After winning the 2015 FIFA Women's World Cup, the USA Women's National Soccer Team is ready to defend its title in the 2019 tournament.
To capitalize on the excitement, USA Today has published a pair of augmented reality experiences that give readers the opportunity to not only learn more about the players on the world's top-ranked women's team, but also try their hand at playing goalkeeper in a virtual shootout.
With the USA Today app for iOS or Android installed, readers can try the experience by navigating to "Meet the Team" and "Make the Save" sections displayed at the top of the app's screen in blue boxes on their AR-capable mobile devices, or jump to the sports section of the app.
Sponsored by Fox Sports, the Meet the Team experience lays out a virtual football pitch (or soccer field) in the user's camera view. Users can scroll through the roster and select players to learn more about them via infographics and narration. World Cup standings and schedule are also displayed in the user's physical space.
"We wanted to provide an immersive way to learn more about the US Women's team throughout the lifecycle of this year's World Cup," said Ray Soto, director of emerging technology at USA Today, in a statement. "We have seen how much AR informs and entertains users, so it's a natural fit for brands to want to be a part of these engaging experiences as well. And, keeping consumers engaged throughout the World Cup experience really builds excitement."
The Make the Save experience, on the other hand, focuses on Team USA goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher. After learning more about Naeher's record and her approach to her position, users can participate in a simulated goalkeeper mini-game. Then, after stepping into position in front of a virtual goal, users are challenged to defend against penalty kicks from a digital opponent, with difficulty escalating from 20 miles per hour to a professional-level 80 mph.
For this latest experience, USA Today used a photogrammetry approach, similar to its AR feature on Oscar-nominated costumes, in order to realistically capture Naeher's appearance for the app interaction.
About this time last year, Facebook and Snapchat juggled several augmented reality experiences devoted to the Men's World Cup. This year, USA Today has served up an objectively more in-depth and informative experience for Team USA as the Women's World Cup steps into the spotlight.
Moreover, USA Today continues its general run of publishing insightful and immersive AR experiences, including an exploration of the historical Notre Dame Cathedral and the world's tallest skyscraper.