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AOL Launches RYOT Lab for Branded AR and VR Content, Debuts Sports Illustrated AR Experience (EXCLUSIVE)

AOL’s RYOT subsidiary officially unveiled a new group dedicated to branded augmented and virtual reality experiences Tuesday, which aims to push the envelope with technologies that reach as many people as possible. One of the first projects is an augmented reality experience for Time Inc., which lets pages of the this week’s issue of Sports Illustrated come to life.

Come Wednesday, readers of Sports Illustrated will be able to open the Life VR app and point it at specially marked pages of the magazine to unlock augmented reality content. “It will be able to bring that image to life,” said RYOT co-founder and CEO Bryn Mooser.

However, the app won’t use a printed QR code to simply open a web page with additional content, but instead use image recognition and Snapchat-like AR to enhance the experience. “It’s almost like the image is the QR code,” he said.

RYOT has been quietly experimenting with this technology with Elle and Cosmopolitan, and is now officially bringing it to Sports Illustrated, with the goal to eventually enhance other Time Inc. titles with augmented reality as well. “This is the first large-scale test of it.” said Mooser. “It can really bridge the divide between print and digital.”

The experience was developed by a bi-coastal team of six at RYOT Lab, with some technology help from Verizon Labs. Mooser said that it was important for RYOT to debut this kind of experience as part of an existing app, and not force people to download something they may never use again.

He also echoed some of Mark Zuckerberg’s remarks during Facebook’s recent f8 conference, where the Facebook founder pointed to the smart phone as the first major platform for augmented reality. “This is not putting our work in a Hololens, but in people’s phone,” said Mooser.

RYOT will continue to produce virtual reality content as well — the AOL subsidiary currently produces two shows for Hulu’s VR app, and is set to announce a new VR production at the Cannes festival next week. But Mooser said that he wanted to make sure that RYOT’s content won’t be just consumed at film festivals, which is why it was important to embrace technology people already have in their pockets. “AR reaches people,” he said.

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