The Japanese newspaper Tokyo Shimbun has launched a new app which they hope will attract beginning readers into an aging customer base.
The app, AR News, uses augmented reality to promote certain stories published in the print edition of the daily newspaper. Kids can scan selected articles with an iPhone and the app will show them a “kid-friendly” version with animated characters and graphics, pop-up headlines and explanations about the topics being discussed. The online version of the stories are rewritten so they are easier for beginning readers to understand, with the Kanji characters replaced with the simplified Hiragana alphabet.
Here’s a video demo of the app:
It’s an interesting idea, and I have to say that it’s a better option than the dumbing down of articles that can be found in many US newspapers. But as technically interesting as this may be, I don’t see why the old, analog newspaper needs to be included. Why not just post the news stories online, where everyone is already reading them?
What’s more, the blue graphic used to mark some of the compatible stories is IMO visually distracting. If I were reading the newspaper (I can’t recall the last time that happened) and came across one of these graphics on a story, I would tend to skip it rather than work to decode the text under the graphic. If I really wanted to know about the story I would probably look for it online. In either case, the graphic has cost the newspaper a reader.