The Big Issue launches first ever augmented reality street paper edition

As street papers across the world continue to grapple with our changing times – from finding the balance between online and print media, to the rise of cashless payments – The Big Issue is stepping into a whole new dimension with the release of an augmented reality-enhanced edition of the street paper.

Working in tandem with technology company Konica Minolta, this week’s (7-13 January) copy of the UK-based street paper will breathe life into the printed word using the innovative approach.

Using the GenARate app, readers will be able to scan pages, clearly marked with an AR icon, with their smartphone, transforming still images into video, triggering musical performances, giving voice to #ourvendors and their stories of experiencing homelessness, among other interactive features and exclusive content.

All editions of the magazine place special significance on the lives of vendors and the issue of homelessness in the UK. This first augmented reality (AR) issue is no different, but also fittingly focuses on using ‘Tech for Good’, or how technology can be utilised for the benefit of society, shining a spotlight on the groups and individuals leading the way in this area.

Among the most exciting content being given a futuristic twist in the magazine is a Cressida Cowell bedtime story read by Scottish actor, and former Doctor Who, David Tennant, as well as a musical performance from Andy Burrows, composer of The Snowman and The Snowdog. The cover features Big Issue vendor Ann who, thanks to the AR tech, will be given the chance to tell her story – a tale of how someone who is happy and in work, can be brought to the brink of disaster after a job loss – directly to those buying the magazine.

It is hoped that the implementation of AR in the publication, something which The Big Issue’s editorial team plan to make a bi-monthly feature, will ultimately improve the lives of vendors through increased sales thanks to the enriched content for readers.

The Big Issue’s digital editor, Ben Sullivan, has been at the forefront of developing this AR edition of the magazine.

He said: “As we continue to innovate and evolve in a digital society, we couldn’t be more excited to partner with Konica Minolta to offer an enhanced magazine for our readers and hardworking vendors.

“The ‘Tech for Good’ special not only shows the ways in which we’re pushing the boundaries of what print magazines can achieve, but also gives readers enhanced insights into the lives of our vendors, as their stories are brought into video and audio right in front of our readers’ eyes.”

Writing for The Big Issue’s website, Sullivan explains more about why this leap into the future for the street paper is so important: “Our very reason for existence – to support our vendors – has never been clearer. Universal Credit is knocking countless families across Britain into poverty, and the number of homeless people on our streets has been rising every year for almost a decade.

“But as always, there are seeds of hope, because with change comes opportunities to flourish in ways previously impossible. That’s what our augmented reality special is all about. On the streets now is living proof that hope can find a way through change; our message can adapt to whatever is thrown at us.”

The Big Issue’s augmented reality special edition is out now

For those able to purchase the magazine, download the GenARate app on the Apple App Store here. For those using Android, find the app here.

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