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Is it the right time for augmented reality?

Robert Hernandez defines augmented reality as “real life enhanced by digital."

Professor Robert Hernandez is navigating the uncharted waters of journalism school to introduce the two-unit course “Augmented Reality & Journalism” at the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism this fall.

“This class is a full-on experiment,” said Hernandez, a veteran of Web journalism who teaches courses in multimedia storytelling and online journalism.

Augmented reality (AR), broadly defined as “real life enhanced by digital,” is an industry that is growing in mainstream popularity due to the widespread use of smartphones and similar technology.

“There are platforms out there that aren’t perfect, but the class is for me to test whether AR technology is ready for folks like us who aren’t coders or developers, but are storytellers.”

Throughout the semester, students will work toward the development of an AR app that will make the Los Angeles Central Library a digitally interactive environment.

“Think of it in terms of a self-guided tour with information, kind of Wikipediaesque, but ideally stories,” he said.

“So I could look at a painting, hold my phone up to it and this painting turns into a video piece of someone explaining what this painting is or the story of the artist. In the lobby of the library, when you look up, the ceiling has got this crazy beautiful mural. Imagine if we can break down that mural and get the artist or a person to tell the story of that mural — who commissioned it and why?”

Ultimately, the direction of the projects will be decided by the students, who will be among the first in the nation to use AR as a tool for journalism.

“AR is used for marketing and really gimmicky kind of stuff, but [industry heads] are really hungry for quality content,” he said.

“I think that’s an opportunity for us as storytellers, distributors of information, to really jump in there.”

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Is it the right time for augmented reality?

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