In this edition of Mobile Monday, we are taking a look at how the New York Times’ latest project may mean for the storytelling trends of traditional publishers on mobile.
Late last week, the New York Times announced its foray into the next generation of mobile storytelling at CES. Moving beyond the confines of a traditional scrolling feed, their new app delves into augmented reality to provide a richer, more immersive in-app experience.
So what’s the app? Currently dubbed “T Brand Studio AR,” the app is described by AdWeek’s Marty Swant as “a Pokémon Go-style hunt about STEM“.
Unlike Pokémon Go, this app doesn’t offer experiences at every turn. Instead, to access the content, users must go to one of 150 geo-fenced locations around the United States. The locations are all rich with science history, and the experiences are designed to tell the stories of three women mathematicians featured in the upcoming 20th Century Fox film Hidden Figures.
As noted in the app store listing, these brilliant women had “used pencils, slide rules and adding machines to make critical calculations that helped NASA launch the U.S. into space”.
When users are in one of these locations, they are able to unlock the “Outthink Hidden” experience within the app by scanning a QR code at the location. The locations, as well as the biographies of the scientists featured, are all available within the app to provide context while guiding the users through their hunts.
Alas, the hunt isn’t permanent. As the app currently requires a physical marker to start the experience, so the experience is limited in longevity. According to head content manager Jacelyn Swensen, the codes and invisible statues they unlock will disappear at the end of March.
However, this 12 week stint may still be enough to make ripples in mobile publishing. The use of augmented reality to serve both an educational and promotional purpose makes one very important thing clear: experiential storytelling isn’t just for games. It’s for any content publisher looking to create lasting impressions on users’ most personal devices.
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