adorable that punching them will send you directly to Hell.)
To see the life-sized animals, simply use either your Android or iOS mobile browser or Google App to search for koala, kangaroo, quokka, wombat, platypus, emu, kookaburra, or echidna. Select “View in 3D”, and Google will display your chosen animal overlaid on your camera’s view, like a more educational Pokémon Go.
Aside from helping you decide whether kangaroos are big enough to ride, Google also lets Android users hear the sounds these Aussie animals make. iOS users need to wait a bit for that feature, but Google states they’ll soon be able to enjoy the maniacal caterwauling of AR kookaburras as well.
Fortunately Google lets users record video and take snapshots regardless of whether there’s audio, so you can still get a selfie with a quokka without ever stepping foot on Rottnest Island.
Is it as good as the real thing? Of course not. But it’s the closest we’re going to get for a while considering the coronavirus pandemic has made overseas travel practically impossible.
Google AR has been placing wild animals in people’s living rooms since 2019, but the addition of Australian animals feels particularly significant considering events earlier this year.
Australia’s wildlife is only at the start of its long road to recovery after devastating bushfires killed or displaced an estimated 3 billion animals over the summer. Experts have said the wildlife could take decades to recover, and may not recover at all if climate change continues depriving the country of consistent rainfall.
Google’s AR animals are a fun novelty and an educational tool. Hopefully they’ll also spark some deeper interest in Australia’s struggling fauna, and in ways people can help.