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Smartphones can now bring Ice Age animals back to ‘life’

Whoa! A saber-toothed cat just sniffed my couch. Yikes, it’s b-b-big! And it roared. Virtually, that is. Scientists have just brought a herd of Ice Age animals back to life — in the virtual world, anyway. You can interact with these creatures safely. Just call them up on a smartphone.

These meet-ups are brought to you through a technology known as augmented reality, or AR. It can superimpose virtual images onto what you see in your environment — be it a classroom, bedroom or soccer field. Or they can come from virtual reality, or VR. Experiencing this is more like entering a 3-D movie, where you are part of the action.

Museums across the United States have been turning to AR and VR in hopes that it will allow people to experience the ancient world in a new and more meaningful way.

Matt Davis works at the Natural History Museum in Los Angeles, Calif. He and Emily Lindsey, at the museum’s La Brea Tar Pits, wondered if VR and AR might help people learn science concepts better than just reading about them or viewing fossils. They planned to test it using a virtual-reality exhibit on Ice Age animals.

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