Augmented reality

The new newsprint technology allows you to pick up relevant information from the Internet to supplement a print story or image.

By Joe Xec

Like biscuits are to tea, so is augmented reality to newsprint. If biscuits enhance your enjoyment of tea drinking, then you might find augmented reality apps like Blippar enhance your Saturday newspaper reading. If you don’t have a smart phone or the proper device, this will not be your cup of tea.

Augmented reality? The idea is simple. You would typically use AR apps with a camera from a smartphone or tablet device to scan an image, text or computer link in your newspaper to access relevant additional information on the Internet.

Blippar logo augmented reality mobile app

AR apps like Blippar – which has been labeled the world’s leading augmented-reality app (from blipp, “the action of augmented reality apps in instantaneously converting anything in the real world into an interactive wow experience”) – are typically free. Once the app is loaded in your smart phone you simply hold the phone or tablet over a newspaper story or image and additional material will appear on your phone or tablet screen. An icon displayed with the story or image tells you additional content is available.

It takes only a few seconds to scan the material. The AR apps thus give you instance access to video, photos and other matter related to the story or image.

Other versions of the image-recognition app are being used commercially, by home furnishing companies like Ikea and car manufacturers like Audi, which uses the software differently. Ikea uses the augmented-reality app to scan items from their catalogue right onto your smartphone screen or tablet, allowing you to point-and-click furnishings to test them against existing décor in your home. Audi, on the other hand, uses the technology as a car manual. It offers instant tutorial play-by-play on your phone or tablet to provide you with how-to use features in the form of video instructions.

In September, the Free Press became one of the first newspapers on the continent to incorporate augmented-reality apps into their editorial offerings – though in the earliest days anyway, many readers appeared unaware of what was being offered. Only smartphone and tablet users are able to access the supplementary material.

It’s hard at this point to agree that augmented-reality apps are needed to enhance your reading experience. But they do give you a good excuse to switch from a flip phone to a more sophisticated apparatus.

This article, by the way, is not compatible with AR apps. But feel free to take a picture of it anyway and send it to a friend.

Joe Xec is a technology enthusiast, and does work as a social media consultant.

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