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 latest 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 difficult 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."