A New Perception: Augmented Reality Is Changing How Newspapers (and Readers) Are Seeing Things

By Suciu, Peter | Editor & Publisher, April 2018 | Go to article overview

A New Perception: Augmented Reality Is Changing How Newspapers (and Readers) Are Seeing Things


Suciu, Peter, Editor & Publisher


The eyes of the world may have been on the recent winter Olympic Games in PyeongChang, South Korea, but it wasn't just the round-the-clock televised coverage or even social media exposure that delivered the games to viewers like never before. The newspaper coverage from the New York Times and Washington Post provided an augmented reality (AR) presentation that enabled video, animation and even interactive content that practically jumped off the page.

This coverage melded the real world with the augmented via the use of a mobile smartphone or tablet. The respective devices' camera and screen bridged the physical and digital world like never before--and unlike with true virtual reality (VR) this augmented reality requires no special hardware.

"AR technology is actually baked into a phone or tablet rather than requiring the bulky VR headsets," said Jitesh Ubrani, senior research analyst for virtual and augmented reality at International Data Corp. "This is starting to roll out to consumers already and it is far more accessible than VR because it works with devices they already have."

While tech giants (including Apple and Google) are each starting to support AR apps on their respective handsets and tablet devices, the most successful use of AR to date was in the hugely popular video game Pokemon Go, which was launched nearly two years ago. It earned more than $1.2 billion in total worldwide revenue and more than 750 million downloads worldwide as of last summer.

The free-to-play, location-based game was designed not for a living room console system or even a Nintendo handheld gaming device but rather for Apple's iOS and Google's Android based handsets. The game utilized the players' mobile device's GPS ability to locate various Pokemon characters, which could be seen on the screen but actually overlaid on the actual world--thus creating the augmented reality.

AR's potential could go way beyond gaming however. Apple has clearly seen the potential for this technology as it recently introduced an ARCore and ARKit to encourage the development of apps supporting AR interactions on its iPhone and iPad devices.

The recent Olympic Games were also just the latest attempts by media companies to capitalize on what AR can bring to the readers.

Bringing Stories to Life

Newspapers around the world have already been creating similar experiences where a users' screen displays a scene that is a mix of the real world with one that is partially virtual. To access it users must have a supported device--typically again a smartphone or tablet--and access a special code that is printed on the page of the newspaper. While much of the content to date has been a video, the AR content could be anything that overlays the real world.

For the recent Olympics, the New York Times launched its own iOS-based AR experience that featured a visualization of four Olympic athletes including figure skater Nathan Chen, speed skater J.R. Celski, hockey player Alex Rigsby and snowboarder Anna Gasser. Each of these Olympians could be overlaid on the real world.

The Washington Post offered its own AR experience for the games that was also available on iOS devices. This included an AR game that allowed readers to watch athletes from different disciplines race one another and predict an outcome. The paper has been steadily using AR to complement its coverage of high profile events such as the Olympics.

"For the past two years, (the Post) has been refining the augmented reality experience for readers, experimenting with new ways to use this technology to immerse them in a place or subject," said Jeremy Gilbert, director of strategic initiatives. "From taking readers inside some of the world's most iconic buildings to offering them a game-like experience around the 2018 Winter Olympics, AR allows us to bring stories to life in a near-frictionless way. These advancements combined with the storytelling form's unlimited potential mean you'll be seeing much more AR from the Post this year. …

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