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Esquire's Augmented Reality Issue (December 2009)


In an effort to push publishing forward, Esquire magazine experiments with augmented reality. Last year, it was eInk, this year, AR. Now, I'm just going to guess that the creators used Adobe Air and/or Flash for this? Or do they use Open GL. In any case, the quest to push the digital realm of 3D to our physical spaces is hot right now. Other uses of AR is Yelp's "Monocle" feature of the iPhone app. Esquire's and Yelp's foray into AR is still premature, but nevertheless, it's definitely worth the experience (Esquire: $3.95/Yelp: free). I can really see AR in gaming or educational applications, but as Esquire demonstrates, AR can be used for advertisements as well (see Lexus AR - reappropriating infrared tech). There were some fullscreen issues with this ad (see photo below-looks like non-HD footage on HD screen). Any HD consumer of media would think this was a mistake rather than intentional.

If you are strapped for cash, just check out my screenshots, but the relevant ones are embedded in this blog post.

To begin with, Barbarian and Psyop worked on the tech and design of the AR for Esquire. You download the software onto your computer, and hold up the magazine's semicode to a web cam. I really enjoyed Robert Downey Jr.'s monologue and the fashion bit. I phased out on Jillian (maybe because of her story didn't interest me), except for the last part, which she says, visit her past midnight, and she'll tell you another joke. I am definitely going to try it after midnight to see if her content varies. You can change the direction of semicode to activate different 3D video clips.

The scattered letters for Robert Downey Jr.'s would appeal to any student of typography. The illustrations for the fashion exhibition (not really a slide show, more animation) were definitely really cool. All in all, the AR experience was beautiful and hip.

The slide show exhibiting "jr's" work was probably the most frustrating experience. Partially because jr's photographs are so compelling, but navigating through the media was très difficile. I spent a good 20 minutes flipping directions of semi-code, since the slide show player was too speedy. The photography looked better on my screen than the magazine, but navigating through print pages was definitely more convenient.

Last, was a jazz sample from an artist. An experience you can't get from print. But aside from the great music, it was a pretty flat experience. Maybe AR will help save the cost of print for publishers, but readers will pay with their time. Consider this: Would you want to download a piece of software to access to experience another dimension of your magazine? Would you do this for every magazine you have? Is this AR experience immersive enough to repeat weekly or monthly?

In any case, I was narcissistic enough to get a cool profile photo out of this experience ;)

Full-screen warning by Esquire and app confirmation.

Lexus Ad

Fashion Animation/Exhibition

Slide show of jr's compelling photography.

Music AR experience.


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