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August 03 2011

16:30

The Parent Show: Will Augmented Reality Be Our Kids' Reality?

This week on MediaShift, we're running a special series exploring the relationship between kids and media. In that vein, the following video from our partners at PBS Parents looks into augmented reality and what that means for kids.

In this episode of The Parent Show, Angela Santomero (the creator of "Blue's Clues" and "Super Why?"), talks with PBS Kids' Jeremy Roberts about the possibilities of augmented reality.

Watch the full episode. See more The Parent Show.

This is a summary. Visit our site for the full post ».

July 14 2011

21:54

Storytelling - Augmented reality: Secret Visual Knowledge is a special new graphic novel

I love to get to know new forms of storytelling. It's exciting and alway worth to explore. I'm extremely impressed by the possibilities Augmented Reality offers for the presentation of news as part of reality. But I'm also sure that some might argue that we should first understand the world as it is, before we try to add additional information - and, yes, you're right. I fully agree. For now just browse through the example below.

Wired :: SVK, or Secret Visual Knowledge, is a very special new graphic novel by Warren Ellis and Matt “D’Israeli” Brooker. The limited-run comic, set in the not-too-distant future, tells the story of a secret device that allows its user to see the thoughts of the people he or she looks at. “The story has obvious influences from augmented reality, as these thoughts pop up around people’s heads when viewed through the device."

Via Roland Legrand (thanks Roland!) on Google+ (my first Google+ reference ;-)

Continue to read Bruce Sterling, www.wired.com

June 14 2011

19:00

What Augmented Reality Can Do for the Media Industry

I attended the second annual Augmented Reality Event conference in Santa Clara, Calif., in May and it was ... interesting.

OK, it was a huge geekfest. The opening session was interrupted by people dressed in hazardous waste -- or maybe they were supposed to be pseudo-astronaut -- outfits, yelling about "free space," while wrapping the audience in yellow caution tape.

Jaron Lanier, a computer scientist, composer, visual artist and free thinker best known for coining the term "virtual reality," opened his keynote speech by playing the khene, a traditional Laotian wind instrument that he says was the earliest conveyor of digital information.

Jaron Lanier at ARE 2011 from locative media on Vimeo.

But somewhere in the excitement of innovators being able to make Roger Hargreaves-style characters race across a flat surface if you hold your smartphone camera just so, were hints of what augmented reality, or AR, could do for the media industry.

Content needs to catch up

The two sessions devoted to content and AR were somewhat underwhelming, so you had to really use your imagination. Helen Papagiannis, an artist, designer, researcher and Ph.D. candidate, said content has to catch up to technology, but then she went on to show a live demonstration of making a virtual tarantula appear on her hand. Kinda cool. And Adriano Farano, a Knight Fellow at Stanford University, showed how he was able to superimpose photographs of what the university quad looked like just before the 1906 San Francisco earthquake.

That later got me to thinking about Tuscaloosa, Ala., and Joplin, Mo., and how some enterprising visual journalist, using AR and Microsoft's Bing maps and Photosynth technology, could virtually restore those communities for the people who live there and for future generations who won't know the towns as they used to be.

iOptik.jpg

Over in the showcase sessions, Innovega demonstrated how a special contact lens and sunglasses that look like Ray Bans (not the Geordi La Forge eyewear from Star Trek New Generation that you see in Sky Mall magazine) can project a 200-inch screen. That could almost make a transcontinental plane trip bearable. And the ladies at Clothia may have finally cracked the online clothes-buying nut with technology that not only lets you "try on" clothes, but photograph existing pieces and pair them with new ones you want to buy.

MVS Labs demonstrated a heads-up, in-car device that can display safety symbols, collision warnings, and drivers' map preferences. Maybe soon it will displace radio traffic reports with real-time warnings about upcoming delays.

Many of the speakers at ARE 2011 were keenly aware of the hype around virtual worlds and information, as well as the lack of standards. AR, after all, is still very new, and those of us who are developing in the space realize how inconvenient it is to walk around holding a Droid or an iPad to our eyes all the time. Heads-up displays and new technology such as NFC (Near-Field Communication) as well as content providers getting serious about what information users might really want in a virtual reality will help the medium mature.

February 11 2011

15:24

People of Color Must Innovate or Die in Digital Media

In December in this space I asked about the lack of minorities at new media conferences -- both as participants and as speakers. The blog post generated a lot of comments; a Twitter discussion, and the start of a list of wonderful experts -- all persons of color -- who can help make your next new media conference a success.

