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In Pittsburgh, Augmented Reality Is Changing The Way Stories Are Told

Augmented Pittsburgh, a digital storytelling platform developed by Joe Zeff Design to help people more fully experience Pittsburgh through augmented reality, launches.

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Augmented reality blends virtual objects with the real world when viewed through a mobile phone. The technology was popularized by Pokémon Go, an augmented reality app that was downloaded more than 500 million times after its launch in 2016. Since then, augmented reality has evolved so that users no longer need to download an app, and can access experiences using QR codes, text messages and hyperlinks.

Pittsburghers awoke this morning to their first Augmented Pittsburgh experience, promoted on the front page of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. After readers scan a QR code, sportswriter Gerry Dulac appears on screen as if in the same room, small enough to stand on their breakfast table. His report on the Pittsburgh Steelers, delivered exclusively through augmented reality, is part of a new weekly series titled The Acrisure Fan Advantage that will run throughout the football season.

More activations are planned this fall. Augmented Pittsburgh will deploy QR codes throughout the city in partnership with POGOH, the citywide bikeshare program. Augmented reality experiences at 38 stations will help residents, visitors and college students better understand how to access the bicycles. A button at the bottom of the screen will help users download an app to purchase a membership or ride plan.

Later this year, a partnership with Comcast and the August Wilson African American Cultural Center will put Augmented Pittsburgh experiences inside Xfinity stores. QR codes on posters will unlock augmented reality experiences featuring Toni Murphy, Senior Vice President of Comcast’s Keystone Region, and Janis Burley Wilson, President/CEO of the AWAACC, to familiarize Xfinity customers with the AWAACC and the many ways Comcast supports communities throughout the region.

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Augmented Pittsburgh was conceived by Joe Zeff, president of Joe Zeff Design. The former Graphics Director of TIME magazine, Joe has been a pioneer in interactive storytelling, designing and developing some of the world’s first iPad apps and emerging as a leader in augmented reality.

“Augmented reality is an incredible way to tell stories,” said Zeff. “We can use QR codes or text messages to place a real person directly in front of you to tell you something you might not already know. We can showcase our amazing city by providing more ways for Pittsburghers to share their amazing stories.”

Since relocating from the New York City area last fall, Joe Zeff Design has partnered with several Pittsburgh companies and organizations to deploy augmented reality experiences. Last week, 70,622 fans at the nationally televised Pitt-West Virginia football game — the largest crowd ever to attend a Pittsburgh sporting event — were presented the opportunity to experience augmented reality by sending a text message to a phone number displayed on the scoreboard.

“Augmented reality is magical,” Zeff said. “We can bring posters and murals to life. We can put artists, singers and dancers on every street corner. We can take you inside buildings without ever leaving the sidewalk. We can deliver experiences anywhere and everywhere, to show people in Pittsburgh and around the world what makes this city special.”

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[To share your insights with us, please write to sghosh@martechseries.com] 

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