APN jumps on AR bandwagon

APN is claiming to be the first New Zealand publisher to launch an augmented reality app, with The Herald’s TimeOut section being made into an interactive print product through the use of regularly updated virtual content. 

By using the new TimeOut App, readers are able to bring the content to life by accessing content such as 3D images, video and audio tracks, and bridging the gap between print and digital media.  App users also get the latest Entertainment news, reviews and a ‘Near Me’ events guide which uses location based services to find events on nearby.

Spencer Bailey, general manager  of APN Online says, “Launching a sustainable interactive print product with the TimeOut App is a New Zealand first and something we’re really proud of.  It showcases the very best of print and digitally-led content and allows users to interact with the TimeOut brand in a new and innovative way.”

TimeOut’s editor Russell Baillie adds, “TimeOut is a weekly destination for our readers and the app enhances this experience through augmented reality, video and 3D imagery. Extending the TimeOut brand onto mobile reflects the increased demand from our readers who want to access our content every day of the week.”

Augmented reality, you’ll remember, is the overlaying of computer-generated content on a live view of the world (here’s a few fine examples). Some of you probably have AR business cards. AR’s been around for a while.  In 2009 Esquire magazine brought Robert Downey Jnr to life on their cover, and in 2010 42 Below augmented their vodka with a point of sale project called Fat-boy, where viewers were sent on a spiritual journey into what the 42BELOW folks call “an alternate 42BELOW world”.

“Augmented reality takes something very simple, in this case a small pattern on a neck tag, and creates something interactive on a computer display,” said spokeshuman Jacob Pearson at the time.

This year Fairfax pushed the parameters of print advertising by inserting a credit card-sized video screen into a magazine as part of a $250,000 marketing campaign for Peroni – creating a ‘world-first’ TV commercial inserted into print magazine. The screens, which showed a three-and-a-half minute video, were hand placed in 2,500 editions of Fairfax’s Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.

But it’s still a fairly fringe technology here in New Zealand.  Steinlager launched an iPhone app back in June that allowed fans to track down bars that are showing the rugby (Steinlager bars only, of course) by using a map-based or augmented reality bar finder that runs off the iPhone’s GPS. And Vodafone have just rolled out augmented reality T-shirts for New Zealand music month.

But is there a risk that we’ll all become AR’d out – that it will become boring as advert after advert invites us to hold it up to a webcam? “What’s hot today is ancient history tomorrow,” says Andy Cameron, executive director of Fabrica, an interactive design studio at the forefront of AR technology.  “There have been a lot of bad uses of this technology with a rush to use it.  The key is that it should be an enhancement of the stuff on the printed page.”

So – expect more enhanced reality as print continues its foray back to the future.

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