How often did it happen as a child to read one of your parents’ newspapers and to not get much out of it? The language was difficult for a child to understand; the subject was presented in a boring way and the images weren’t very attractive either. This is all about to change (according to a Japanese company). A new augmented reality application claims to be able to ‘translate’ newspapers articles into child-friendly versions.
The idea is not necessarily new but augmented reality makes it easier to be put into practice. A child can now wave their smartphone’s camera (with a preinstalled app) over one of the news articles and it comes to life. Animated characters pop up and explain the text, rewriting it in a child-friendly manner and thus making the subject more interesting and interactive.
Using image recognition, the app actually shows a pre-written version of the article, and does not ‘translate’ the text in real time. We are still far away from a full semantic recognition and interpretation of written documents, although small steps are being made in this direction. Until this becomes reality, all articles have to be written twice (in a normal format and in a child-friendly one) which requires more work and raises a number of questions.
If a newspaper already puts all this time and work in creating both an adult and a child-friendly article, why don’t they create a child focused website where they can post everything? It requires less effort from children and it is not dependent on a smartphone (although this might not be a problem in Japan). Has anybody done any research to see if children actually want this? How long will it be until they get bored in waving their smartphone over these newspapers?
Although this app might not be more than a PR stunt, the idea of presenting different versions of the content to younger and older audiences might prove highly beneficial for many newspapers and magazines who are struggling to engage with a younger audience. However, the current AR technology is used as nothing more than a gimmick and until digital semantic interpretation becomes reality, traditional websites with different versions of the same content are still the way forward.