Election Day is like the Super Bowl for network and cable TV news, so ABC News is breaking out the big guns with a new augmented reality experience to win over eyeballs of viewers.
With all 435 seats in the House of Representatives, 35 seats in the Senate, and 36 governor offices in contest, ABC News designed a new augmented reality news set in order to visual the data viewers crave on Election Day.
"There's great potential for creative, interactive storytelling to help the viewer better understand complex information," said ABC News Director of Graphics Operations Tamar Gargle and Creative Director Hal Aronow-Theil in a statement.
ABC News tapped graphics and creative consultants Astucemedia to design the AR experience, with Vizrt providing the graphics engines and tracking and Mo-Sys supplying the camera tracking system. The latter two vendors were also involved in the AR experience for Around the Horn on ABC's sister network, ESPN.
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The set has been in the works for about a year now, with up to 1,000 hours of data testing, six months of designing and building, and seven days for load-in. The midterm elections graphics are made up of about 36,000 lines of code with more than 1,000 markers embedded on set to track 3D content, such as a model of the US Capitol and the seats in the respective chambers and the latest results. Anchors will be able to activate AR content live during broadcast via touch screen displays.
"There is a web of tracking markers, essentially reflective stickers, that have been applied to the lighting grid and the set pieces that are in the ceiling. The tracking system uses those markers in conjunction with sensors attached to the cameras to calculate where the camera is in 'space'. This data is sent to our graphics system, which maps the graphics to the proper place in 'real' space so it appears that the graphic is in the room," said Gargle.
This isn't the first AR experience produced by ABC News. Earlier this year, the network also employed AR content for a medical story. For the British royal wedding in May, ABC News produced an AR experience for its mobile app that enabled users to place a virtual wedding carriage in their physical environment.
Augmented reality is gaining popularity among broadcasters. One of the technology's staunchest proponents is The Weather Channel, whose latest example immersed a reporter in a virtual wildfire. TNT's Inside the NBA has also employed the technology in its broadcasts.
In an era where pay TV subscriptions are on a steep decline, competition among broadcasters becomes more fierce, and augmented reality offers an opportunity for to attract more viewers, particularly for an event where interest is at its peak.