The PILOT Innovation Challenge sought ideas for unconventional ways broadcasters and local media could serve communities. AR Stories creates a cost-effective AR template for reporting the weather, and won an Innovator Award.

Before last semester at Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication, the majority of experimentation with augmented reality was focused on designing dinosaurs to walk across keyboards.

“Every semester we are experimenting with different things,” Executive Director of the Digital Innovation and Entrepreneurship Lab, Retha Hill said. “Last semester we were experimenting with storytelling with AR, not just snapchat or instagram filter, rather how do you tell a story from beginning middle to end.”

Retha Hill presenting at NAB Futures

The practical application of augmented reality in news pointed to the weather and alerting viewers of the potential repercussions of the storms. Networks like the Weather Channel are already using this technology to demonstrate disasters, but the augmented reality packages being sold to news outlets are expensive and for specific events. Retha’s goal is threefold.

First she wants to take the findings and innovations created in the previous semester and create a cost-effective template for various outlets to use.

“A lot of people are trying to do AR,” Retha said. “What I saw is that there is a whole expensive package being sold to the local broadcaster.”

The goal is to not only create templates for broadcasters to use in a traditional sense, but also create a template for applications to bring weather into the room.

“It is about reaching people who are not necessarily engaged in legacy media,” Retha said. “I wanted to come up with a way to reach younger viewers who are not sitting down for the 6 o’clock news. With the templates applied to applications, the user aims the phone at a plain and all of a sudden you are bringing an AR portal of the weather into their living room.”

With AR Stories templates, the broadcasters can customize scenery and street names to apply to cities across the country.

The third facet of AR Stories is the ability to monetize and bring useful advertisements like AR demonstrations of how to use Lowes products to protect your house from the inclement weather.  

“It is important for broadcaster to know how to use this new accessible technology to tell a full story,” Retha said. “Weather seems to be universal – where no matter who you are, you want to know how this weather will affect me. The question is how do we layer something on top of it that brings the weather alive more than a doppler radar.”