Initially, I thought “Oh, this is not an AR experience, more like 2D-VR!” but you will see in the video that it really is an interesting example of storytelling:
The article (and the video does not show the text part of it) is about an amazing piece of modern architecture: The “Elbphilharmonie” in Hamburg, Germany; the new iconic building of Germany’s northest metropoly.
“Elbphilharmonie” is the town’s new philharmonic concert hall, located next to the river Elbe (that is, where the name comes from), and said to have today’s best acoustics in the world.
And this article explains, why.
First you can read the text. Instead of envisioning the space from mere words, you can look into a 360degree photo. Instead of mounting an Oculus rift VR device, you can simply consume it with your smartphone, basically holding it on the common distance and then turning your whole body around, as if you were in the building.
OK, if you had mounted an Oculus rift and this were a 3D-360degree-photo, it would be even more immersive, but mounting and unmounting the VR device would kill the seamless experience of media consumption, The Washington Post is piloting here.
From a technology perspective, it is a little less “cool”, but from a usability point of view, I’d say this is better.
(Please click on the image to see the YouTube video.)
Now, after having grabbed an idea of the space and what the building looks like, the text explains the acoustics. Core parts of the technology are small, unique, computer-created “tiles”, which reflect the sound. This is hard to envision from reading a text.
And now comes the AR piece, as you can see in the video.
We are still in the early days of AR & VR journalism. And it is often hard to find a good use of this new technology in order not to use it just for itself but to really increase the reader’s experience, the fun and understanding. And I think, they did really well here.
Again, if the reader had a Microsoft Hololense at hand when consuming this article, the AR experience could be better, of course. But as this is not likely to be the case, it is a good idea to focus the ceiling (the floor will do, too) of wherever you are, to apply the tiles to it and to visualize the sound hitting the tiles and getting reflected.
How would you explain this, if you wouldn’t have AR technology at hand? In print, you would create an infographic or a series of infographics to explain this technology. And the reader would understand.
But using Augmented Reality, we get a better experience. It fuels our imagination (e.g. how to put all these thousands of pieces together in order to cover all your surrounding) and “visualizes” the sound effects in a way that you can only do in a video. Instead of merely producing a video, you can see how this would take effect in the room, you are currently in.
And all of it is done with nothing else but a smartphone, just the device billions of people currently carry on them, whereever they are.
This is smart and enjoyable – I am looking forward to more to come!
Of course, producing such a piece of journalism is more expensive than writing “just” a text. But producing AR pieces is a profitable business, too: The big brand names love to be associated with this new way of storytelling. They are willing to pay for it – and there is not enough content out there!
Thus, it is not only interesting from a technology perspective, not only enjoyable from a consumer perspective, but in addition an amazing business opportunity for publishers!
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