Credit: Image by Journalism.co.uk

The latest augmented reality (AR) experience from The Washington Post allows users to compare the top speed of nine Winter Olympic events.

Designed to better engage audiences in the different sports through new technology, the game enables people to watch races between athletes on a 3D track projected into their location. 

Kat Downs, director of product, The Washington Post, explained that viewers can choose to watch one of three pre-selected matches, which can see a skier challenge a bobsledder, for instance, or a luger take on a hockey player. 

They then watch the race, in augmented reality, to see if they guessed the winner correctly, before going on to create their own races to watch.

“We are really excited about AR technology, and we thought the Olympics would be a good opportunity to try something fun and a little different,” she told Journalism.co.uk.

“This is an emerging technology and we haven’t quite figured out how to tell stories within it, so we were looking for a way to draw people in through the experience. We used the quiz, where users pick who they think will be fastest, as a hook to get people invested and become familiar with the technology.

Screenshots from the publisher's new AR game

“I don’t think the people who are reading news are that familiar with augmented reality – it is new, so it is part of our job to make it accessible for everybody. I think the option of having an extra dimension within your own space changes your relationship with that object and the story."

The experience, which is designed to work best on Apple devices because of Apple’s new ARKit technology, is part of the publisher’s Olympic coverage plans, which also include a daily newsletter with game recaps and previews to what’s coming up each night. 

The data used within the AR experience was collected by Post reporters from recent championship results and other sport-specific reports. 

The publisher has experimented with augmented reality before. In 2016, the Post produced its first AR experience by reconstructing the events that led to the arrest and death of Freddie Gray in Baltimore in 2015, and last year, it used the technology to produce a series that took viewers inside some of the world's most prestigious buildings.

“Any of our augmented reality projects can be embedded in our articles on our classic iOS app, so that it is really convenient for audiences to access this technology,” she said. 

“AR is really exciting, fun and different within news, and it is really right for exploration and experimenting."

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