David Attenborough brings dinosaurs to your home using augmented reality

The famous natural historian leads audiences through an immersive experience of prehistoric wildlife

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Animal lovers can immerse themselves in nature’s wilderness with the help of Sir David Attenborough and new technology that brings long-extinct animals to life.

Museum Alive, an iPhone app named after Sir David’s Bafta-winning film and narrated by the natural historian himself, leads users through an educational and entertaining experience of the prehistoric world.

The broadcaster, 94, best known for his Life collection of BBC natural history documentaries, is an enthusiastic proponent of using technology to boost awareness of the natural sciences and is the only person to have won Baftas for programmes in each of the black-and-white, colour, HD, 3D and 4K categories.

"It's really exciting to take these stories and bring them to a new young audience via a digital platform which allows you to explore these extraordinary extinct creatures in a way people have never been able to before," he said after the release of the original 3D film Natural History Museum Alive and the subsequent iPad experience.

The new app, produced by Alchemy Immersive in collaboration with Atlantic Productions, uses augmented reality and spatial audio technology to provide an experience of prehistoric life, including virtual flying with dinosaurs and witnessing an extinct tiger stalk its prey.

Atlantic Productions was behind Sir David's 3D version of Museum Alive and worked with the veteran broadcaster on more than a dozen other projects. Its chief executive Anthony Geffen sees the app as a forerunner for things to come.

"Using the very latest technology, we bring to life some of Sir David's favourite extinct creatures and their worlds in a completely different way. In this augmented reality experience, the team is breaking new frontiers in immersive storytelling," Mr Geffen told The National.

“I think this is an area that is going to really take off, particularly in a time when kids are behind and they've lost a whole lot of school period all over the world. So I think these experiences can be utilised in the education system very quickly.”

Built using scientifically accurate 3D models and animation, the app provides a unique window into the lives of extinct species. The e-learning experience uses information, video and images from Sir David’s award-winning productions to engage users in scientific debates on how now-extinct animals looked and behaved millions of years ago.

Multimedia producers and tech-enthusiasts alike see augmented and virtual reality as part of the next generation of smartphones, a market so far dominated by flat screens.

Long-extinct animals can be brought to life in your own home with the new 'Museum Alive' app. Alchemy Immersive 

“The reason we're so excited about this is because until the AR headsets come, which are probably a couple of years away … we realised that we could bring these experiences to everybody in their own home. In other words, all you need is a phone,” Mr Geffen said.

Atlantic's chief executive, who also teaches immersive storytelling at NYU Abu Dhabi, thinks there is broad scope to utilise this sort of technology across sectors.

“The interesting thing about Abu Dhabi … is that they're always interested in what's the next big thing in a good way. So I think there'll be early adopters. And I think that that early adoption will be very valuable in a lot of businesses,” Mr Geffen said.

A preview of the 'Museum Alive' app. Alchemy Immersive 

The app was produced using the latest AR Foundation technology from Unity, one of the world’s leading platforms for creating and operating interactive and real-time 3D content.

"We're so proud to launch an app that can genuinely contribute to educating and inspiring children using immersive technologies," said Elliot Graves of Alchemy Immersive. "At a time when so many children are disengaged with learning, we really hope the excitement of bringing fossils to life in the home will provide a novel experience that showcases the potential of immersive storytelling in education.”