The Washington Post plans to use augmented reality to enhance its reporting and storytelling in 2017.
The Post first used AR last year to explain the events that led up to Freddie Gray’s arrest death in Baltimore in 2015. But people had to download an app to access the experience. Since then, the Post has been building an AR framework into its two existing apps — its magazine-style “Rainbow” app and its more traditional, newspaper-style app — to take friction out of the process.
It plans to launch its first AR story this spring, and then one per quarter. The first will be for a series by its art and architecture critic Philip Kennicott that will examine new, innovative buildings. AR will be used to let people look around the interiors and listen to narration using their smartphones.
Virtual reality and its lower-tech cousin, 360-degree video, got a lot of attention from publishers last year. But VR is expensive to do, there aren’t a ton of viewing devices in use and the use case isn’t always clear to editorial. Then there’s the trick of convincing the advertisers who’d be helping to pay for it all.
It can be easier to scale AR, which involves inserting digital elements into real world representations, the best known example being the Pokémon Go game.
“‘We’re still very skeptical around AR as well,” said Joey Marburger, director of product at the Post, who’s spearheading the project. “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.”