This isn't the first time a publication is using augmented reality to differentiate itself in the market, but it's a first for a North American newspaper. The Inquirer is using technology from Aurasma, which has developed an augmented reality browser for the iPhone, iPad, and many Android phones that have cameras. As is typical with this technology, users who launch the Aurasma app will be able to view additional information that's layered over (i.e., augments) the static images.
This information, which Aurasma calls "auras," pops up on the device's screen when it's held over an Inquirer article, photo, or advertisement. The Inquirer'sdemo video shows a print newspaper image morphing into an interactive "click" button, a video streaming from a news article, and a video preview playing from a movie advertisement. Augmented reality technology in general could be used to display, for example, late-breaking information about an article already printed in a newspaper and additional details about an advertisement.
Aurasma is also working with Marvel, which recently released the comic "Avengers vs. X-Men #1" that includes augmented reality. With the Aurasma browser, certain pages will display animations and videos that show how the characters have evolved from line drawings to full color spreads, and video comments from the illustrators. Comics could just as easily display AR marketing content.
Although phones and tablets are most prevalent for augmented reality, other methods can also be used. Esquire magazine's December 2009 issue, with actor Robert Downey Jr. on the cover, included augmented reality features.
The included features were triggered when pages of the magazine printed with a graphic, similar to a QR code, were held up to a Webcam. Downey speaks when the cover is held up, actor Jeremy Renner changes his clothing based on the weather, and actress Gillian Jacobs tells jokes. Also, Lexus's advertisements in the magazine employed animations to highlight its automobile technology.
Esquire's editor-in-chief, David Granger, said AR "is a gimmick, but we're an entertainment medium. We've been trying to do things that cause people to re-evaluate what a magazine is and get people excited about this thing called print." Granger and other publication executives are also trying to get marketers excited so they will pay more for AR-enabled advertisements and other promotions.
A major problem I see for print publications is most, if not all, AR capabilities -- animations, videos, additional images, etc., -- can be implemented on the Web and in regular applications for phones and tablets without the need to open a paper publication.
Just as importantly, viewing content on the Web or in apps usually doesn't require downloading other software, such as AR browsers. Downloading these browsers is an extra step and requires consumers to understand how to use them. It's a technique for techies. AR might be useful for marketers targeting techies, but problematic for mainstream consumers.
That's why I see augmented reality in publications as a niche and relatively short term marketing gimmick because increasingly consumers will read publications on the Web and on phones and tablets. The emphasis is on "relatively" because it will take years for the majority of consumers to shift to reading on computers and portable devices rather than paper.
However, augmented reality is not a dead end because it can combine the real and virtual worlds for a variety of uses, not just publications. Watch Google's recent concept video that shows how AR glasses could be used in everyday life. With a small screen over his right eye, the guy in the video can view and reply to messages via voice dictation, set reminders, call up maps and floorplans, check a friend's location, and share a photo on Google+.
The advertising and marketing implications of AR in glasses are highlighted in a brilliant -- and scary -- remix video that shows ads popping up in the display based on actions and location.
I think most paper publications will move entirely to the Web and apps. But I also think augmented reality and multimedia marketing is just beginning to evolve, and static marketing will lose its appeal. What do you think?
magneticnorth - Drawing is quite feasible on the iPad using a stylus. The one area where the iPad falls down -- and I concede this is important -- is pressure sensitivity. No matter how hard you press, it doesn't make a difference.
I'm not entirely opposed to the use of styluses. I know many who'd get a tablet if they could draw on them--and I mean draw, not finger paint--but the Galaxy Note is still too expensive for most. Those mainstream tablet styluses aren't good enough for drawing. I bet we marketers can hold more participative campaigns if styluses were mainstream. Drawing, sketching or doodling match some brand profiles.
Alan Reiter - Paper has many advantages, and many people still like to read the Sunday newspaper at home, fold the weekday newspaper in half or quarters while riding the bus or subway, etc. It's a familiar ritual. And that ritual doesn't include taking out a phone, launching an augmented reality application and hoping your phone can open it.
You've nailed the problem right there: The audience for this particular AR application consists of people who, on the one hand, are retro enough to still read paper newspapers or magazines and who, on the other hand, are early enough technology adopters tow whip out their smartphones and try a new app just for laughs.
This is a group that will turn out to have zero members. It's like selling ham sandwiches at a Bar Mitzvah.
Very good points! Basically every smartphone requires a data plan and pushes the total monthly expense higher to have the device.
Ironically enough, the vast majority of smartphone users don't even know how to use the bulk of the features that built into their devices. Items such as QR Codes are becoming more commonly utilized, but AR is still far away for most of them.
About 50 percent of Americans have smartphones, based on the most recent studies. Many people without smartphones are either quite young, poorer or seniors. Price is still an issue because smartphones range from $100 - $300, and airtime is expensive, especially because cellular operators require a data plan for smartphones.
Also, just because people have smartphones doesn't mean that know much about them, especially QR codes and augmented reality, which remain esoteric.
Paper has many advantages, and many people still like to read the Sunday newspaper at home, fold the weekday newspaper in half or quarters while riding the bus or subway, etc. It's a familiar ritual. And that ritual doesn't include taking out a phone, launching an augmented reality application and hoping your phone can open it.
Although I believe tablets will replace most print publications, including books, it will take a long time. Although I wish the Philadelphia Inquirer with its experiment, I don't think it will generate any significant number of new readers or result in existing readers sticking with the paper version because of AR.
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