W magazine has turned to augmented reality for its latest issue, introducing an interactive virtual experience accessible from its physical pages.
Produced with creative technology and VFX studio, The Mill, the special collector’s issue for September 2017, starts with a “talking” cover, starring Katy Perry, who was shot and directed by Steven Klein. The singer delivers a video and audio message to readers, before inviting them to interact with different parts of her face to unlock new pieces of content.
Those films were developed by creating 3D scans of Perry on set, then matching Klein’s aesthetic through the resulting computer-generated renderings. The aim, according to the press release, was to design a seamless experience between the screen and the printed page.
“We perceive magazines as flat planes of expression. Photographic and print materials as static, firmly held in place by the laws of time and space. But now, through new technology, we have broken those laws and can render a picture as a living entity,” said Klein. “Like Alice looking through the looking glass, you are invited, through the use of an app, to step into the wonderland we have created with the technical assistance of The Mill.”
While this is by no means the first time AR has been used to bring a magazine to life (fellow Condé Nast title Tatler did it back in 2012, for instance), The Mill’s chief creative officer, Angus Kneale, believes this world is only just starting to get interesting.
Writing for W, he notes: “We are all currently riding the wave of immense mobile-computing ability and cloud connectivity. No one predicted the smartphone revolution; in 10 short years, the iPhone has transformed not just the way we communicate but how we live. Never before has such power—and information—been in the palm of your hand. That piece of glass in your pocket, crammed with the latest technology, has assumed a lofty place in our hierarchy of precious things.”
In the future, however, the level of interactivity we are able to have with digital storytelling is going to be better yet as we evolve into a mixed reality state – where virtual content is seen before us and in the room around us, rather than just through the confinements of our phone screens. “The blend of physical and digital realities promises to open up creative possibilities like never before: Imagine flipping through a fashion magazine and seeing the model come to life, stepping off the page and into your living room. You can see her clothes from all angles and the weight of the fabric as she moves. In the mixed-reality future, a magazine won’t be confined to the pages in your hand,” Kneale explains.
For now, downloading the magazine’s Beyond the Page app, available for iOS and Android, and also created by The Mill, will have to do. A further four features inside the magazine also have virtual content attached to them, including a collaboration with artist Alex Israel, accompanied by a futuristic piece of fiction, and a defiant take on fall fashion by photographers Mert Alas and Marcus Piggott.
Adds W editor-in-chief, Stefano Tonchi: “This augmented reality experience embodies everything that W stands for – it’s bold, provocative, and offers a truly immersive escape, across print and digital platforms.”