Monday, January 4, 2010

Esquire Augmented Reality

Print publications are dying. Most of us know it. A lot of us have already rid it from our lives. More of us are taking that process a bit more slowly.

I can't see printed books ever going away, even with the recent technology of Amazon's Kindle and the subsequent competitors.

Newspapers are probably the low man on the totem pole. Many of us get our news online now.

Magazines probably lie somewhere between. Personally, I may be in the minority these days but I enjoy the feel of reading magazines occasionally so I still have a handful of magazine subscriptions, one of which is Esquire.

I'm fascinated and in admiration of an idea that was launched in Esquire's December 2009 issue which links their print publication to people's computers. This idea is what is called "Augmented Reality." With a quick (free) download of software from their website, this "Augmented Reality" uses your web cam to detect markers throughout the print publication to show you additional content. David Granger, editor-in-chief of Esquire explains this concept further in the following video:

There are 5 content icons in the December 2009 issue: the cover with Robert Downey Jr., the Funny joke from a Beautiful Woman segment and the Style segment with Jeremy Renner as David Granger exemplified. There is also an icon for a blurb on jazz musician Robert Glasper, which gives you a listen to one of his new tracks, and there is an icon for a rather creative photographer which gives you a slideshow of some of his work. Also, there is a 6th icon for Lexus, which demonstrates some of the capabilities of one of their new models. This demonstrates that Esquire can make money off of using this technology while advertisers can present a very unique concept to potential customers.

Altogether, it only took me about 20 minutes to go through all of this in my issue but I found it very interesting and think this is just about the best idea that a print magazine could come up with to compete with online content. Augmented reality is not a new concept; it exists in such things as the yellow first down marker in football games. However, Esquire took it to a different level making it fun, engaging, interactive and obviously (or hopefully, for their sakes) encouraging for people to pick up the magazine to see it for themselves.

Not surprisingly, there was no AR in the January issue of Esquire. I wouldn't expect them to use something involving complex algorithms that inevitably take a lot of time to create for every single monthly issue. Yet, I definitely think (and hope) that Esquire will be using this again in the future.

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