Verizon Media and Gannett teamed up on an interactive interview with Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang. Using the USA Today or Yahoo News apps, readers can hear Yang talk about various issues while gazing at a 3-D version of the candidate, whose image is overlaid on top of the reader’s own surroundings. Supplemental graphs and quotes accompany the 3-D image of Yang. A video version of the same piece of content can be found on the Yahoo News app. It marked the first time both companies partnered on a piece of AR editorial content.
For Verizon Media, in particular, whose parent company Verizon is making considerable investments in 5G technology for data processing, the push for more AR content that can be powered by 5G, whether in journalism and advertisements, is a primary objective.
“5G will change media creation and consumption,” said Alex Wallace, general manager of news, entertainment and studios at Verizon Media. “Because AR is on everything, it’s so mainstream and commonplace now. People use AR in their daily lives. Immersive and interactive storytelling is going to be the norm across all content types, or at least a significant part of it.”
Why Andrew Yang? Well, he was the first to agree to do it, which makes sense. USA Today and Yahoo invited all candidates who attended this year’s Iowa State Fair to participate.
Verizon built a RYOT 5G Studio in Los Angeles where its in-house brands, HuffPost, Yahoo and TechCrunch, could work on developing new 5G-powered story formats and the studio is partnering with other publishers like USA Today, Reuters and the Associated Press to use the technology.
Unlike VR, which requires additional equipment to view, ranging from relatively inexpensive viewers to costly headsets, AR only requires a mobile phone for audiences to access.
“I want this to be low-touch, next generation storytelling,” Wallace said. “It doesn’t take special equipment. We are building out these AR formats we can share with our partners and we want to democratize the next generation of storytelling. We don’t want people to have to hire 50 people to have an AR team.”
And for publishers like USA Today, which had previously invested heavily in VR, the transition from AR to VR has been encouraging and not nearly as expensive as you might think, said Ray Soto, USA Today’s director of emerging technology,
“We’re very fortunate that the cost is very, very reasonable,” he said. The time invested in different pieces, he said, varies, but depends on each type of story. Whereas some stories can be produced within the span of eight hours, others might take months. “It’s in a publisher’s interest to get into this now because there are way more resources available to them now.”
Verizon, for its part, isn’t limiting its AR experiments to its media brands. After showcasing AR in Yahoo Mail, it’s also made investments in AR with new immersive ad formats; most recently, it partnered with retailer Macy’s on new AR ads.
Last month, Verizon also announced a partnership with Snapchat in which Snapchat, a leader in AR technologies, will develop AR formats like Landmarkers and Portals for Verizon, showcasing its 5G technology.