Back from Extinction, AR Gives Ice Age Animals a New Home

Apr 18, 2022
2 min read

A recent study published in Palaeontologia Electronica opened a new chapter in the field of Paleoart. For the unversed, Paleo-art is a genre of scientific illustration that deals with original art presentations outlining primal and pristine life forms in accordance with scientific evidence. The central idea of paleo-art is to see through time through artistic manifestations.

A team of enthusiastic scientists built 3D animated models of oven two-dozen ice-age animals that faced extinction in the passage of time. The paleoart models were based on plant and animal remains present in the lagerstätte of Rancho La Brea (popularly referred to as La Brea Tar Pits), California. The team comprised of researchers from the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, the University of Southern California, and the La Brea Tar Pits and Museum. Initially, attempts were made to search for accurate models of the ice-age flora and fauna in the present-day metaverse; however, the results were not satisfactory. Henceforth, in collaboration with a video game development firm, low-poly models of 22 creatures were developed. Low polygon, often abbreviated as low-poly, is implemented to recreate 3-D skeletons using a simplified mesh of polygons, essentially triangles. Few notable extinct organisms excavated from Tar Pits that were reconstructed in this process are Dwarf Pronghorn (Capromeryx minor), Ancient Bison (Bison antiquus), Saber-toothed Cat (Smilodon fatalis), Dire Wolf( Aenocyon dirus) and American Mastodon(Mammut Americanum)

Low-poly Graphics Reduces Chances of Inaccuracies

The models were integrated into Augmented-reality-enhanced (AR-enhanced) museum expositions and also on social media platforms like Instagram and Snapchat. A customized augmented reality app was developed where users can virtually experience the forms of life in the Pleistocene period on museum premises.

A major breakthrough made a stir when it was found in a survey that visitors could recollect more information about the features and habitats of the creatures using the app compared to the ones who depended on printed documents. Without a doubt, any piece of detail, when explained audio-visually, is much easier to comprehend and, therefore, a more effective form of learning.

Augmented Reality to be the New Normal in the Field of Education

The biggest challenge that paleo-art faces are the question of its authenticity and transparency. The reason why this study sets a new standard in scientific illustrations is its approach to avoiding guesswork and over-commitment to detailing; it sticks to features explained by up-to-the-minute paleontological inferences. However, it will be quite time-consuming for museum staff to seamlessly switch from text to digital assets and be familiar with animated 3D models entirely.

In conclusion, the AR-enhanced models of pre-historic life forms definitely incite curious minds and excite a huge number of people in mainstream media. These might well be baby steps for Augmented Reality to take over traditional ways of learning and create a more interactive environment for research.