News: New York Times Halloween Edition Uses Augmented Reality Bugs to Scare & Educate

New York Times Halloween Edition Uses Augmented Reality Bugs to Scare & Educate

Our national month-long celebration of all things creepy and crawly comes to a climax on Wednesday with Halloween and will end with Día de Muertos on Friday, so now is the ideal time for the The New York Times to publish a mildly chilling augmented reality story for children.

In a special Halloween edition of The New York Times, readers are led to the "Monsters That Live On You" feature, which presents a series of real life parasites and pests that are scarier up-close than anything that Stephen King could dream up, via a QR code in the print edition of The New York Times.

Images by Tommy Palladino/Next Reality

Viewable in AR via the iOS and Android app on ARKit and ARCore-compatible devices, the featured creatures include the influenza virus, face mites, bed bugs, a house fly, and a cockroach that can be placed in the reader's space using the horizontal surface detection capabilities of the respective AR tookits. In a neat little enhancement to this particular story, virtual bugs crawl along the screen as users browse through. As is customary with the Times' AR stories, each AR monster is accompanied by a factoid.

Be forewarned: you may not want to browse the story while eating, as there's a lot of frank talk about bodily waste. In fact, you'll probably feel like you need to take a shower after reading this.

In addition, this article gets a few interface improvements, including a manual full-screen button and an interface-free option in full-screen mode.

Images by Tommy Palladino/Next Reality

"We've started to implement some design changes now that we've had a few months of designing these under out belts. We found that the 'scroll-jacking' we were using in iOS and Android to enter these experiences was a bit frustrating for some readers and had mixed results. Meaning, readers would sometimes not be scrolled into the window properly or have other issues when entering and leaving each AR moment. The new design does away with scroll-jacking and leaves it to the viewer to go full screen only if they desire. We've also implemented a completely interface-free mode in full screen. After a few seconds all interface elements fade off. They can be brought back with a tap. I think it's an easier experience overall," said Graham Roberts, director of immersive platforms and co-director of the virtual reality program for NYTVR, in an email statement to Next Reality.

The Times continues to explore augmented reality storytelling, with this feature being its 10th AR experience since introducing the tool in its immersive toolbox in February, and the first feature targeted toward younger readers. The media company is showing no signs of slowing down its AR coverage as others, such as USA Today and the Washington Post have begun to follow suit with their own AR stories.

Cover image via Tommy Palladino/Next Reality

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