The new Innovators issue of the New Yorker comes with augmented reality (AR) to offer readers a unique interactive experience. Designed by the illustrator Christoph Niemann, the cover and pages of the magazine are transformed into an interactive play space.
The AR features are from the mobile technology firm Qualcomm and readers can experience it by downloading Uncovr, a new AR mobile app from ad agency Uncovr Media. In addition to the cover there are also a number of AR ads throughout the magazine.
The Uncovr app was made for The New Yorker by Nexus Interactive Arts, a London-based studio. You can download it at the App Store or take a look at the video below.
Behind the Augmented Reality Cover
The New Yorker cover story quotes Nieman on bringing the print cover to life:
In a drawing, the barrier between the real world and the made-up world is the surface, so at the very beginning I thought of an elevator with its doors closing. But then I realized that the subway is even better, because it really does take you to a different world. The closing doors are a flat surface that separates two worlds, and so are the covers of a magazine—separating before you read it and after you read it, what you know and don’t know, how your views change. So between the front and the back cover, and the experience created by the app, I like that we could show essentially two different angles on the same world. Like stepping through a mirror.
Niemann’s cover is actually a two page cover, with AR drawings on both the front and back of the magazine. It includes the New York City skyline and a black and yellow subway car that moves around the buildings when viewed through the app.
The idea of an augmented or virtual reality is inherent in any drawing—it’s almost the definition of a drawing,” says Niemann, who collaborated with Françoise Mouly, The New Yorker’s art editor, on the project. “If you create a world on paper, you create a window. Usually, you just break the surface with your mind, but you always have the feeling of: What if you could step into that world or if something could come out of it?
Lisa Hughes, publisher of the magazine commented:
This augmented-reality experience—both the covers and the ads—represents innovation, creativity, and next-level storytelling—longtime hallmarks of The New Yorker.
The Past and Future of Augmented Reality Magazines
Esquire Magazine was the first to do an augmented reality cover featuring Robert Downey Jr on November 16, 2009. There’s a somewhat comical article in Fast Company saying that Esquire missed the point in doing AR when they should have been transitioning to an eBook format. But it was an expensive six-figure project that broke new ground in innovative media.
Since then, other magazines have taken the AR route here and there – embedding 3D images and videos. But it’s yet to catch on due to the additional steps viewers need to take to participate in the AR experience. Once we no longer have to download an app, the printed cover will regularly come to life.
Publishing companies like The New York Times are experimenting with interactive media and reaching out to new audiences. And The New Yorker issue is a glimpse into our new media future. One where the printed page is a play space for the viewer. One where the still image is no longer a window but a doorway into an experience.
Maya Georgieva is an EdTech and XR strategist, futurist and speaker with more than 15 years of experience in higher education and global education policy. Her most recent work focuses on innovation, VR/AR and Immersive storytelling, design and digital strategy. Maya actively writes and speaks on the topics of innovation, immersive storytelling and the future of education and consults organizations and startups in this space.