Augmented Reality: How We’ll Bring the News Into Your Home

Something profound has happened to your camera.

Its very purpose – capturing images – has expanded to include a new role: creating a bridge between our physical and digital worlds.

That means with a smartphone camera, you will be able to see an Olympic figure skater suspended at the peak of a quadruple jump as if he were floating in your living room. The camera can become a window into a world enhanced with digital information – adding a piece of sculpture to your bedroom or a car to your driveway. Neither actually there, but appearing to be and believably so.

This is fundamentally what connects augmented reality and journalism.

It is a new pathway that can lead away from the abstract depiction of objects and toward a more visceral sense of real-life scale and physicality.

Stories that describe our three-dimensional world can be delivered in the round, in front of you. Want a closer look at that sculpture? No need to pinch your phone’s screen to zoom. Just walk up to it. For a different angle, there’s no swiping to the next image. Just walk around it.

What does augmented reality look like?

The difference between augmented reality and a photograph sounds simple enough, but a side-by-side comparison offers a helpful contrast. As we explore innovative ways to share our report, as an example, let’s look at a traditional means of news delivery: an honor box.

This sort of vending machine is so named because you’re on your honor to take just one copy after depositing payment. The Times had more than 13,000 of these boxes in service as recently as the 1990s. Now, there are only about 30.

We took pictures of this honor box at the New York Times printing plant in College Point, Queens. First, here is a regular photograph of it, the kind we would typically display:

Evan Grothjan/The New York Times

With augmented reality, it’s possible to look at the honor box as if it were in your space – beside your couch, next to your desk or in front of your home.

Here’s the honor box as it looks on the screen of an iPhone with iOS 11 (support for Android is coming soon, click here for technical details). It appears as a three-dimensional object in a space, approachable from different angles. With the phone, you can even check out the rust on the sides and back.

With augmented reality, we can let you look at the honor box as if it were in your space – beside your couch, next to your desk or in front of your home. Here it is, captured photographically, in three dimensions.

For this experience, you’ll need an iPhone or iPad with iOS 11, and the latest version of the NYTimes app. For specifics, click here.

Give it a try in a well-lit, open space, and don’t forget to walk around it. Check out the rust on the sides and back.

Integrating augmented reality into our work expands New York Times journalism in a few important ways.

First, by using your smartphone as a “window,” we are extending stories beyond the inches of a screen, by digitally adding objects into your space at real scale. And those objects – a border wall or a work of art – can have provocative explanatory value, because you can get close to them.

This technology also allows us to explore the evolving nature of how we share ideas and tell stories. Next week, The Times will debut AR in an article about the Winter Olympics. Just like with the honor box, your phone will allow you to see the athletes three-dimensionally, from different angles. This is all part of our effort to lean toward the future of storytelling. We invite our readers to come along.

Need help? Contact us.

Production by Jon Huang, Blacki Migliozzi, David Stolarsky and Ben Wilhelm. AR experience design and production by Evan Grothjan, Miles Peyton, Yuliya Parshina-Kottas and Karthik Patanjali. Design by Gray Beltran, Lian Chang, Rebecca Lieberman and Rumsey Taylor. Video by Alexandra Eaton, Jenna Pirog, Ayasha Sampson, Derek Sexton Horani, Yuya Kudo, Rachel Lawlor and Evan Grothjan.

Additional production by Adam Pearce.


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