The Washington Post believes augmented reality adds an extra layer to stories, and they're doubling down on that belief by adding in new AR features into their already popular "rainbow" news (iOS and Android) and Classic (iOS and Android) news apps.
Last year the media company created a visual account of Freddie Gray's case, which lived on the ARc Stories app. According to a story in Digiday, they're now building an AR framework directly into their two existing apps to integrate their AR content with their regular print content.
Their first foray into AR required readers to download the ARc Stories app (try it out on iOS and Android) to view the experience. Print-lovers could trigger the ARc app by pointing it at a Washington Post logo and watching it come to life. Readers watched the Freddie Gray scene play out, as if they were actually there. Within ARc, users could also look at a map of the police's direction of Freddie Gray and read additional text about the case.
Unlike virtual reality, AR is easier to create on a mobile platform, but has its setbacks. It's expensive, for one, and doesn't always lend itself to a story since making compelling AR content requires strong visuals. People also have to be "trained" to use it.
In an interview with Digiday, Joey Marburger, director of product at the Post, said:
We're still very skeptical around AR as well. But the tech has gotten a little better with these frameworks being available, lighter assets, things like that. With VR, you have to have a headset. Everyone's got an AR-capable device in their pocket. There's potential scale there.
Other media companies have also tried experimenting with AR. The New York Times, after finally getting a sponsor, was able to produce "Outthink Hidden," inspired by the movie "Hidden Figures" which its branded content arm, T Brand Studio, launched in January with IBM.
Jess Bezos, the owner of the Post, wants to give AR a shot, and already has an unnamed sponsor lined up to fund the first AR story. Although, the Post is able to experiment with AR relatively easily since a lot of the framework is already in place from its earlier editorial projects.
Nevertheless, the first AR story isn't planned to launch until spring, and then the plan is to release one AR experience every quarter. The first one is to be a series by the Post's art and architecture critic Philip Kennicott. It will examine new, innovative buildings, and use augmented reality to enhance the way the viewer looks around the interiors while listening to narration on their smartphones.