Apple’s Reality Composer, a Free AR App

In collaboration with the Center for Digital Innovation in Learning (CDIL), Digital Scholarship and the BC Libraries have begun exploring the use of AR experiences in teaching and research. As part of this effort, we have been experimenting with Apple’s Reality Composer, a free AR app that allows for the creation of basic AR experiences without the need for coding skills. Here you will find a series of AR projects created with it. Clicking the image on an iPhone or iPad* will automatically open the model.

*Currently, these experiences are only accessible through Apple iPhones or iPads running an up-to-date iOS. We have iPads and Reality Composer as part of our 3D modeling station.


Animated robot AR model as seen on the Apple Quick Look gallery


Lion-headed stamp AR model created in the BC Digital Studio

Simple 3D models in Apple’s .usdz format allows them to be opened in AR and to be in a WordPress or Omeka page, as seen here. Clicking the image on an iPhone or iPad will automatically open the model in AR when pointed at a horizontal surface; clicking on a Mac or PC will download the AR file.

The two models above are simply models, but using Apple’s Reality Composer allows you to create more complex experiences with basic interactions without needing to code.

In the example below, built for a Boston College biology class, 3D models of hominid skulls were created using photogrammetry, uploaded into Sketchfab, and placed in AR to share with students, in order to replicate the experience of engaging with the models in the classroom.

Simply click the 2D image of a skull, and the AR experience will begin to load. Please note that the experience may take 15 seconds to 1 minute or so to load depending on the iPhone or iPad in use and the internet connection, and requires a flat, horizontal anchoring surface.

AR experience created by Nina Ara├║jo; 3D models by Matt Naglak.


Hominoid skull

A second example was created using 3D models of an active excavation site just outside of Rome, Italy. It allows users to “re-excavate” a specific ancient tomb on the site and see the specialized burial technique that was utilized. The experience opens at life-size, so a relatively open space is necessary (Trigger warning: a 3D model of an adult skeleton uncovered which dates to around 100 BC is shown). 3D models by the Gabii Project; AR experience by Matt Naglak.


Ancient tomb outside of Rome Italy

Interested in AR but on a Google or Android device? Check out the variety of AR apps available for download from Google Arts and Cultures or from the Google AR/VR page. Note these apps are mostly also available on Apple products as well.