Condé Nast, HTC bring augmented reality to the unlikeliest of places

HTC has partnered with Condé Nast China to release a new technology that will bring augmented reality to publishing, a move that will be sure to catch consumers off guard.

The collaboration will debut in December?s edition of the Condé Nast Traveler?s China Edition which will feature a new technology from HTC called Vivepaper that allows for AR compatibility through a Vive virtual reality system or comparable cardboard VR apparatus such as Google Cardboard. The technology carries the potential to open up the publishing world? and its platform? in terms of accessibility and content, but consumers? willingness for uptake will be determined by a variety of considerations.

?The lines between digital and physical are blurring; we now live in a a mixed-reality world,? said Michael Becker, managing partner at mCordis. ?Augmented Reality will transform nearly every media and experience. 

?Adding AR to reading creates new opportunity for creativity, expression and emotional connection. It will change how we see and view the world.?

Augmented reading
The Vivepaper technology will allow users to interact with print in a way they were never able to before with a suite of leverageable features including 360-degree photos and videos, 3D models and even audio, just through touching corresponding sections of the Vivepaper. It works by using the Vive?s front-facing camera to enable a special type of VR. 

HTC is calling the Vivepaper technology one module of a holistic hybrid AR-VR model it calls Augmented Virtual Reality, where users operating within a virtual reality ecosystem can have tactile interactions with physical objects as a part of the experience. 

Locales featured in the Condé Nast Traveler could be featured in 360-degree video

Vivepaper is not only being marketed towards consumers as an expansion of the reading experience, but also towards marketers, who are sure to be eyeing its potential for creating revenue streams and additional advertising opportunities in the aging print space. In turn, other publishers are soon to follow in the Condé Nast Traveler?s footsteps, including China Daily 21st Century English Newspaper, Caixin VR and the Publishing House of Electronics Industry.

Vive is also planning to roll out the technology outside of the Chinese market, entertaining discussions with several western publications as well.

The Vivepaper applications will be available for download October 31 for HTC Vive PC users and Viveport M Android users, the latter of which is currently in developer beta. An iOS version will follow soon thereafter later this year. 

VR technology has enjoyed steady uptake 

Market penetration
If both marketers and consumers began to brainstorm uses of augmented reality when the technology was beginning to be developed, reading was most likely not on the list of experiences that were thought to need augmentation. Usually passive activities such as television and movie watching or active ones such as video gaming come to mind.

Reading, an experience that toes the line between those two categories, may not be entirely conducive to AR experiences. The activity is more of a background occupation if anything, and consumers may even find time dedicated purely to the pursuit of reading bogged down by an unwieldy AR apparatus, whatever the benefits may be. 

And while marketers have much less to lose by betting on additional revenue streams, the smart move for now may be to qualify investments in augmented reading and let the market dictate the direction of the publishing industry.

?Certainly the economic and delivery models may change, but physical mediums are not going away? that is unless some day we can upload our consciousness to a hard drive,? Mr. Becker said. ?Rogers?s Diffusion of Innovations Theory and The Gartner Technology Hype cycles have helped us understand the natural progression that every technology goes through.? 

?People will adopt these experiences, but it will take time before they become mass market ready.?

Those looking for a safe bet in augmented reading should look to environments such as air travel that inherently lend themselves to immersive experiences. 

The move comes at a time of shift into VR for publishers, even if augmented reading isn?t their focus just yet. Earlier this month, Time, Inc. is teamed up with New Zealand-based 3D virtual reality firm 8i to bring a series of holographic messages designed for future missions to Mars to mobile users (see story). 

And marketers can look to the growth of VR in brand video and advertising if they would like to dip a toe into leveraging the technology. Oregon-based craft brewery Deschutes became one of the first breweries of its kind to leverage virtual reality to communicate its brand message, releasing multiple stereoscopic 360-degree videos that bring the stories behind two of its beers to life on users? smartphones (see story). 

?You have to start somewhere,? Mr. Becker said. ?As the saying goes, the thousand mile journey starts with the first step. 

?This is a first step. VR reading will start out as a niche experience and in seven to ten years, we?ll I?ll wonder how we ever lived without it.?