Augmented Reality apps have come of age in the last 2-3 years, some have taken the concept to greater heights while some have had no link to the reality whatsoever. The newspaper daily DNA, on similar lines has launched a new Augmented reality concept based application ‘DNA It’. The application is said to be built by Prisma Global works with Android 2.2 version and higher. I thought of giving the application a try on my Nexus one fine day but ‘DNA It’ leaves more to be desired.
How does AR work in the app?
The application’s main focus is a camera based functionality which is common with the ‘Augmented reality’ concept. The application tells you to scan content on the newspaper with a tag of ‘DNA it’ and it will show you relevant multimedia content attached to the news. However, trying the scan is a pain most of the times, I gave it a go and had a success rate of 10% (1 out of 10 tries) when it actually showed me something. The below screengrab shows one of the many failed attempts of the app.
You are supposed to hold the camera super steady and in a region where there is supposedly more light for the app to recognize the tag. The reviews I read on the Google Play Store justify my claims with most of the reviews complaining about the frustrating experience from the application. The below screengrab shows one of the attempts when the app worked.
The application also promises about activating 3D-objects or animations over some of the images scanned through the application. You are supposed to hold the mobile over the image for a longer time to do so.
Design wise, ‘DNA It’ is average and doesn’t induce a wow-factor as far as I am concerned. The application houses a menu on the bottom side with ‘Tutorials’ for a new user explaining the functionality of the application along with a ‘FAQ’ section explaining some common questions. You can turn the ‘AR’ on or off in your ‘Settings’ panel along with an option for an internal browser (which is ‘off’ by default for some reasons I don’t understand).
The 2 Finger Snap functionality lets you outline a picture with 2 fingers and let go. I did try my hands at it, and it will be difficult for users to get accustomed to it in the beginning. The ‘Utilities’ features gives you additional features like a ‘Currency Converter’ (which I’m clueless about what purpose it will serve with an augmented reality concept) along with ‘Stocks’ and ‘Weather’. The ‘Weather’ feature lets you select a location rather than directly giving out the weather based on your current location with the help of your GPS. There is a feature ‘Use Current Location’ below the search box which doesn’t work at all.
You can also send a ‘Letter to Editor’ which by default opens up your default email application to send your response to the editor’s email address. And you can also surf DNA’s mobile website through the application which just looks like an extension of their web based site without any modifications done for the mobile world. DNA could have pushed their mobile site to the front in the app for users to at least discover news through the app at the forefront, rather than hiding the option under the ‘Utilities’ section.
Does this AR concept really work?
As far as this app is concerned, it doesn’t! ‘DNA It’ still needs loads of improvement to be considered a great user experience. I cannot hold my mobile still and capture the logo in the paper all the time for it to show any additional information about the content. You cannot expect people to keep scanning your logo 10 times and get lucky once.
Mobile users have less patience and this app can’t afford to trigger it in the wrong direction. Also, the links for which the app did work didn’t offer that great digital content to discover (few extra DNA stories related to the scanned story). The application will have to work out some unique insights for the article each time, to surprise the user and make him come back for more. That for me is the biggest challenge for an AR based concept for a print publishing medium.
With many of the print publishers like TOI having launched Times Alive way before, this move by DNA seems to be more of a ‘Me Too’ strategy. But then you would have to ask – are there any real users for AR concept for publishers in India as yet?
Have you tried ‘DNA it’ on your smartphones yet? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.