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  • Writer's pictureUpanishad Sharma

Augmented Reality and journalism

While Virtual Reality is doing its part by delivering journalistic 360° videos, Augmented Reality has been in development in its own way. As you know by now, AR is not as immersive as VR given that visuals render themselves through a phone’s camera. However, it is still used as a daily utility rather than a complete technology.

For example, consider Google Maps. The tech giant’s efforts in including AR as a usable field have not been in vain. Earlier this year, Google launched ARCore a software package, thereby providing new avenues for developers to create their own experiences in Augmented Reality. As Google describes it:

“With ARCore, build new augmented reality experiences that seamlessly blend the digital and physical worlds. Transform the way people play, shop, learn, create, and experience the world together—at Google scale.

Development of Augmented Reality is still not entirely comprehensible as the technology is very different from VR. However, many top-notch companies are still employing it to further their image. Using Apple’s iOS platform, brands like IKEA have developed an app which visualises how an item would look in your room. A similar endeavour has been undertaken by the supermarket chain Tesco with their Tesco AR Discover App which scans a Tesco magazine and displays products right on the viewer's mobile screen.

Video by: Engine Creative

Journalism has jumped on the same bandwagon and tried taking advantage of it. Some of the key players to capitalise this opportunity are a mix of publications. The primary focus here is delivering in such a way which combines written words and images together.

The newest example of this is the coverage provided by The New York Times and TIME Magazine. Using Augmented Reality, both organisations have recreated the moon landing for its 50th anniversary. You can read more about that in the news section. Using Augmented Reality in a mobile app, a story is easily visualised as it is being read.

Quartz Magazine

By 2050, two-thirds of the world’s population is expected to live in cities. This massive shift means that we have to rethink how we provide housing, care for the elderly, and conserve and produce energy. The 2050 Project is an exploration of creative solutions to the challenges of urban living. We tell the stories of innovation by highlighting unique buildings in eight international cities.

Quartz magazines' mission here is a simple one. The news organisation aims to traverse through various solutions which can be applied to infrastructure. There are multiple ways to imagine tall buildings being placed on lands. An artist can draw an intricate painting, an animator can visualise it onto the screen. Quartz decided to combine both using Augmented Reality.

We chose AR because, compared to other types of immersive technologies like virtual reality or video, AR is better at showing context—the relationship of our stories published right in your living room to scale. This is a big deal. Context is how we learn. It is how we put our views into perspective and build healthy discussions on complex issues. And that’s why we chose to use it for the 2050 Project.

Steve Johnson, a photojournalist and owner of the immersive storytelling company SeeBoundless, partnered up with Quartz and went around the world capturing images of various buildings through drones. Those images were used to build 3D models which were polished and recreated for real-life environments such as floors and tabletops.

Working with journalists from the Emerging Technologies Lab, Steve, along with the group, travelled across four continents in total. The resulting output was a fully polished scale model which interacts with its surroundings.

Augmented Reality is making steady progress because of popular interest by several brands. From Microsoft's HoloLens to Apple's rumoured new AR glasses, the field is picking up. It also goes on well in serving as a middle ground between not being able to afford Virtual Reality headsets but still being interested in immersive news.

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