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Brief Published: 21 Sep 2018

USA Today’s Augmented Reality Model is a Huge Pile of Trash

On September 24, newspaper USA Today will release an interactive augmented reality (AR) model to expose how local government, the mob and the FBI all worked together to continue dumping refuse on a Chicago neighbourhood.

A companion piece to The City – an investigative storytelling podcast – the experience illustrates the corruption surrounding an illegal dump spanning several city blocks in the US metropolis. While listening to the story through the USA Today app, a 3D tabletop AR model of the North Lawndale neighbourhood shows how the dump grew over time, while detailed animations reflect residents' experiences of unfolding events.

Currently, AR experiences need powerful mobile devices, commonly take up large amounts of hard-drive space, and require users to install individual content providers' apps. However, as the number of AR-capable mobile devices is expected to grow to 3.5 billion by 2022 (Digi-Capital, 2018), creators from across the media sector are working to make big experiences more readily available on small machines.

The gaming industry is executing a big push in this direction. On September 13, Nintendo announced that gamers in Japan would be able to play the latest title in the blockbuster game series Assassin's Creed on their Switch consoles. This is extraordinary, as the console itself isn't powerful enough to run the game. Instead, Nintendo will make the entire game available as an interactive stream via the cloud – a groundbreaking direction for universal access to high-end gaming.

Microsoft and Sony, the other two gaming hardware giants, are similarly focused on developing cloud-based gaming. These efforts to make elaborate, interactive storytelling available on any connected screen, will have a knock-on effect for the entire digital entertainment and communications industry.

For more on the latest developments in interactive experiences, check out our coverage of Gamescom 2018.