I heard privately from a dozen or so white digital media leaders who confessed that they often wondered why new media seemed to be getting off on the wrong foot when it comes to diversifying staffs at operations and speakers at conferences. And I heard from conference organizers who reported that they were redoubling their efforts to reach out to a more inclusive group.

Tiffany Shackelford, who was putting on a conference for the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies, for example, invited me to do the kickoff session on mobile at their digital conference in San Francisco at the end of January and had a very inclusive group of speakers over the weekend talkfest. The Online News Association reached out for that list that some of us put together back in 2009 and I am sure that the ONA's Boston conference this year will reflect America.

It is great to know that once presented with the problem and a solution -- like here is a list -- that people will try to do the right thing. But, of course, there is still much more work to be done in two areas: hiring at digital operations and getting many, many more newsy people of color to get into the digital game and getting them comfortable with the idea that new media, with all its messy talk of economics, is here to stay.

A lot has been written about the refusal of many major digital operations to disclose their diversity numbers, so I'm not going to get into that much today only to say that history has a way of repeating itself. So if these operations refuse to be inclusive they should be prepared for the consequences.

Innovation Issue

The other issue is innovation within the ranks of journalists of color, which was part of the December post but didn't get as much attention but needs to as planning gets under way for this summer's NABJ, NAHJ, AAJA and NAJA conferences. While it is nice to have the President or Boris Kodjoe speak at our conferences, it is more important to hear again and again from people who are leading the change in our industry and can show members how to survive this transition.

In January, I read with dismay a pretty heated discussion on the NABJ listserv about Arianna Huffington's and BET co-founder Sheila Johnson's plan to launch a black channel on Huffington Post. Some members questioned whether there should be a separate black section (and, later, a Latino section) rather than seamlessly and regularly integrating black and brown news and commentary into the main HuffPost. But the debate quickly devolved into the business model of operations such as HuffPost of supplementing their original work by linking to content at other operations rather than hiring an army of reporters, editors, copy editors and photographers.

On one side were the people who don't want to hear anything other than the old business of big media hiring lots of people. On the other side, were people arguing that the model has changed and journalists of color need to not only embrace that reality but also become a part of it. "What I desire, and what burns me at times, is that we on this listserv are so close-minded to what is happening in our business, and then we complain about a lack of opportunities," wrote one participant. "We are choosing to exist in the world of media as hired hands, as opposed to hands that can hire."

While I am so sympathetic to journalists worried about being a casualty of the next round of layoffs, I have to agree that we need to reset our minds to being entrepreneurs -- even if we are still collecting a big media paycheck and especially if we've already been downsized out of those gigs. I say "reset" because as a student of history I know that it is in our DNA. We forget sometimes how pioneering journalists of color were over the years because movies aren't made about our social networks.

Black History Research

In researching black history for my J-Lab-funded Black History Augmented Reality app, I was reminded about a lot of pioneering African-American media entrepreneurs who got into the game sometimes on a wing and a prayer but made sure the black POV didn't get lost among the national debate. The Black History Augmented Reality app, by the way, is now available in Layar with content in Washington, D.C.; Richmond; Baltimore; Philadelphia; Boston; Charleston; and New Orleans. Just download Layar to your iPhone 3GS or higher or Droid phone and search for black history -- and save as a favorite. If you are in any of those cities, you will see snippets of black history pop up as you look through the camera lens.

So in honor of Black History Month and as a reminder of our entrepreneurial roots, I want to give a shout-out to a few of the pioneers who took a chance on doing their own thing:

Mary Shad - Long before Huffington created her influential Post, a 30-something Mary Shad, a free woman by birth, in 1853 founded in the Provincial Freeman, the first ever newspaper to be published by a black woman in North America. The Provincial Freeman was a radical voice out of Canada for full integration into white society. In her paper, she skewered the separate black communities that had been established in Canada by black leaders such as Josiah "Uncle Tom" Henson, fugitive slaves and their well-meaning white financiers. Her columns foreshadowed the debate that still rages today (such as on the NABJ listserv) over integration versus self-imposed segregation, as Fergus M. Bordewich put it in "Bound for Canaan: the Epic Story of the Underground Railroad, America's First Civil Rights Movement."
Walter White - We marvel at the brave journalists who wade into dangerous territories such as Liberation Square in Cairo risking death to get us the news. Walter White, who later became the first national secretary of the NAACP, went undercover in the early 20th Century to expose racist terrorist groups that preyed upon the black community. As a very light skinned, blond, blue-eyed black man, White slipped into southern communities to uncover who was behind lynchings and race riots, beatings and burnings, including the 1919 mass murder of 200 black sharecroppers in Elaine, Ala., by white mobs. White was discovered that time but was able to get out of town with the posse hot on his tail.
Emmit McHenry - Before there was GoDaddy, there was Emmit McHenry who in 1995 founded Network Solutions, the very first registrar of dot-com domain names which helped build the online infrastructure that we enjoy (or curse) today. He sold it for millions of dollars just as the web was really taking off, so missed out on the billions enjoyed by later entrepreneurs.
Pittsburgh Courier - Much is made of social media's ability to change the course of history such as getting young people engaged in President Obama's presidential campaign. The Pittsburgh Courier was created in 1907 by Edwin Harleston, a guard in the H.J. Heinz food-packing plant, and quickly became one of the most important voices in the country because of its reach and influence in the national black community. The newspaper often set the political tone for African-Americans. A case in point is the newspaper's 1930s campaign to get black Americans, then die-hard Republicans, to "turn Lincoln's picture to the wall" and vote the Democratic New Deal ticket, thus creating a political alliance that lasts to this day.

