Is augmented reality a way to add value to publications – or a passing novelty?
You know those Smirnoff ads where people look through the lens of a bottle and see strange wonders? I’ve never quite understood what the marketing message there was supposed to be – “get off your face on vodka until you hallucinate”? Well, you can now have that experience with a magazine and an iPhone. So long as the magazine is Süddeutsche Zeitung Magazin, the first magazine to use augmented reality browser Junaio. Watch this video to see some of the truly astonishing effects of looking at the magazine through a smart phone.
Is this the future? Is this what people want? It looks fun, and it is adding something to the experience. But it seems another step along the way to me, a proof of concept for something better to come. Do you want to read a print magazine with your iPhone on standby, hovering over it like a Victorian magnifying glass? Would you prefer an all-digital magazine, like the well-received Wired magazine for the iPad? Or are we still waiting for the Minority Report Moment, when we can trade our slightly clunky Star Trek style iPads and ereaders for something that behaves more like paper? Paper with ever-changing content, graphics, video and audio. Paper that knows where you are.
Any new technology carries with it a search for its own purpose. Just as digitizing printed books and making them available on an ereader or smart phone doesn’t make the most of the possibilities of the medium (unless you also add multimedia elements), I’m not yet convinced that the best use of augmented reality is looking at a printed page through an iPhone – interesting as it is.
Applications that also make use of your geographic location, such as Nearest Tube, make more sense to me, and augmented reality travel book apps add more value to the content. The augmented reality Rough Guide apps previewed at this year’s London Book Fair Digital Conference seem to me an obvious and happy union of device, content and purpose. But however the new and emerging technologies are applied, the next few years are going to be interesting.
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