A collaboration between Google Arts & Culture and CERN scientists, Big Bang AR is an augmented reality experience that allows you to travel back to the beginning of the universe and experience the genesis of our solar system. Narrated by Tilda Swinton, Big Bang AR lets users learn about the evolution of the world as we know it, both through experiential learning and a set of more detailed readings included in the app. The app is available for free on both the Google Play Store and the iOS app store.
Big Bang AR definitely masters the wow factor. The graphics are beautiful, and the dramatic narration, swells of the music, and catapult through space and time made the experience very exciting. Throughout the entire experience, as the universe takes shape, a timeline along the bottom marks how many years have gone by. This allows users to better visualize the length of different stages and elicits that classic feeling one often gets when studying outer space: the awe-inspiring sensation of utter smallness.
I appreciated that there was additional information you could access and go back to at any time. Having readings organized by questions you might ask, such as "What happens inside stars?" and "What is the cosmic microwave background?" gives the user the opportunity to find out more about different concepts just touched upon in the narration. Despite the fact that the AR experience is fairly short, this allows those with more time to dig deeper into the concepts introduced.
While I enjoyed the ability to pause the experience at any point to take some time to look around and appreciate the environment you’d been transported to, I wished there was an easier way to go backwards. You can skip back to the beginning of different sections of narration by navigating into the readings, but that wasn’t very intuitive, especially since the moving timeline along the bottom of the screen looks like it should be manipulable. Additionally, to draw out the experience a bit more, and reduce the need to manually pause the experience, I think some natural pauses could have been worked in, as the overall experience felt a bit rushed.
Big Bang AR is a stunning, engaging experience that is both entertaining and educational. It could make for a fun classroom activity enjoyed by several kids at once or a lifelong space enthusiast of any age.Image: via Google Arts & Culture