Apple built an augmented-reality app to view its new campus—while you’re already there

The Apple Park app.
The Apple Park app.
Image: Quartz/Mike Murphy
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Cupertino, California

Apple gave the press a first look at its massive, pristine new campus in Cupertino, California today, during an event to unveil its latest iPhones and Apple Watches.

After the event was over, guests were led back down a wooded hill from the Steve Jobs Theater, positioned between the new office and the outside world, and into the company’s new visitor center. It’s part Apple store—you can buy all their gadgets there, as well as a few exclusive items—part café, and part augmented-reality exhibition space.

Yes: The company built a scale model of the entirety of its new home, including the main donut-shaped campus, the theater, parking structures, and support buildings. “Of course, it’s made of aluminum,” an employee told me as I approached it. He then handed me an iPad running a version of Apple’s latest mobile software, iOS 11, which includes a technology called ARKit that allows developers to build powerful AR apps without massively draining a device’s battery.

Using the iPad, visitors to the center are able to see a virtual version of the campus overlaid onto the metal model in front of them. You can change the time of day to see how the massive glass structures look as they’re first kissed by the morning sun, or how they look when no one is around. You can also tap on any building to see a little overview of what’s inside, and get visualizations of how solar power is collected by the cells on the buildings’ roofs, as well as how air moves across the structures.

It’s a novel use of augmented technology to show off the design prowess that went into building Apple’s new headquarters. But considering you can only use the app while you’re already on the campus, you could, alternatively, just look out the window.