Lesson 07: Augmented Reality (AR)

In this module students will explore augmented reality and its use in journalism storytelling. Augmented reality let’s viewers explore immersive and 3D content that is dynamically overlaid on top of the immediate environment. Broadly speaking, VR transports viewers into an environment and AR brings an immersive experience into the viewers own space. 

In our teaching experience, AR needs to be seen demoed first-hand before it is fully understood by students. We would recommend starting a session about AR with a live demo. The demo can be accomplished by mirroring an AR app from a smartphone to a projector using an adapter cable or a wireless device like Apple TV. Students should try AR on their own smartphones if they have them. Google Lens search results work across a wide range of phones. Students can open up Google search in their mobile web browsers and look for animals like “penguins.” The search results should include an option to see a 3D model of a penguin. 

Smartphones are the most common and widely accessible platform for AR. AR experiences use the smartphone camera feed and other phone features like the gyroscope to overlay and track object placement. AR glasses like the Magic Leap, Hololens and Google Glass are available as developer kits and for industrial applications but are not yet widely available or affordable for consumers. 

AR objects can overlay and track objects based on three common types of references: surfaces; markers/QR codes/trackable objects; and faces.

On a smartphone, AR experiences can be distributed through web browsers; over social platforms like Facebook, Instagram or Snap; or as part of apps.

The AR creation workflow starts with planning the experience/interaction and collecting assets. 3D assets can be hosted on platforms like Sketchfab and Google Poly. The choice of editing tool for creating an AR experience will differ depending on the intended distribution platform.

Learning Outcomes
    • Understand what augmented reality is and how it’s been used in storytelling

    • Identify methods to work in 3D and create AR stories

    • Generate augmented reality object

Lesson Outline

Watch and discuss AR experiences (NYT, Quartz, USA Today, Yahoo, Google Lens AR)

LIVE VIEW  (https://support.google.com/maps/thread/11554255?hl=en) > NYTimes: viewed on phone or iPad  

Statue of Liberty

Ashley Graham Unfiltered

Air Pollution

Jovrnalism “Homeless Realities” USC Robert Hernandez

Key concepts: Marker based ar, surface tracking AR, occlusion

Smartphone AR: AR Core, AR Kit. Unity AR Foundation. Apple USDZ (https://developer.apple.com/augmented-reality/quick-look/) safari on iPhone 

The future: AR glasses (hololens, magic leap, Bose AR)

Hosting and finding 3D objects: Sketchfab, Google Poly

Working in 3D space (XYZ, position, scale, rotate). 

Assets for AR. 3D, 2D, audio.

Tools to get started with:


Spark AR Studio (Facebook/Instagram)

Snap Lens Studio (Snapchat) (Robert Hernandez/USC student’s  project)

3d animals in google search

In-class Exercise/Activity for Small Groups

Prototype a simple AR experience. 

Using TorchAr (https://www.torch.app/) and an asset from SketchFab (https://sketchfab.com/) ..free but create an account first. Search for free, downloadable, creative commons models), try to place that asset in your space.

Using Torch for the first time

A 3D Primer for Designers and Design Students – Torch AR User Guide

Working with Assets – Torch AR User Guide

Discussion Prompts

What makes an AR experience feel real? 

What types of stories could you tell with AR?


https://sketchfab.com/ Store, annotate and search 3D objects in an online library

End of lesson feedback

3-2-1 (3 takeaways, 2 questions, 1 thing they enjoyed)