Harry Potter and the magic of Augmented Reality

Two big AR stories are making the news this week, both with consequences for the publishing industry.
Apple is working on an augmented reality head-set that will likely launch in 2020 and replace the iPhone as top product, according to Bloomberg. Tim Cooke believes AR will be the next big thing.

That’s AR as in augmented reality, not to be confused with its sister technology virtual reality.

What’s the difference?

As explained by Bloomberg,

While virtual reality immerses the user in a digital world, augmented reality overlays images and data on the real one. The applications for AR are endless, from a basketball fan getting stats while watching a game to a mechanic streaming instructions on how to fix a specific piece of equipment.

From there it’s easy to see the potential applications for publishers in, for example, the field of text-books, but there are also exciting prospective applications for fiction.

As said in The New Publishing Standard recently, referencing Condé Nast’s AR-enabled September issue of W Magazine,

AR is still very much at the novelty stage right now, but with some of the biggest names engaging (Jeff Bezos’s Washington Post, for example) this is an area that will grow and grow for savvy publishers looking to add value to their content.

Well, content doesn’t get much more valuable then Harry Potter, and when it comes to AR, Niantic showed with its smartphone operated augmented reality game Pokemon Go that it is in a class of its own.

So few will have been surprised when Niantic announced the “next step in the evolution of AR mobile entertainment.”

Image: Niantic

Say hello to Wizards Unite, where players will

learn spells, explore their real world neighborhoods and cities to discover & fight legendary beasts and team up with others to take down powerful enemies.

It’s a partnership between Niantic, Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment, WB Games San Francisco’s development team and of course JK Rowling.

While Wizards Unite will be an AR game, releasing in 2018, it’s a safe bet Harry Potter AR books will soon follow.

Augmented reality books – real print books, that is, accompanied by an app on a mobile phone – may seem gimmicky right now, but as The Bookseller reported back in August, remarking on just this point, the UK’s Carlton Books has sold over three million AR books over the past seven years.

Yes, seven years. AR books are a lot older than most people realise.

And a lot more advanced, as per this video from Carlton.

But for something truly ground-breaking we’ll probably need to wait for J.K. Rowling to agree to a genuine AR book version of one of the Harry Potter titles.

That will open the floodgates for further AR book development and open up massive new income streams for capable publishers.

The Global New Renaissance has only just begun.

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