By: Nu Yang
Augmented reality sounds like something right out of a science fiction novel, but it’s actually making its way onto the pages of contemporary newspapers. The concept combines 3-D and digital content, and anchors that content to something physical in order to create an interactive experience.
For AR company metaio, it’s an idea that has been in the works since 2003. The privately held software company currently has more than 70 employees with offices in Germany and the United States. It produces software for development, design, planning, marketing, and sales. According to the company’s website (metaio.com), more than 3 million consumers use metaio AR technology.
Public relations and social marketing manager Trak Lord said the company’s goal is to teach smartphones “how to see.” When consumers use their mobile device to hover over an image, items such as animations and videos appear to make the page come alive.
While many newspapers are still directing readers to their websites by using text in their print products, Lord said AR could serve as a “bridge” between the physical and digital worlds.
“Just by using your phone to hover over the paper, readers can see things like movie trailers, YouTube videos, and key plays in sports,” he said. “The little things you think you can’t do, you can do.”
For this year’s Super Bowl, USA Today wanted to offer its readers an AR experience in combination with its print edition. By working with metaio, the paper created two different AR scenarios. In one, readers could use their smartphones to experience a 360-degree tour of Dallas Cowboys stadium, where Super Bowl XLV was hosted. A later edition of the paper gave readers a 3-D view of the “Play of the Game” animated sequence, which could be viewed from any angle, along with player stats. The project reached 5.9 million readers and became the first AR application for a worldwide sports event.
Other publications such as GameStar magazine and Germany’s Stern magazine have also adopted AR for advertising and editorial content. Recently, Stern published an entire AR issue. By using a Stern AR application for smartphones, readers could view 16 different AR experiences spread throughout the magazine, including animated cartoons, 3-D animations, and video interviews.
Lord said for newspapers, AR provides a platform for publishers to advocate their brand. “This is an experience that will speak to the consumer. Things like a 3-D pop-up that you expect to see on a website, you can now see on paper.”
“(AR) keeps content fresh and relevant and gives advertisers a different way to get eyeballs on their product,” Lord continued. “It keeps the paper in the reader’s hand and allows them to continue to read while receiving additional information.”
As more technology is infused with print, Lord predicts it won’t be long until AR interactivity is as familiar as texting. “We won’t be living in 2-D. Everyone will have an AR app, and rather than scanning a barcode, you can just scan any image or product.”