There is a hidden world all around us. Microscopic organisms make up eighty percent of the world’s biomass. They can be found in the deepest part of the ocean and on the palm of your hand, yet it is easy forget that they are there. Why? Because they’re small.
It is difficult to show microscopic animals for this simple reason. The microscope slides used to study them are fascinating objects themselves, but useless in communicating information to non-scientists. Since there is no proper way to physically display the tiny specimens, we mostly rely on microscope footage. It can be hard to grasp and has often left me with the feeling that these animals somehow aren’t as real as the macroscopic ones around us. Using Augmented Reality I came up with a way to change that.
The physical microscope slide becomes an anchor for a virtual creature. This means you can turn and move it however you like and, yes, even hold it in your hand! The virtual model itself shows how the organism looks and moves, giving you the chance to experience it as you would any other animal; in all the complex and fascinating detail lost in everyday life.
The tardigrade, for example, is also called water bear because of the way it walks. While it may look cute at first glance, it is actually incredibly resilient. It can survive extreme heat, cold, radiation and even the vacuum of space.
Rotifers, even though only between 100 and 500 microns long, have organs like a brain, stomach and a nervous system. However, because of their small size, most of them have no need for a heart.
The copepod, king of plankton, can be found in all kinds of waters all around the world. Using its antennae it senses predators and escapes using its legs to jump with high speed. Oh, and it also has one bright red eye, like a tiny cyclops.
As these three organisms show, the microcosmos is full of surprises. What may seem almost alien is literally right in front of us every day, hidden in plain sight. To me, this is a wonderful example of how AR technology can work for the purpose of education. It is a means to experience things that we can’t in the physical world. In other words, it can uncover something hidden, make tiny things big and open our eyes to new worlds!