Sask. museum puts life-size Scotty the T. rex in your pocket through augmented reality

You can take the augmented reality Scotty wherever you go, like this rest stop in North Dakota with creator Marc Toews. (Submitted by Marc Toews  - image credit)
You can take the augmented reality Scotty wherever you go, like this rest stop in North Dakota with creator Marc Toews. (Submitted by Marc Toews - image credit)

Wouldn't it be nice to have your own pet dinosaur, especially if it was Scotty, Saskatchewan's most famous T. rex? Well now you can — in a way.

The Royal Saskatchewan Museum in Regina is celebrating Dinovember with a new way to have fun this year thanks to an augmented reality model of the world's biggest Tyrannosaurus rex developed by local truck driver Marc Toews.

Visitors to the RSM can pick up up a booklet and scan the QR code inside to put Scotty on their smartphones. The code is on the museum's website as well.

"It will automatically bring you to a page that shows the AR model," said Toews.

"You press the button to start the AR model. Your camera will scan the floor to see where a good placement is, and it'll place the model there.

"And one of the nice things about this is that you're able to take pictures and videos with Scotty as well."

LISTEN | Sask. truck driver creates augmented reality Scotty the T. rex for Dinovember:

Toews, who drives a truck while also running Gateway Web AR, is a self-taught techie.

"I saw a video about augmented reality online, and then I did some research and found that you can teach yourself pretty much anything," he said.

"So I started taking a bunch of courses, downloaded some programs, played around, and it's been a little over a year of just practising in my down time while I'm truck driving."

Stefani Langenegger/CBC News
Stefani Langenegger/CBC News

Toews said it was just a coincidence that he was able to develop the Scotty AR.

"I happened to be at the Royal Museum and I was fortunate enough to be able to talk to some people and show them a couple of examples of what I had come up with as far as life-size augmented reality models," he said.

"I guess they thought that this would be a great opportunity if we could set everything up for Dinovember."

Toews said the museum already has a 3D model available and with tweaking he was able to bring Scotty to life-size.

"He's now 14 feet tall."

John Snell, who is in charge of the exhibits and programming at RSM, said an AR Scotty fits in perfectly with their Dinovember events.

"When you see the bones, he's pretty big in real life," Snell said. "But when you see him fleshed out, I mean they are pretty scary."

Scotty hits the road

Toews said he now takes Scotty, the largest T. rex in the world, on the road with him via his smartphone.

"Just Scotty and I having fun checking out some different places. I'm currently in San Diego and I'm going to go see the USS Midway aircraft carrier today and I'm going to bring Scotty with me," he said.

Snell said they have also been working with Toews for an augmented reality version of Scotty for the T. rex Discovery Centre in Eastend, Sask., which will be available next summer.

"So there's two different poses, one where Scotty's roaring, and that's the one we have at the museum," Snell said.

"And then at the T. rex Discovery Centre, we have Scotty on the prowl. He's down, like ready to hunt you."

Amanda Kelley
Amanda Kelley

Snell said they have also collaborated with another AR designer to come up with smaller versions of augmented reality with T. rex, Triceratops and Edmontosaurus.

"You can put them on your hand or your desk using your phone," he said. "They move around and you can, when you touch them on the phone, they'll roar and they'll play dead and then they'll go running."

Toews is "over the moon" in being able to share his enthusiasm for AR with the public.

"My long-term goal I suppose, would be to provide AR models to all sorts of different places and continue what I'm doing," he said.

"Like imagine being in a park and being able to walk through a very detailed Titanic. I mean that would be amazing."

As part of Dinovember the museum is also holding an interactive activity guide, storytime on Mondays and drop-in family programming on Saturdays. Visitors are encouraged to wear their best dinosaur gear to the museum to be entered in a prize draw.