The New York Times Adds Augmented Reality to Their App

February 13, 2018 - 4 minutes read

Augmented reality (AR) is regularly in the news these days, but the New York Times has decided to literally put it in their stories via mobile app. Is this the dawn of a new era for journalism?

Immersive Journalism

After announcing that it would start enhancing stories with AR development, New York City‘s famed publication quickly followed up with a small demonstration — the ability to see a newspaper honor box right in front of you. Called an honor box because “you’re on your honor to take just one copy after depositing payment,” says the New York Times. The newspaper dispenser could be seen from all angles and with sophisticated detail through their iOS app.

Following this, the renowned NYC news source published its first feature leveraging AR development. In the article, you get to “meet” four of the athletes competing in the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea this year. The Olympians include snowboarder Anna Gasser, hockey goalie Alex Rigsby, figure skater Nathan Chen, and speed skater J.R. Celski. Instead of a traditional introduction with the Olympic competitors, you get to see them in midperformance, true to scale, from all angles.

Bringing a Story to Life

To accomplish this feat of putting the four athletes in your room, the New York Times needed to capture them from all angles to produce a three-dimensional scan that could be viewed from all angles. Of course, to capture them in action, the competitors had to simulate their movements in certain scenarios.

This means that Alex Rigsby had to demonstrate proper posture in guarding the net against a flying puck and Nathan Chen had to show how he braces his body to rotate during his quadruple jump. This allowed the New York Times to derive greater insight into each of these athletes’ nuances, and add more depth to the AR interactivity. When you pace around Nathan delivering his quad, the exact angle he needs to hit for an optimal spin is highlighted through your phone.

This intuitive organization of information was key in delivering an elegant experience. With this first feature, the New York Times focused on “zoning” the information in a way that felt natural as you interacted with the AR image. For instance, if you were to zoom in on J.R. Celski’s hand as he leans in for speed, you’d receive haptic feedback through the phone, which would then inform you about the subtle plastic caps covering his fingers for protection against touching the ice at high velocities.

A New Era of News?

While the AR experience is only available for iOS right now, the renowned news publication is hard at work utilizing Google’s ARCore for the Android version. This first piece demonstrated a new horizon for the journalism space that the New York Times will continue to expand on.

As Graham Roberts, director of immersive platform storytelling at the New York Times, puts it, “We are extending stories beyond the inches of a screen — and in so doing, envisioning a world in which devices begin to disappear and the spaces around us become the information surfaces themselves.”

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