One AR app I have loved using with students over the last few years is ZooKazam. This mobile app offers a bank of augmented reality animals in 3D. There are several similar apps that can bring animals into AR but ZooKazam is by far the best and the one I recommend most regularly to other educators. There are two versions of the app available: the free version has a limited selection of models available but lets you try the app and experience it for yourself. What you want though is the full version which offers the whole package. As with many AR apps, you then need the trigger markers which can be downloaded freely here. A nice touch is that they offer a choice of markers - you can use the ZooKazam logo, a square grass texture trigger or even just a $1 bill if you have one to hand!
So what is it that I like so much about the app?
Here are my top 5 reasons why I rate ZooKazam so highly:
1. The amount and variety of models
The full version of ZooKazam boasts a larger collection of models than any other AR animals app available. This includes everything from insects to whales and even dinosaurs. The collection is regularly updated too so new models become available. The app also groups them - mammals, reptiles, birds etc. This not only makes it easier to locate a specific model you may be looking for but it links to classification topics in Science neatly.
2. The detail on the models
There are a lot of apps available on iOS nowadays that include 3D models of various objects that can be brought into AR. Not all of them are well designed though; in fact some look like they have been thrown together very quickly with minimal detail on the models. Fortunately ZooKazam offers models of incredibly high quality. They are animated, accompanied by natural sound effects and include some striking visual detail. Check out this clip I recorded of the panda model and look at the texture as I move in extra close:
In fact you can enlarge the trigger markers to enormous size and view the models at a much larger scale to appreciate the attention to detail that has been put into them. This image is from the ZooKazam website:
How amazing is that? I've just sent the trigger to a local printer to get a few blown up copies myself!
3. The range of information for each animal
Some apps like this will allow you to click a button a pull up a simple text fact file about the object you are viewing. ZooKazam takes things way past with detailed voice-over narration and interactive overlays of information
These visual stats and details really help support learning and combined with the excellent narration (which can even be switched from teacher to student mode) elevate the app above anything else that is currently available for bringing AR animals into the classroom.
4. The ability to control visual effects
I love it when an app developer really goes above and beyond in terms of options and customisation. Hitting the settings tab in the top left opens up some great additional features that allow you to control a couple of key aspects of the view.
The options here include weather effects (rain/snow) and the ability to apply filters like sepia and black/white. One interesting choice here is a pixelated view. This could actually be worked into a classroom activity - a student choose a model and pixelates it then a partner has to guess what it is:
Can you figure out what this one is? If so how did you know? What clues are there that gave it away?
One other little gem can be found at the bottom of this menu - the ability to remove the marker. This means that you can import the model and then manipulate it without the trigger being there. This is how I took the photo holding the deer at the top of this page!
5. The built in camera and video tools
Every augmented reality app should have an integrated camera tool in my opinion. If you are creating digital magic, you want a way to share that with others. You don't want to have to mess around trying to target the trigger AND do a two button screenshot on an iPad or iPhone do you? Strangely, I find few AR apps add the camera tool and if they do it is usually just images that can be snapped.
Not so with ZooKazam as the camera tool is slickly integrated into the main overlay and allows for both images and videos to be captured directly from the app with ease. Being able to export multimedia from the app is priceless in the classroom as it means students can evidence their learning in digital journals or other platforms or import the clips into larger multimedia projects.