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Archive for the ‘AR/VR’ Category

Custom Printing: More Info on Print and Virtual Reality

Wednesday, January 17th, 2018

I recently had the opportunity to try on a virtual reality (VR) headset for the first time in a computer store. It was a transformative experience. I totally lost awareness of the actual world around me as I explored a realm that seemed equally real. It was like a dream.

In this context, I was particularly intrigued to find an article on www.adweek.com about the marriage of augmented reality (AR, which is slightly different from virtual reality) and commercial printing. Entitled “Why Print Legacies Like Time Are Betting Big on Augmented Reality” (published online on 1/8/18 and written by Tim Carmody), the article addresses some of the issues and concerns in this expanding link between print and digital communications.

The article begins by noting that for the first time in its 94-year history, the prior issue of Time had been guest-edited (by Bill Gates). I think this is a very big deal, since Gates is clearly one of the most influential names in the history of personal computing. At the same time, this particular issue contained “activations” (links to) four separate augmented reality experiences accessible with a smartphone app created by Time’s Life VR.

Augmented Reality vs. Virtual Reality

To understand the difference in the terms referenced in the article, I did some research on virtual reality and augmented reality. Both are computer generated, usually incorporating a headset with a screen that covers the viewer’s entire field of vision. In my own experience trying this at the computer store, the headset itself also eliminated ambient light to further focus my attention on the screen (some virtual reality experiences use screens in an actual, physical room).

The main difference between augmented reality and virtual reality, as I understand it from my reading, is that virtual reality presents a separate, completely contained world for the viewer to experience while augmented reality adds computer generated text and images to the viewer’s field of vision. It enhances reality rather than creating an artificial world.

I think both have their place, and I think they will both be very big in coming years. Carmody’s article reflects the same sentiment, noting that “…the right set of experiences have emerged…to make it mainstream.”

How This Relates to Commercial Printing

The article reminds us that Time has been around for 94 years. That’s a very long time when you think that our country has only been around for 242 years. And Time is positioning itself to benefit from this growth in augmented reality.

According to Mia Tramz, managing editor of Life VR (as quoted in “Why Print Legacies Like Time Are Betting Big on Augmented Reality”), “In the way that VR was nascent a few years ago, I think AR is right now.” Because of this, Time Inc. plans to roll out augmented reality activations across its line of products and also both augmented reality and virtual reality experiences that will be stand-alone items (not linked to Time Inc. print products). That is, Time sees reader demand both for integrating print publications with AR and VR applications and for creating free-standing AR and VR experiences, which they refer to as “off the page” opportunities.

Why?

  1. Time sees opportunities for readers to both entertain and inform themselves using this growing technology.
  2. Photography has always been a key ingredient in the success of Time throughout its 94-year history.
  3. Time sees benefits to both the printed product and the digital experience by uniting print and AR/VR.
  4. Time sees a wealth of advertising opportunities coming from this union of print and AR/VR.
  5. Time is focusing more on augmented reality than on virtual reality because it does not want to limit viewers to a single, fictional world but rather to enhance the viewer’s experience of the real world.

To these benefits noted in Carmody’s article on www.adweek.com, I would add my own beliefs:

  1. Time wants to stay relevant. And the best way to do this is to gauge reader interest and the current state of AR and VR technology (both of which Time Inc. considers viable), and to give their readers what they want.
  2. A print publication such as Time magazine provides an ideal platform from which to experience the enhanced educational and entertainment opportunities of both VR and AR. On one hand Time magazine is a trusted platform for information and imagery. It is also a base from which to launch VR and AR experiences. Furthermore, the marriage of VR/AR and print offers more benefits than either print or digital alone.

The Challenge for Augmented Reality

The main challenge noted in Carmody’s article is to make the experience easier for viewers. (The article refers to this as its having less “friction.”) After all, a viewer has to have a smartphone (which most people have) and then download software (an app) to make the AR or VR activation work.

At this particular point in the development of AR and VR, notes Carmody, there are more options, such as the software in the Snapchat platform. People are more comfortable using something they are familiar with, and more and more people are familiar with Snapchat. Also, other platforms will presumably offer AR and VR connections in the near future.

In addition, Time Inc. offers its own smartphone app, Life VR (and presumably other publishers also offer or will soon offer similar apps). Granted, once a reader/viewer has downloaded the app from a particular publisher, the publisher must continue providing compelling VR or AR experiences, or the software on the user’s smartphone will just sit idle.

Examples of AR Success in Marketing

To make this more concrete, here are two examples of connections between marketing and VR/AR as noted in “Why Print Legacies Like Time Are Betting Big on Augmented Reality”:

  1. Home Depot provided an augmented reality experience launched from a banner ad in which the smartphone-equipped customer could photograph a Christmas tree and then place it in a photo of his or her own living room.
  2. IKEA provided an augmented reality experience in which the viewer could place furniture in his or her house using a smartphone camera.

(Granted, the first example was launched from an online banner ad, but presumably it could have been launched from a print ad.)

So the takeaway is that a marriage between editorial and marketing or advertising could fuel the growth of AR technology, particularly since consumer interest/demand is present and since AR applications are becoming more “frictionless.”

What You Can Take Away From This Discussion

  1. Follow the advertising dollars. Advertisers see opportunities in the marriage of print publications and your phone using AR technology.
  2. Readers like the experience of VR and AR because they are immersive. They engage multiple senses and provide an emotionally pleasurable experience.
  3. There is a mutual benefit shared by both print editorial and augmented reality that makes AR a compelling proposition. Each enhances the other. In addition, print is a cohesive and trusted force. People have faith in Time magazine. This reinforces the credibility of the attached AR experience.
  4. As print designers and printers, you will still be relevant if you have broad knowledge and technical skill in both commercial printing and augmented reality/virtual reality.

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