Virtual and Augmented Reality in Publishing

So who among us actually knows the difference between Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality? More and more frequently am I seeing both of these terms being batted around, so I decided to just sit and do a little research on each, try and get my head around it a little and also see how these new technologies could potentially affect the future of Publishing, Advertising and Media in general.

To clear things up then, Virtual Reality immerses the user in a computer-generated space, by stimulating sight and hearing (using those strange douchey black boxy goggle things) and overall creating another reality firsthand to the user. Augmented Reality on the other hand is overlays of computer-generated images onto existing reality through the lens of a smart phone or tablet, i.e. the beloved Snapchat filters, or Pokémon Go!

VR is therefore a much more immersive experience and is currently used for gaming on the most part. I’m not much of a gamer myself (unless you count a Sims 2 obsession when I was 13) so I haven’t been massively interested in this tech. However a recent post by Keith Martin on the ‘Magazines at LCC’ Facebook page discusses new words from Mark Zuckerburg on the use of VR as another platform for Facebook, with potential to visit places with friends and experience activities in a virtual reality together. Super interesting, definitely, but something about this really scares me, could it become yet another way for us to disconnect completely from real life? On the other hand this kind of tech could work wonders for the Film and TV industry, in a world where the captivation of your audience is key, what medium could be more immersive than VR?

However, I find myself more willing to embrace Augmented Reality; it seems to give the user more control and customization over the content they’re interacting with, perhaps giving them another dimension to their own reality rather than stepping into an entirely new one. AR is more exciting to me from a Publishing Perspective too, because I can see it being part of the next chapter of digital media. The idea of combining the desirable, traditional qualities of print media with interactive and engaging technology is something quite exciting. An early example here is ELLE Magazine (again, thank you Magazines at LCC page for supplying me with endless interest), who is beginning to experiment with technology of this kind, by allowing the reader to access exclusive content by scanning the front cover with a smart phone (which goes on to reveal a moving, talking image of the cover star): http://wwd.com/business-news/media/elle-augmented-reality-women-hollywood-issue-huffpost-ryot-10658096/

Although they’re only really touching on the possibilities of using this tech along side print media, I think it’s a really cool way to enhance the experience of the beloved printed mag with digital tech. Perhaps the digital revolution wasn’t as black and white as we once thought it would be!

(The New Yorker did something really similar recently too – see super cool mesmerizing video: http://video.newyorker.com/watch/introducing-christoph-niemann-augmented-reality-covers )

Molly Adam