2018 Excellence in Immersive and Emerging Technology Storytelling finalist

Augmented Reality: David Bowie in Three Dimensions

About the Project

The mobile revolution has brought many amazing opportunities to bear on our industry. But one not so positive result is the shrinking of visual journalism to fit a very small screen. Gone are the days of the double-truck wide print spread for many readers.

Augmented Reality has the potential to make visual journalism big again.

In Augmented Reality: David Bowie in Three Dimensions we demonstrate this potential by bringing our readers up close and personal with Bowie’s visual legacy. Instead of presenting Bowie’s groundbreaking fashion as small photos on your mobile device, we can now treat your phone as a window. Through this window we can present these costumes as life-size, three-dimensional models — and let readers walk up to and around them as if they were really there.

We captured these art objects in collaboration with the Brooklyn Museum, which provided early access to parts of the collection of the David Bowie Is exhibit. Thousands of high-resolution photos were taken of each object, which were then processed using state-of-the-art photogrammetry techniques to create highly realistic and accurate representations of each piece.

In some ways it’s a new kind of photojournalism. We can capture any object of significance in its entirety, and then present this to our readers in real-scale, allowing them to interact with it in a more human way, free of abstractions. No need to swipe or pinch to zoom. To see a detail up close simply lean in; to see it from the other side, walk around.

This David Bowie augmented reality feature also demonstrates our particular approach to AR which we believe distinguishes The Times from others exploring this new technology. We have taken a highly integrated approach, where AR acts in support of our articles, rather than as a standalone piece. This allows each AR moment to be surrounded by the necessary context provided by words and photos and frees the AR to serve its best function — presenting these objects in real-scale and high fidelity.

We have also built AR into our core NYT app so that it can be featured within our interactive articles. This lowers the barrier of entry for our readers and gives them the most fluid and complete experience of our journalism as we venture into this new world of immersive storytelling.