News: New York Times Hitchhikes on NASA's Mission to Mars via Augmented Reality

New York Times Hitchhikes on NASA's Mission to Mars via Augmented Reality

In the latest installment in its burgeoning augmented reality journalism practice, The New York Times is bringing its readers closer to Mars and NASA's latest spacecraft set to travel to the red planet.

When reading the article through the NY Times app for iOS or Android on devices running ARKit or ARCore, users see two global augmented reality views of Mars, one that shows where various NASA landers have previously touched down on the planet, and another that maps where water may have flowed on the planet in the past.

The article also features a 3D model of the InSight lander, which will depart Earth on May 5 and, if all goes as planned, will arrive on Mars on Nov. 26. A button in the top right corner of the screen lets readers toggle between scale model and life-sized versions of the lander.

Augmented reality's role in journalism is still in its infancy, but the Times is working hard to be one of the pioneers in the space. The new article, "Augmented Reality: Explore InSight, NASA's Latest Mission to Mars," is just the third AR presentation by the Times following the publication's AR coverage of the Winter Olympics and a feature on David Bowie's extravagant costumes.

Despite AR's brief track record in journalism, The New York Times piece isn't the first such experience for space news.

Last month, USA Today released an app called 321 Launch (available on iOS and Android), which will facilitate ongoing AR coverage of rocket launches.

"With over 30 rocket launches scheduled for 2018, we're leveraging the excitement around space as an opportunity to bring this content to our audience in a new and engaging way," said Ray Soto, director of emerging technology for the USA Today Network. "We partnered with Florida Today because of their industry-leading, compelling and comprehensive coverage of the space industry, and we're excited to continue to add new content and features to the app for our users."

In a relatively short span of time, traditional media has shown how augmented reality can bring readers unique content that enhances general news coverage, bringing readers closer to the subjects, people, and places covered. And, as adoption increases, these kinds of presentations will likely move from rarified dives into multimedia and become how many consumers expect to consume their news — immersively.

Cover image by Tommy Palladino/Next Reality

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