These pioneers didn't have to do what they did. Shad could have remained safe and secure as a school teacher, White an insurance salesman, Harleston a guard and McHenry an executive at IBM -- but America would have been worse off because of it. Instead, they became innovators and entrepreneurs who took chances because the times demanded it. Just as they do today.

November 10 2010

16:30

Augmented Reality Invades Newsrooms, Kids' Shows, Ads

You point your wireless device -- cell phone, iPad, whatever -- at a graphic on a box of unassembled furniture and then the instructions, complete with 3-D diagrams, instantly appear on-screen. Point at a piece of paper and it's suddenly a game board shared by friends across the room or across the world.

This is augmented reality, or AR. While still in its infancy, it's light years ahead of old-fashioned virtual reality. For one, you don't need bulky gear; you can use AR anywhere your wireless device can go. Plus, the environment is real -- only the graphics are simulated. All you need is a webcam or wireless device with the proper software and a nearby "marker," a graphic that activates the application.

"With augmented reality you can go around the real world and see information and data overlaid on top of anything out there," said Ori Inbar, co-founder of augmented reality firm Ogmento.

Inbar and AR experts from PBS, Qualcomm and Alcatel-Lucent spoke recently on a panel at FutureMedia Fest at Atlanta's Georgia Tech. They all agreed that AR is about to show explosive growth. It's already cropping up all around us.

AR By CNN

CNN debuted an augmented reality effect during its 2010 election night coverage. Instead of routine full-screen graphics, Ali Velshi strolled through a 3-D bar graph of exit poll results that seemed to hang in mid-air. Watch it here:

Anderson Cooper used a huge virtual Capitol to set the stage for the results. John King used a touch-wall election matrix to scroll through 100 races, showing the depth of the Republican incursion into Democratic incumbent territory.

"What we did [on election] night was actually incredibly complicated," CNN senior vice president and Washington bureau chief David Bohrman said the day after the elections.

While the effect looked seamless, Bohrman said it required a huge network of infrared lights, computers and of course, people. "What's important is that we're able to clearly explain what's happening," he said. "The election matrix was absolutely illuminating on the changes in Congress. It was one of the most revealing and informative graphic devices I think I've ever seen used anywhere."

The correspondents were indeed manipulating the graphics themselves, he says. Velshi, for example, controlled the graphics from an iPad app. "It made it much better," Bohrman said. "It's better to have the person who's telling the story trigger those things than have someone off-camera."

Bohrman, who also dreamed up the 2007 CNN/YouTube presidential debate and the virtual Capitol and hologram effect in 2008, is already planning for 2012.

Other News Media Applications

Ogmento's Inbar sees additional potential uses for AR by news organizations. "You see a big crowd and you don't know what's happening there -- you point your device and all of a sudden you get 'the president is visiting' or 'there's been an accident,'" he said. "It's kind of like Twitter but with a visual aspect to it."

Aside from CNN, another TV operation in Atlanta has already adopted AR. WXIA-TV 11 Alive will beam the day's headlines at you if you click on a graphic next to the Twitter and Facebook icons on its website. The station will also use AR at two upcoming public events. The audience at a Social Media Atlanta 2010 discussion about the Democratization of News will be able to receive information and videos about the panelists on their phones. (Disclosure: I am providing public relations services for that conference.) The station will also put a marker in a printed program for a holiday lights display to give visitors traffic updates in order to help them get home.

Magazines dove in last year when actor Robert Downey, Jr. leapt off the cover of Esquire's December "augmented reality issue":

A fashion spread inside the issue also let readers change both the weather and Jeremy Renner's clothes. Floating animation surrounded actress Gillian Jacobs as she told a joke.

AR For Kids and Ads

Aside from the world of news, it also has tremendous potential for education.

"Every new technology is an opportunity for learning," said PBS Kids Interactive vice president Sara DeWitt, who notes that one of AR's most exciting aspects is its ability to connect kids to the real world. "We see some real possibilities for young kids to interact with these 3-D objects in a way that they normally wouldn't."

PBSKids.org recently launched Dinosaur Train Hatching Party, an augmented reality game for 3- to 5-year-olds. An adult prints out a colorful graphic and when a pre-schooler holds it in front of a webcam, a 3-D dinosaur egg appears on-screen. Because eggs need the warmth of the sun to hatch, the toddler turns the paper so light hits it from different directions. A baby dinosaur cracks open the egg and asks the child simple science questions he or she answers by touching the paper.

AR also opens up a whole new world for advertising. This spring Calvin Klein Underwear partnered with GQ to present AR underwear ads. In July, Gannett subsidiary PointRoll and marketing company Oddcast announced they'd bring AR to banner ads. The press release cited a possible use case: "a car manufacturer can create an AR environment that mimics a new car model's interior where users can examine the interior freely, almost as if they were physically sitting inside the car."

More gee-whiz uses, especially in gaming, could be coming soon. On October 4, Qualcomm announced it was giving away its AR Software Development Kit for Android smartphones in order to encourage developers to build new applications. Then, of course, there is the potential for AR to integrate with and impact the world of social media.

"I think social media is inseparable from augmented reality," Inbar said. "You're in the real world and you want to interact with your real friends. In a sense it's going to be an integral part of any AR experience in the future."

There are still barriers to be overcome before AR is commonplace. On the panel, Jay Wright, director of business development at Qualcomm, joked that augmented reality is a battery's worst nightmare due to its power-draining abilities. Much more work is needed to make AR reach its potential on devices. User adoption is another significant challenge.

While it could take years to enter the mainstream, augmented reality is clearly gaining momentum. It's only a matter of time before it enters a classroom -- or a newsroom -- near you.

Terri Thornton, a former investigative reporter and TV news producer, owns Thornton Communications, an award-winning PR and social media firm. She is also a freelance editor for Strategic Finance and Management Accounting Quarterly.

This is a summary. Visit our site for the full post ».

March 25 2010

10:56

February 03 2010

22:57

Augmenting reality through journalism

It should come as no surprise that “augmented reality” – the technology that overlays virtual layers of data upon the real world – could be useful for journalism. If Yelp’s augmented reality application downloaded to your smartphone can generate a digital screen with ratings and reviews of a restaurant even as you enter it,  it’s not hard to envision a time in the future when your handheld could offer real-time news from your surroundings, almost as it unfolds.

Not surprisingly, news organizations are jumping on the bandwagon. In the past couple of months, Esquire magazine in the US and Wallpaper in Europe unveiled fancy “augmented reality” editions. Robert Downey Jr. came to life on the cover of Esquire, and videos and animation augmented text through the pages of Wallpaper. Last summer, Popular Science used a GE-powered augmented-reality feature with 3-dimensional wind turbines on its cover.

While all of this is “cool,” allowing publications to improve reader experience and perhaps, revenue, by providing interactivity and entertainment, none of them specifically utilized the potential of augmented reality to enhance delivery of serious content, as the Guardian’s Mercedes Bunz eloquently pointed out. While these publications have provided a good prelude to how the technology can be utilized, news organizations should segue into actually doing journalism with augmented reality instead of merely offering it as dessert.

Event reporting

One of the obvious uses of the technology would be in the reporting of live events. This has particular relevance in planned or staged events, which can range anywhere from international climate summits to polling booth stats to reporting from live games, and by extension, perhaps, award shows and concerts. Similar to the superimposed first-down line on NFL football fields, which has often been used to describe how augmented reality can overlay virtual information on real objects, stats about the distance of a quarterback’s pass, the speed of a tennis player’s serve, exit poll results on election days, or data released at international summits can be virtually generated so people can view them on their smartphones even as the event transpires.

Mixed media
Another way to utilize the technology more relevantly for journalism is a method employed by the company Moving Brands for its paper, Living Identity. Holding up the print edition of a story in front of a webcam in this case generates a live feed of the latest news and updates about the content in question. Such an integration of various forms of media might indeed be one of the biggest benefits of the technology – allowing users to engage and interact online through special tags and markers in the print product would enable news organizations to not necessarily charge for online content, but offer additional features accessible only through the print version. This might be an avenue to generate profit for an otherwise dying print product.

