In addition to new Dining and Translate filters, a big part of this year’s Google Lens revamp is overlaying the virtual world on top of the real one. Google today is showcasing those augmented reality capabilities in a big way with Stranger Things 3.

The Thursday print edition of the New York Times features three in-universe ads for Netflix hit show Stranger Things. Advertising Starcourt Mall, a major location in the show’s third season, the streaming service often promotes with viral marketing.

Demogorgons. Mindflayers. Shadowy government agencies. Things aren’t always what they seem in Hawkins, Indiana, and Season 3 of Netflix’s “Stranger Things” is no different. It’s 1985, and the newly-opened Starcourt Mall is center stage. But for those adventurous enough to look beneath the surface, they’re bound to find a lot more than they bargained for.

The Lens logo is at the bottom with an invitation to “Unlock something strange.” After pointing your phone at the ad for a few seconds, Google will recognize it’s for Stranger Things and launch the AR experience within the newspaper.

A commercial that was shot for the show will begin to play, with each of the three Google Lens Stranger Things prints offering a different environment. Google even teases something from the Upside Down in one of them.

Google Lens’ AR feature is better than the current alternative of scanning QR codes that just open links. Instead of distracting markers, any recognizable object — including works of art, logos, and magazine pages — can act like a URL.

The resulting content is also much richer than a webpage with paintings sliding up info panels, while NBA team logos load live scores. What makes Google Lens an AR experience is how videos and animations blend into the physical environment.

On Android, Google Lens is built into Assistant and can also be accessed as a homescreen icon. Lens is available on iOS via the Google app.

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Abner Li

Editor-in-chief. Interested in the minutiae of Google and Alphabet. Tips/talk: