Sit Down, Because The Tennessean Is About to BLOW. YOUR. MIND. MAN.



Once everybody at 1100 Broadway got iPhones, something like this was bound to happen.

Here at Pith Central Command, things come in over the transom all the time (just like they did for Alan Simpson, though, curiously, none of them say, "Watch out for that Meg Downey!"). Some of it, like the memo below, shows us the way to the future. It's an exciting world, one where Google layers information upon the world around us. It could work like this, but over at 1100, they've seen the future and apparently it will let us just look at Charlie Tygard and see his voting record. We can see the Minority Report sequel now.

How will they make money? DEAL CHICKEN! AND MUPPETS!

For more on how they're gonna give it to you local, read the internal Tennessean memo below:

(As always, we believe in the veracity of the email — many Bothans died to bring us this information — but it's possible that someone hit the eggnog hard and cranked out something to punk us. If so, we say, "Well played, Knight Stivender. Well played.")

To all:

We have a wonderful opportunity to help lead the way in the Gannett Company on the use of Augmented Reality — the layering of digital data on the real world. So I need your good minds in our meeting Wednesday to help brainstorm our first project — one of several I hope we do this next year. I know that some of you may be familiar with this application and some may not, so here’s some information to get you thinking.

This technology allows digital content to be placed over images you see in the real world on a smartphone camera. It basically lets you annotate your environment. Importantly, it can directly link print to digital and connect everything to social media.

A Partnership — We’ll need to form a partnership to get the tools we need to do this. Layar, a leader in Augmented Reality based in the Netherlands, is at the head of my list, and I’ll be contacting its New York office. Layar has done deals with Google and Disney (helping people find and navigate attractions at its amusement parks) and a French real estate company (allowing people searching for a home to hold up their phone and see the value of the house). Here’s an early AR video that walks you through the concept. Since then:

n Print to digital: Layar has developed a way to directly connect print to digital without QR codes or special software. For publishers, the application, called Creator, is simple to set up. The result: A reader can hold a smartphone over a print page and go directly to a video, slideshow, advertisement or other related content. Earlier this year it launched this application with TNT Post, the national postal service of the Netherlands, which has a quarterly magazine that goes to every Dutch household. On Nov. 13 Layar announced a deal with Dwell magazine that allows readers to scan the image of a product on a page and go directly to a website where they can buy the item with one click. Here’s an updated Layar video on its approach to AR in general.

Adapting content to technology — Ultimately, we’ll need to consider how we integrate our content with other companies already doing experiments.

n Google has put on sale a small number of augmented reality glasses that overlays data on what people see. They can take video, photos and chat. They can create streaming video in real time from the person experiencing it. Imagine how this will affect sports coverage or music performances where the audience can see something from the performer’s perspective. How do we get involved now and integrate this into our coverage?

n Intel has provided $14 million to Layar to help it develop a new generation of computer chips.

Content approaches

The tourism potential — entertainment venues, walking and history tours — is obvious, but I also think AR can provide opportunities for strong public service journalism.

n Think about walking into a public meeting and being able to see who is on the board, their bio, how they voted the last time, the agenda, what issues will be discussed, an explanation of the issues, the ability to interact with others in the room.

n Or demonstrating the impact on the environment by showing what could happen if shorelines disappear because of erosion or how the landscape could change if a major industrial project is built.

n Or moving to a new place and being able to determine where to live by seeing the neighborhood around you — the state ranking on the local school with their test results, the rating on the day care center nearby, the property values in the neighborhood you’re considering, the kid-friendly restaurants nearby, the distance of the commute downtown and the public transit available.

n Or giving people behind-the-scenes experiences at either live events or to take their own tour of major issues.

Two projects we’d like to do in Nashville:

An insider’s guide to Nashville past & present — Tourism information/neighborhood guides. Chart the significant places to see and show what makes them special. Highlight historic moments (the location of the club where Etta James first played). Use our experts on staff to create these music, food, historic trails. Connect to basic information (open/close times, directions, menus, type of food, who’s playing there, maps, ala Yelp) but add video, chef Q&As, music bios, social media advice, advice from celebrities, if you like this/you’ll like that components. This is the project we will focus on Wednesday.

n Think about how we can take advantage of the opening of the new Music City Center to create experiences for people along Demonbreun, in Lower Broadway and through the Gulch.

n Others are already doing this. Jodi Gersh, director of social media at Gannett, and I spoke with viaPlace about 18 months ago about what they can offer in terms of an AR tourism app. That company does a lot with colleges around the country and venues such as zoos.

Public Service journalism — The State of the Cumberland: An examination of the impact the Cumberland River has on Middle Tennessee — a vital resource for commerce, recreation and the environment. The river has been harnessed by the Tennessee Valley Authority as a source of power, and the Army Corps of Engineers manages it locks. We’ll examine the health of the river and who has the power to decide its future. We’ll use AR to connect its past and present, show how the different industries affect it and bring to life the rich habitat and archeological history that it encompasses.

Of course, there are many more ideas. I’d love to see us partner with the Nashville Zoo on creating an AR experience for zoo visitors, including games for kids, to help them learn more about the animals and appreciate their significance in our world. Zoo-AR, developed by Geomedia, is doing that, though I think we have the design ability to do it better. Botanical Gardens and historical sites are other opportunities.

Revenue potential is an essential component

How can Gannett make the most of this technology? We won’t get at this directly, but others in Gannett, including our ad reps, will focus on this, and you should know what is out there.

n Coupons or deals that become available when a consumer points a smartphone at a store or club.

n Direct from print to online shopping site, ala Dwell.

n Letting people visualize how a purchase fits into their home. Working with Vuforia, another AR company, Lowe’s Canada has created an app that helps consumers visualize appliances in their own homes using a printed Lowe’s flyer.

n Providing experiences: Johnson & Johnson’s “Band-Aid Magic Vision” app brings Band-Aids to life with Muppets — basically an entertaining distraction from pain for children. What can we offer dental or doctor’s offices from our array of content, games, quizzes?

n Marketing tools: SONY Music Nashville, using Aurasma, another AR platform, created a promotional campaign for Carrie Underwood’s album, Blown Away, where fans get an exclusive video when they aim their smartphone at the cover image. It includes a gateway to the album in iTunes.

This is just a start. I look forward to your ideas.

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