Localizing content
Augmented reality thrives on hyperlocal content, as seen by applications like Yelp’s Monocle and Mobilizy’s Wikitude, which can offer a user facts on a restaurant or site of interest, based on his location. Such applications utilize a smartphone’s GPS coordinates in conjunction with localized data garnered from the Web in order to provide information. If you can wave a smartphone in front of the Niagara Falls to get stats about the popular destination, why not point it in the general direction of a location of interest and generate a digital screen of the latest news from the region in question? It would be nice to see publications invest in providing local, breaking news through applications downloaded on smartphones, for instance. This would also allow national publications to “localize” themselves. Some radio stations already do this by providing news and traffic updates based on the location of a user’s handheld device.

User-generated content
Another important point to note is that many augmented reality apps are based on social sites, so much of the content for data points is user-generated; Wikitude even allows users to integrate to their Facebook and Twitter accounts, thus making the application socially aware. This concept brings up a whole host of possibilities for news organizations to not only provide more local information to readers, but also to seek user-contributed content. The New York Times, rightly taking a leaf out of the books of these companies, plans to implement augmented reality for its movie and restaurant reviews. While it’s at it, what the Times might also consider is reader input. It would be cool to whip out a mobile phone and see what Sam Sifton has to say about a restaurant, but in keeping with the ways of social media and technology, it would be somewhat wanting if users aren’t allowed to offer their own views and ratings.

Explaining concepts and background
Augmented reality also allows an interactive, engaging way for publications to explain background and concepts for issues they report on. Mainstream media entities like the Times and the BBC, and independent online startups like Flyp media have effectively used multimedia to elaborate on complex principles – from climate issues to African history.  Augmented reality could add a new dimension, quite literally, to this format of content delivery, without a reader having to navigate hyperlinks or popup windows.

In addition, it can enhance charts and graphical representations of information and localize them to make them more pertinent to a reader. Layar, the first-ever augmented reality browser, has developed an application that can help users track bailout money that was given to US banks by the Obama administration, for instance. News organizations would do well to augment their reporting in similar fashion; reading about a big bank miles away from where readers live can be informative, but knowing that a local company received federal money is often more relevant to people.

Apart from content, however, augmented reality’s more important potential might be in the area of revenue generation. Despite being a brainchild of technology, one essential factor in case of both the Esquire and Wallpaper augmented-reality issues is, of course, that readers need to have a print edition of the magazine to be able to experience the features. In addition, the features are interactive and engaging, and regardless of whether they offer exclusive information, they have the potential to keep readers riveted.

Advertising and revenue generation
Much has been said about the success of rich media ads in driving purchase intent; augmented reality can and is providing more effective strategies for advertising. In addition to making advertisements fun and engaging, publications could also use the technology to provide targeted advertising, which would be less rather than more disruptive for the user.  In a simple case, only users interested in purchasing that BMW would hold up the print ad in front of their computer screens to generate a virtual car that shows off all its features, for instance (though who in their right mind wouldn’t want a digitally-generated Z4 to zip in front of their very eyes?). The great potential of this technology for advertising is already being seen, as more and more brands jump on the augmented reality bandwagon. In fact, companies have perhaps implemented it most innovatively and effectively in order to help consumers get a real sense of the values and functions of their products.

With the growing number of paid smart phone apps, news organizations are beginning to understand that the audience is more likely to pay for technology than for content. Augmented reality (and mobile phones) have a long way to go before the technology can become mainstream, but it certainly has the potential to be one of several revenue streams that the media can begin to employ.

What augmented reality can do above and beyond everything else is make information relevant and tangible to a reader or viewer. For years, media puritans have worried about the Internet causing fragmented communities, and taking citizens away from their local communities. Smartphones enabled with augmented reality might be the answer to bridge that divide, as they provide a necessary interface between the real and virtual realms, offering as they do virtual information in a very real world. Geotags and location-aware digital maps not only unleash Web 2.0 information in front of the user, but also keep him or her firmly rooted to the ground he’s standing on.

January 08 2010

09:40

PDA: What journalists can do with augemented reality

Fascinating and inspiring piece on how journalists can use augmented reality -  the application of virtual, computer-generated images or information to a real-world environment – as AR apps become more widely available. From creating living magazines, to its potential for live event coverage and sports reporting.

[O]ne can say that augmented reality will enrich journalism. It can provide new opportunities for distributing stories; it makes news tangible for readers in a very new and exciting way; and last but not least advertising people love it, too.

Hopefully its potential will be picked up by news organisations before other players get there first.

Full post at this link…

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