Our second annual Rethink issue is all about innovation—how people, ideas and technologies are changing the world as we know it. Sometimes innovation is about taking a fresh look at an existing idea or industry. Assistant editor Kate Lunau reports on the group of billionaires who are racing to create a new era of private space travel that could, in the near future, allow anyone to buy a ticket into space. Other times, innovation turns long-held notions upside down—in an exclusive Canadian interview, Steve Jobs biographer Walter Isaacson talks to national correspondent Jonathon Gatehouse about what really motivated the genius inventor.
Innovation also applies to journalism. And so, in the spirit of rethinking the ordinary, this issue offers a new way to enjoy the magazine. It uses a technology called “augmented reality.” When certain pages of this magazine are viewed through the camera on your computer webcam or smartphone, they will literally come to life, with audio, video and 3-D content. Augmented reality is a relatively new technology. Maclean’s partnered with the Halifax-based firm Ad-Dispatch to develop the experience. It isn’t as complicated as space travel, but it takes magazines to another level— beyond the printed word. More importantly, it’s an innovation that’s a lot of fun to use.
So how exactly does it work? The best way to understand what augmented reality is all about is to try it.
You can start with this week’s cover story about Sidney Crosby. Associate editor Cathy Gulli goes behind the scenes for an exclusive look at the unique concussion treatment being done by the chiropractic neurologist working with Crosby. On page 63, you’ll see a photo of Crosby and the Maclean’s AR logo, directing you to the website macleans.ca/AR. Opening this website on your computer will automatically launch your computer’s webcam. (Your computer will ask you to click “allow” to activate the webcam or may instruct you to download the latest version of Flash, which takes a few minutes.)
Hold up the magazine so you can see yourself and the entire photo of Crosby on your computer screen. After a brief pause— in which you may see a spinning maple leaf logo, indicating the program is loading— the camera will recognize the photo and launch the AR experience. Once launched, you can tilt, rotate the page and move it farther from or closer to the camera to get different views of the images that appear. This AR segment can also be viewed on a smartphone loaded with the Maclean’s AR app (more on that in a moment), but has been optimized for your computer.
Another Maclean’s AR logo can be found on page 39. In this story, senior writer Nicholas Köhler looks at the ongoing efforts in Newfoundland to try to prevent the hundreds of accidents that take place each year between cars and moose. This AR experience works best on your smartphone (but can also be played on your computer). Just download the Maclean’s AR app from the iTunes app store or Android store (go to macleans.ca/arapp to connect to the stores). Launch the app, and point your phone’s camera at the photo of the moose to make him come alive, and to see a reproduction of a new warning system being considered for the province’s highways. (Note that if you’re using a tablet computer, it must be equipped with a camera, like the iPad2.)
In this experience, you can rotate the page for a 360 degree view of the images that appear. There’s a special treat for smartphone users, too—the reproduction is a game where you attempt to stop a car before it veers off the road to avoid the moose.
For the AR experience to work properly, the camera needs to see the entire magazine page (containing the AR logo) at all times. If the experience stops, that means you’ve let the page sag below or lifted it above where the camera can see it, or you’ve tilted it too much. Reposition the photo in front of the camera and it will pick up where it left off. When the AR experience is running you can also hit the space bar on your computer keyboard to lock the 3-D animation on your screen. This allows you to put the photo down while still continuing to view the AR content. Press the space bar a second time to unlock the animation.
In this issue you’ll also find QR codes (the black and white symbols that resemble square product codes) which you can scan with your smartphone to watch additional Macleans. TV features. If you haven’t already, you’ll need to download a QR code reader from an app store.
You’ll also find more help and instructional material at macleans.ca/AR, including a video showing you how AR works.
This is not the kind of technology that you will see every day, nor will it be a standard feature in the near future. But innovation is about trying new things, and pushing the limits. It’s the only way to keep moving forward.