Google staged a trial run of its augmented reality app at the Playa Vista Library

By Christina Campodonico

Augmented Reality adventurers at the Playa Vista Branch Library explore virtual worlds through the Google Expeditions app
Photos by Zsuzsi Steiner

Technophiles both young and young-at-heart experienced the magic of augmented reality when Google Expeditions AR visited the Los Angeles Public Library’s Playa Vista Branch on Dec. 21.

Asus smartphones and selfie sticks in hand, the gathering of toddlers through pre-teens (and a handful of adults) explored one of the library’s community rooms in search of hidden 3-D lobsters, coral branches and seaweed — all of it invisible to the naked eye, but visible through these specially-equipped smartphones’ lenses.

Google Expeditions Lead Associate Ashley Samuels placed these and other virtual items for participants to uncover through the education-focused app, whose AR functions are currently in development, she said.

App users found a cyclone spinning in one corner of the room and in another spot walked right through a meteor belt. So enchanted were adults and kids alike that one man with graying hair gasped when he saw a 3-D object pop up on his screen. A young child attempted to reach out to touch the craters of the moon she saw through her phone.

Library visits like this one (and another at the Venice-Abbot Kinney Memorial Library the following day) offer Google’s engineering team an opportunity to cultivate feedback about AR from a more diverse population than traditional sample groups, Samuels said.

“This is where we’ve been able to reach all types of people and all walks of life,” she said. “It’s a huge spectrum, where you can go from little kids — 4- and 5-year-olds — to adults, to some elderly adults.”

So far the app has the seal of approval from 12-year-old Westchester resident Timmy Washburn.

“I think it’s really cool,” he says. “This is a new step, in my opinion. The details are quite amazing.”


Schools and other organizations can sign up to be part of the Google Expeditions AR Program at