If you happened to watch John Mayer’s video for “Heartbreak Warfare” or downloaded the Starbucks Valentine’s Day app, chances are you’ve experienced what’s called “augmented reality”. This technology, often known as AR, has popped up in many places in the past few years. It has been successful within the marketing and advertising industries, and it’s also making a big splash within the print industry.
AR, as defined by Mashable, is a “live, direct or indirect, view of a physical, real-world environment whose elements are augmented by computer-generated sensory input such as sound, video, graphics or GPS data.” In other words, it’s a technology that allows people to see images or videos via a code read by their smartphone or tablet device. Recently, many publications have experimented with AR as a way to supplement the content in a printed page with more interactive material. USC Dornsife, an alumni magazine from the University of Southern California’s Dornsife College of Letters, Arts & Sciences, is one of the latest publications to try out the technology, using software developer Metaio.
“We immediately thought AR technology would be a perfect fit for USC Dornsife as we were already producing video content in conjunction with our articles,” said Emily Cavalcanti, executive director of communications in the USC Dornsife Office of Communication. “Now rather than merely provide links at the end of articles, we could encourage readers to download the app to their smartphone or tablet to immediately engage with this supplementary content.”
While the technology itself is not necessarily brand new, the ways in which it can be used are still being discovered. Back in 2009 when Esquire first debuted an issue using AR technology on the cover, the magazine’s own editor-in-chief, David Granger called the technology a “gimmick”. But in the years since, many more brands and publications have had positive feedback from consumers, which points to the technology sticking around for a while, said Gini Dietrich, CEO of Arment Dietrich, Inc.
“The good news is the majority of us are visual learners so providing videos or photos to augment your stories in the publication has nothing but success written all over it,” she said. “Vanity Fair does a decent job with incorporating other mediums into their print publication. You can listen to interviews, see a photo gallery, or watch a video.”
Many publications that haven’t incorporated the technology may fear the expense or are unsure if they’re readers will be actively involved, but Dietrich said the good news is it’s relatively easy to experiment.
“There are really cool applications for publications, in particular,” she said. “Layar is one company that will allow you to test augmented reality inexpensively. All you have to do is upload your content, choose a video, provide the URL, and voila! It’s pretty nifty and the cost is so low, it’s worth trying.”
Augmented reality as the answer to the struggling print industry may be a stretch, however. Cavalcanti said AR should not be looked at as a way to keep print publications afloat, but rather as a way to elevate what’s already there.
“Charles Darwin once said ‘It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change,’” she said. “And perhaps the same applies to print. AR is not really about avoiding extinction, it’s about adapting and proving that print and dynamic multimedia content can seamlessly coexist and help propel each other forward.”
Gini Dietrich, CEO
Arment Dietrich, Inc.
P.O. Box 13013
Chicago, IL 60613