- USA Today added augmented reality (AR) features to its mobile app that were initially developed for its separate 321 Launch app, showcasing U.S. space exploration and rocket launches from Kennedy Space Center in Florida, according to an announcement.
- USA Today partnered with local news brand Florida Today to release the 321 Launch app in March as part of the news organization's efforts to cover more than 30 rocket launches this year. The experience guides users through a virtual rocket launch from any flat surface, with an animated hologram showing the rocket in real time.
- Now, the AR features are available in the latest version of the USA Today app for iOS and will soon be available for Android devices.
Having previously experimented with AR storytelling, USA Today seeks to expand the audience for its work by adding immersive elements to its main news app. AR, the technology that overlays digital images on a real background seen through a smartphone camera, is transforming journalism and mobile publishers as they work to engage audiences with more immersive and media-rich experiences.
Tech giants like Apple and Google have given companies software tools to create AR experiences, such as ARKit and ARCore, respectively, and third-party developers like Adobe are beginning to incorporate the technology into their platforms for creative professionals. The technology has increasingly become a major part of brands' mobile marketing strategies and is expected to grow into a $83 billion market in the next five years.
USA Today is among the news organizations that are experimenting with AR technology. Earlier this year, The New York Times published its first feature story with AR depictions of Olympians suspended in action. While the current news value of AR has been debated, journalism organizations are expected to continue to add fresh technology to their services to help readers better understand and navigate their worlds.
In the past year, USA Today has ramped up efforts to make its app more useful for users, such as adding a personalized news feed and tailored alerts in May. Its "My Topics" feature lets readers create a customized headline feed and an option for automatic push notifications when the publication runs new stories about a user's selected topics.