Local News in Augmented Reality

The world’s first newsroom working exclusively in AR. 
AR provides a layer of context and meaning to reality. Its use in news will go a long way in providing citizens with the information they need on a daily basis, fostering trust in serious news media. By developing a prototype for local news in AR, we studied what works, what doesn’t and how to proceed in this new environment.
more about the project findings

Project

Why
Newsrooms have a history of lagging behind when it comes to digital technologies. We are trying to level the playfield by doing early research and grow awareness of the opportunities Augmented Reality presents to news. AR will certainly be part of the future of news, and we want to want to get there fast!
How
We built a young and energetic newsroom to produce content for six months; we got support from Google News initiative to fund the prototype; we partnered with Aromni to build an amazing AR app capable of delivering news; we engaged local authorities and citizen’s representatives.  
Development
We are writing a scientific paper with the research findings from the prototype. That paper will serve as a blueprint for AR in news, freely available for all newsmedia to access and explore. At the same time, we remain committed to share all the learnings, so feel free to reach us and chat!

Findings

This text highlights some of the approaches we took during the creative process. The main report will be available as a research article in the near future. Please keep an eye on this area for updates on the publishing date.
Through context and geolocation, we wanted to test the full potential of augmented reality to deliver news in immersive formats. We believed from the beginning that geolocation and local news are a perfect and natural match.
RAlges brought news and content designed for augmented reality and not the other way around. Our news and content were solely designed and produced for this format and to be consumed using a digital device and its geolocation features. The goal was to have people consuming and interacting with local news and content by walking around with the app, seeing content where it is locally relevant.

Content

The main goal with RAlgés was to test if augmented reality, particularly geolocalised content, would increase people’s interest for local content and news. The overall findings of the prototype show our hypothesis is correct and that na AR model is a viable way to revitalise local journalism and content production, increasing people’s engagement with local affairs. As we were working with a prototype, we needed to lower the barrier to entry. Therefore, the main features for the end user were: 

    • ease of use; 
    • basic tech requirements, suited to most smartphones in the market; 
    • no registration required, just download and launch. 
As to what relates to content, we developed a series of features: 
    • content organised with a simple tagging system; 
    • geolocated information permanently available and updated; 
    • icons available on approaching content.
We mostly created two types of content:
    • News points – divided into breaking news related to the neighbourhood and longer features (profiles, interviews, reportage, analysis, etc).
    • Points of interest – constantly updated information/data on commercial and community services
There were 2 to 3 pieces of content a day, most of them split in several parts (to either ease the content download and/or to properly address the geographical coverage). Considering the mobile usage, we took some steps to proper expand content reach: texts were to be kept short (less than 2000 characters); easily understandable language was paramount; as many multimedia content as possible, including audio, video, images. We took the opportunity to experiment with several different formats, such as timelines, infographics, standard videos, videos 360, binaural audio, etc. Setting up this prototype proved to be also a time-intensive of a lot of learning and internal discussions:
    • Geolocalisation in news can be problematic because of privacy concerns
    • Safety concerns when geolocalising content: Is access to that point safe to the user/Can they walk there? 
    • Should we define our content strategy based on the amount of internet data they might have? 
    • What is the best monetization model? How can we place advertisement in this sort of project? Should we allow local businesses in? 
    • What is the best way to open up the app to people? Where’s the border between journalism and content co-creation?

Users

We ran individual interviews to debrief users.We intended to find out how regular people used the app and how augmented reality might have transformed their relationship with local news or events. The response was overwhelmingly positive. The data is currently being debunked, but these are the main preliminary results: 
    • Users felt more connected to the location and to the issues by consuming information related to the geolocation, they felt they had rediscovered their neighborhood, a newborn connection 
    • Their preferred type of articles were profiles and latest news. They also found “points of interest”, specially the ones regarding basic needs, such as pharmacies, very useful 
    • They enjoyed the straightforward approach to text, with simple and clear language
    • Users appreciated the sort of gamification feel of finding tags on the map and walking towards them 
    • People understood the project was on a prototype phase, nevertheless suggested a couple of things to add in the future: “events” tag, notifications, calculation of route to the tag, a compass, option of adding their own tags, points and information, and of course better UX in regards to text, image and video.

Conclusion

Basically, users want tools that help them relate to the world around them. That can be done with three types of content: “breaking news” about their location (like a street hole disrupting water supply); profiles of relevant people and places on their neighbourhood (like the photographer that has the little corner shop since the 1960’s); permanently updated useful information to help them navigate their day (public transportation timetables, events for kids on the weekend, etc.).
The data collected from the user’s interviews and the experience in producing the content validates the reason behind the prototype. There is a clear desire for a new kind of local newsmedia focus on the users daily needs and interactions. One that provides quality and reliable information about their region, as well as relevant data on the neighbourhood.  
As Augmented Reality entails all these services, it is arguably the best platform to host these newsmedia that serve the user. Considering future updates on hardware, one can reasonably expect AR glasses to quickly transform the way users interact with their surroundings at any given moment. If newsmedia are not there to provide for this, others will step into that playing field and profit from the need. 
 

@ralges2020

Team

Diogo Q Andrade
Diogo Q Andrade

Founder & Editor in Chief

Catarina Gomes
Catarina Gomes

Managing Editor

Miguel Rodrigues
Miguel Rodrigues

Journalist

Ana Sofia Paiva
Ana Sofia Paiva

Audio Editor

Miguel Laia
Miguel Laia

Journalist

Ruben Fajardo
Ruben Fajardo

Video Editor

Tiago Zorro
Tiago Zorro

Art Director

Filipa Andrade
Filipa Andrade

Producer

Partners

  • apple
  • google
  • linkedin
  • medium
 Copyright © RAlges 2020. All rights reserved.
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