It is good to see The Independent taking the plunge to be the first newspaper to try wholeheartedly to integrate augmented web content into their editorial workflow. We’ve been playing with location based AR here at TAL for a while and I dived in to do a cheesy video review of The Independent’s second day’s augmented content.
Some quick impressions:
it’s great that they have gone whole hog with the augmented content which is of good quality, not a gimmick. Their editorial approach is thoughtful, if still tentative one feels. There is video for instance of the police speaking about the bomb detector fraudster and of George Osbornes speech on devolution. I liked this as seeing the speech adds a lot to just reading it flat on the page.
voting on the opp-ed pieces is a nice idea – i haven’t seen that before
very interesting approach to archives – the app can take you to Patrick Cockburns series of articles on Iraq
pictures are a common augmentation, but they don’t work well on my mobile as they are too small, that needs a bit of work
getting into and out of a page is a bit clunky – you have to remember to X closed the window before you rescan
this can only be consumed on a mobile device a tablet or phone – it doesn’t work on your desktop. This is important for a mobile internet future.
while this could be done in a website, using AR creates an interesting new link between the dead tree paper product and the online content – you don’t have to type anything in. And most newspapers phone apps have trouble with hyperlinks anyway.
QR codes could have done all of this but they are dying out and are very ugly on a printed page – using markerless recognition allows very fluid inclusion of content i.e. you don’t have to print ugly symbols and can apply it retrospectively to stuff already printed (though a newspaper is unlikely to want to do that I’d have thought, a book publisher might). Ironically the yellow blobs that draw the reader’s eye to the content are human markers, albeit far prettier than QR codes.
the Independent will have to do a lot of marketing to drive uptake and have a compelling customer proposition as this is a new technology. Whilst the paper’s commercial status is unusual in Lebedev ownership it’s unlikely that they can keep giving it the whole of page 2 to promote. Expect to see competitions etc for Blippar users
presumably The Independent is paying for the service per click through up to some sort of cap. I suspect that technology like Blippar’s as implemented here is very easily bought in and requires little or no tech effort on behalf of the newspaper in the AR itself, but in the presentation of the content that it clicks through to.
tech is quite conservative at this stage – was slightly surprised that they didn’t go for a skinned/whitelabel version of Blippar with Independent branding, maybe that will come later if this is successful or maybe Blippar doesn’t offer that. There’s no attempt yet to serve content based on location of the user as reported by the phone e.g. ‘you can buy this Kate Middleton dress in the Topshop around the corner’ or ‘stories near you’ maybe The Standard could do the latter more easily.
markerless recognition (ie Blippar recognising the page layout and serving the content) worked well for me BUT I have an iPhone5 which is very fast indeed and was connected to a very fast internet connection by wifi. When i tried it in a cafe over 3G i didn’t get anywhere, but that could have been a 3G issue in that cafe. I need to test 3G again and with an iPhone4 to see if that can cope.
So it’s a good first try for The Independent and Blippar, expect to see others following maybe using Aurasma or Layar AR services. Here at Talk About Local we continue to experiment with location-driven AR for people who write about place and keep abreast of the AR field – see me making a plain English keynote about it at a major Guardian summit and on BBC TV – drop us a line if we can help.