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article imageThe New York Times launches augmented reality news app

By James Walker     Feb 7, 2018 in Technology
The New York Times has announced an augmented reality experience to "bring the news into your home." The publication said it wants readers to experience a more immersive form of reporting that uses 3D images to "bridge" the digital and physical worlds.
Introduced this month, the dedicated AR function will be used to increase the engaging qualities of news stories published in the company's app. Your smartphone will become a "window" into a new world that helps to show and explain events happening in the news.
In a post announcing the technology, The New York Times said it will be exploring how storytelling is evolving. The project's still experimental for now though so the number of AR-enhanced stories will be limited. So far, there's a single content item available. It uses augmented reality to present 3D models of athletes participating in the upcoming Winter Olympics games.
"By using your smartphone as a 'window,' we are extending stories beyond the inches of a screen, by digitally adding objects into your space at real scale," said The New York Times. "And those objects – a border wall or a work of art – can have provocative explanatory value, because you can get close to them."
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The publication sees augmented reality as a more intuitive way to experience the news. Because you'll be able to visualise events in your home, stories could be more impactful and engaging. It's a break away from the "abstract depiction" of events in traditional journalism. The capabilities of AR reporting will develop over time as the technology progresses.
Interest in augmented reality is growing but it remains a niche concept. Only a few smartphones have the hardware necessary to support immersive augmented reality experiences. As consumers become more familiar with it, usage is likely to grow.
However, publishers also need to convince users that augmented reality news isn't just a gimmick. Until regular new content is available, this might prove to be a challenge. People have become familiar with current news formats over decades. It's unknown how eager people will be to embrace immersive news content that puts them in the story.
So far, The New York Times is only supporting iPhone users on iOS 11. The AR features are built using Apple's ARKit platform for high-performance native augmented reality.
An Android version is also in development and will follow "very shortly." It's based on Google's competing ARCore platform which itself is still currently in preview mode. Augmented reality may be coming but there's still a lot of technological development to go before it'll become the default way to consume the news.
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