Tuesday, May 8, 2012

About the Philadelphia Inquirer's augmented reality app

I missed the debut of the Philadelphia Inquirer's "augmented reality" app over the weekend—you point your mobile device at the newspaper, and the device starts playing a video linked to that particular story in the newspaper—but the Daily News' Janathan Takiff says it's getting an "undeservedly bad rap." But it sure doesn't sound like it. Listen to Takiff's explanation:
The naysayers clearly didn't read the instructions (spelled out in the Inky yesterday but not in the app) about how the Aurasma AR technology works in practice. This ain't rocket science. Once you've installed the free Inquirer AR app on your camera-equipped iPhone or iPad, you look for a photo or advertisement in the paper that has a little gothic "I" symbol in the corner. You then point your Apple device's camera lens at the same image. A few seconds later a companion video starts playing on the Apple screen and speakers. Here comes the HARD part. You have to TAP TWICE on the screen, AFTER the video starts to play, so you can then move your iPhone or iPad away from the page and continue to watch the mini-production. If you DON'T tap twice, the video stops as soon as you move the device's lens away from the coded image. Oh, and to then get the video to stop running, you DOUBLE TAP on the screen again. There's also the option with some of the triggered mini-videos/commercials to then jump to a connected website - like the busy home page of the National Constitution Center. To perform this feat, tap just ONCE on the website bar in the corner of the video. Tap twice and the magic trick doesn't work.
Oh sure, that's easy then.

 I'm dubious about a mobile app whose main purpose is to get you to read the newspaper. But I'm even more dubious of an app that's complicated and doesn't come with in-app instructions of how it should be used. That's unlikely to bring mobile users to the newspaper, but it might bring newspaper readers to their mobile devices. Is that what the Inky was aiming for?

 As it happens, there are three reviews of the app at iTunes. Two of the reviews are one star. The third is five stars—posted by "ScribeJT." I'm guessing that's Takiff himself (a writer with the initials "JT"?)which seems a little cheesy—since this app he's reviewing was created by his employer.

As I've said before, the Inquirer needs to keep experimenting. Experiments are often going to end in failure. And the idea here is kind of cool. But if the audience is giving you a bad rap, Takiff, it's most likely deserved. Telling them they're wrong probably won't fix your problems.

1 comment:

Y said...

Sounds like the paper got taken in by "OoOooo, shiny shiny" and spent gobs of money it didn't have on an app when QR- or barcodes and a 1-sentence explanation could have sufficed.