NYT de­buts AR fea­tures for Win­ter Olympics

Newspapers & Technology Magazine - - Front Page - ▶ NEWS & TECH STAFF RE­PORT

It's been more than six years since news­pa­pers be­gan ex­per­i­ment­ing with aug­mented re­al­ity fea­tures. The Philadel­phia In­quirer was among the first, adding in­ter­ac­tive fea­tures that bridged the print edi­tion to a reader's smart de­vice in 2012 (see News & Tech, May 2012). AR tech­nol­ogy, although not as widely adopted as the in­dus­try may have en­vi­sioned it would be by now, con­tin­ues to evolve and make in­roads with news­pa­per pub­lish­ers.

The New York Times in Fe­bru­ary be­came the lat- est news­pa­per to ex­ploit AR when it rolled out im­mer­sive sto­ry­telling just in time for the Win­ter Olympics. Through a smart­phone's cam­era, NYT has en­deav­ored to make big things pos­si­ble on a small screen and al­low its read­ers to ex­plore in­for­ma­tion in new ways.

The pub­lisher's first AR-en­abled ar­ti­cle was a pre­view piece for the Win­ter Olympics in which read­ers were able to meet Olympic ath­letes, in­clud­ing fig­ure skater Nathan Chen, big air snow­boarder Anna Gasser and short track speed skater J.R. Cel­ski. The fea­ture al­lowed read­ers to pause the ath­letes in mid-per­for­mance to get to know more about them.

"The Olympics project — a ma­jor col­lab­o­ra­tion among the news­room, de­sign and prod­uct staffs that I led, as NYT's di­rec­tor of im­mer­sive plat­forms — demon­strates one of AR's rich­est ben­e­fits: deep­en­ing the ex­plana­tory value of vis­ual jour­nal­ism," NYT's Gra­ham Roberts told read­ers in Fe­bru­ary. "Scale, for ex­am­ple, is in­cred­i­bly dif- fi­cult to rep­re­sent on your phone screen. By con­jur­ing ath­letes as if they were in the room, scale is con­veyed by the con­text of your sur­round­ings."

Ad­ver­tis­ers get in­volved

Olympic spon­sor Ralph Lau­ren part­nered with The Times for an AR ex­pe­ri­ence that in­cluded Team USA ice dancers Maia and Alex Shibu­tani in AR mod­el­ing the of­fi­cial Ralph Lau­ren Team USA Open­ing Cer­e­mony Pa­rade uni­forms.

The Ralph Lau­ren AR fea­ture was pro­duced by NYT Co.'s ex­pe­ri­en­tial de­sign agency Fake Love, and marked the first AR ex­pe­ri­ence from an ad­ver­tiser to live in­side the NYT app for iOS. NYT said it de­vel­oped the AR ex­pe­ri­ence lev­er­ag­ing Ap­ple's ARKit, which is avail­able to iPhone and iPad users with de­vices run­ning iOS 11. The pub­lisher said it will soon bring the AR ex­pe­ri­ence to An­droid as well, and that it will be based on ARCore.

Roberts ex­plained that rather than ask­ing read­ers to in­ter­act with pinch-to-zoom, swipe, or click,

the AR fea­tures ask read­ers to treat graph­ics as phys­i­cal ob­jects.

"If you want to see the form from an­other an­gle, you sim­ply walk around to that area," he said. "If you want to see some­thing up close, sim­ply lean in to that spot. News be­comes some­thing you can see, lit­er­ally, from all sides."

To that end, bring­ing Olympic ath­letes into AR re­quired find­ing a way to cap­ture them not only pho­to­graph­i­cally, but also three-di­men­sion­ally. To do so, NYT cre­ated photo-real scans that could be viewed from any an­gle.

"We asked each ath­lete to demon­strate his or her form at spe­cific mo­ments," Roberts said.

He ex­plained how Olympic skater Nathan Chen held a pose show­ing ex­actly how he po­si­tions his arms tightly to his body dur­ing his quads to al­low an in­cred­i­ble speed of ro­ta­tion. Team USA women's hockey player Alex Rigsby, mean­time, showed NYT how she po­si­tions her pads to guard the net from a puck trav­el­ing at 70 miles per hour.

After get­ting these scans, the NYT team placed them into con­tex­tual set­tings.

"For ex­am­ple, plac­ing Nathan Chen at the 20-inch height off the ground he would be midquad, based off photo ref­er­ence and some­times mo­tion cap­ture,” Roberts said. "In your space, this will truly be a dis­tance of 20 inches be­cause this is all true to scale."

'Real po­ten­tial'

Be­cause in­ter­act­ing with AR is un­fa­mil­iar to most peo­ple, Robertson said the chal­lenge of the project was de­vel­op­ing an in­tu­itive way to dis­play in­for­ma­tion around these graphic fea­tures.

"Just as read­ers know how to read a text story on a phone be­cause we're con­di­tioned to read left to right, and from the top down, we de­cided to or­ga­nize in­for­ma­tion around how one would nat­u­rally in­ter­act with a space, which is sim­ply to walk around in­side it," he said.

NYT will con­tinue to lever­age AR fea­tures in the fu­ture in a bid to re­main on the cut­ting edge of in­no­va­tion — and the in­dus­try will con­tinue watch­ing and launch­ing its own AR fea­tures in or­der to bet­ter en­gage read­ers that in­creas­ingly ex­pect these types of ad­vance­ments in dig­i­tal sto­ry­telling (see side­bar).

"There’s no ques­tion that these are early days for AR, but our work so far sug­gests that this emerg­ing tech­nol­ogy has real po­ten­tial to help our read­ers ex­pe­ri­ence the news dif­fer­ently, help­ing them un­der­stand the world more deeply," Steve Duenes, as­sis­tant mast­head editor for NYT, said in a state­ment about the project.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.