Before The New York Times brought augmented reality to its iPhone app, the only way Winter Olympics fans could get this close a view to the world's best athletes would be to acquire a press pass.
Just days after previewing its augmented reality content strategy, the Times has already delivered on its promise to unveil its first official AR coverage, centered on the 2018 Winter Olympic Games in PyeongChang.
When viewed through the NYTimes app for iPhones and iPads, the "Four of the World's Best Olympians, as You've Never Seen Them Before" article displays AR content embedded at regular intervals as readers scroll along.
Initially, readers are asked to enable camera access and scan for a horizontal space with their ARKit-compatible device when they arrive at the first experience. Once the content is placed, users are encouraged to walk around the model and zoom into certain parts, such as the blade of an ice skate, for more information. They can then scroll down for more story and AR content.
"The Times has been among the most innovative digital storytellers for many years. On desktop, mobile, in our exploration of data visualization and other forms of visual journalism, including virtual reality, we've been committed to creating the most compelling and vibrant report possible, and this experiment in AR is a part of that," said Steve Duenes, assistant masthead editor for the publication in statement.
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The article also acts as a showcase to services the T Brand Studio can offer advertisers. At the bottom of the Winter Olympics article is an advertisement featuring Team USA ice dancers Maia and Alex Shibutani, who serve as models for the official Opening Ceremony parade uniforms from Ralph Lauren.
"In continuing to explore and support innovation across all aspects of our business, we partnered with The New York Times to launch the cutting-edge Olympics AR experience. Ralph Lauren is an official Outfitter of Team USA and we're excited to build innovative ideas that bring the Olympics to life for the consumer in new and exciting ways," said David Lauren, chief innovation officer.
As augmented reality has arrived as the knight-in-shining-armor to save the publishers in distress, publishers sent the technology on different quests. Time, Inc. is using AR to enhance its traditional printed publications with marker-based experiences. Now, the Times is opting to deploy AR in its digital content with ARKit and leverage its production team for advertising content to appear alongside it.
It's likely too early in the lifespan of the technology to determine if there's a right or a wrong way to employ AR in traditional media, but it appears the consensus is leaning towards augmented reality as an answer to the question towards the industry's survival.
"There's no question that these are early days for AR, but our work so far suggests that this emerging technology has real potential to help our readers experience the news differently, helping them understand the world more deeply," said Duenes.