Home Can Augmented Reality Help Save the Print Publishing Industry?

Can Augmented Reality Help Save the Print Publishing Industry?

There’s a memorable scene in the movie Minority Report where a man reads a futuristic newspaper with rich embedded multimedia updating live with breaking news. While we are a long way seeing anything like this in the hands of the general public, a German newspaper has taken a small step in that direction with the release of a special augmented reality (AR) edition of its Friday magazine.

Süddeutsche Zeitung (SZ), Germany’s largest national newswspaper, has partnered with Munich-based AR vendor metaio to provide subscribers with an immersive reading experience that hints at the future of publishing. The experience is similar to Esquire’s augmented reality edition from November of 2009, but with advancements that have been made to smartphone AR technology, a desktop webcam is not needed to view the content.

The magazine, hitting newsstands this Friday, features several AR experiences littered throughout its pages that can be activated using metaio’s junaio iPhone and Android apps. The cover of the magazine features a popular German TV personality who comes to life in an interactive video unlocked by holding a smartphone up to the magazine. Other augmented features in the magazine include an illustration that becomes 3D, an interview with additional exclusive quotes and a crossword puzzle whose answers appear when viewed through the smartphone.

The example I find the most compelling, however, is a photo essay about German farmers that are worried their country’s bid to host the Olympics could spell trouble for their coveted farmland. In one photo, a farmer is shown standing before a large empty field. When a smartphone is held to this picture, a new image featuring a large parking lot superimposed onto the man’s land is swapped into its place.

Augmented reality can not only add fun and interactivity to a print publication, but, as shown here, it can also vastly improve a journalist’s ability to tell a story in a compelling way. This falls directly in line with metaio co-founder and CTO Peter Meier’s vision for the future of AR, where kids will view interactive content on the side of their cereal boxes each morning.

The crux of this vision is that smartphones now allow publishers to build this type of interactive experience right into their existing print content. No special markers, no desktop computer, no webcams: All a user needs to interact with augmented magazines, newspapers or cereal boxes is a smartphone.

Holding a smartphone up to a magazine is a far cry from the flashy interactive newspaper seen in Minority Report, but it is perhaps a hint at how augmented reality can help the dwindling print publishing industry.

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