Nickelodeon, the Viacom-owned kids programming network that plans a 20% jump in TV episodes this year, is adding augmented reality (AR) features to two mobile apps. The Sky Whale app, a game that averages about 2 million active users a month, will feature a 360-degree immersive experience that challenges users to steer a digital narwhal in a race to collect items and points, per a statement.
The all-new Do Not Touch AR app, which builds out the “Do Not Touch” button found in the Nick app, lets users see randomly generated digital animations and interactive experiences in their real surroundings viewed through a smartphone camera. The app’s mini games feature images from the network, such as SpongeBob SquarePants, The Loud House, green slime, and the Kids’ Choice Awards blimp.
The AR-enhanced Sky Whale app will be available this spring on the App Store and Google Play. The Do Not Touch app is available now for download on the App Store.
As more consumers become familiar with AR, a growing array of brands are embracing it for it's ability to create immersive experiences. Nickelodeon is among the TV networks that are ramping up their content offerings as tech giants like Netflix, Amazon and Apple aggressively expand their video streaming services with loads of exclusive movies and series to differentiate their platforms from traditional media companies. Media giants like Disney and Fox are consolidating their efforts to compete with the new platforms, which is challenging considering that the tech giants don’t need to make a profit from content as they build out their platforms and sign up millions of new subscribers.
For Nickelodeon, the expanded content includes apps and games for kids that have the latest technical features to keep them engaged, which is more difficult when they are being bombarded with a variety of entertainment options, including social media apps like Snapchat and Facebook’s Instagram. AR is gradually becoming a more prominent feature in apps after the worldwide success of Pokemon Go, which was estimated to generate $500 million in 60 days, per researcher App Annie.
Apple and Google last year introduced software tools to help developers add AR features to smartphone apps. The platforms will help total AR/VR spending to nearly double this year to $17.8 billion, including commercial and consumer uses, per IDC. EBay plans to introduce new AR features this year to make buying and selling goods on the website more engaging, while Google’s YouTube is testing a feature to give content creators an AR-generated green screen that will replace the background of videos with computer-generated images. While AR features are becoming more predominant in apps, a breakout hit like Pokemon Go still remains elusive for app developers.