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Cronkite School Awarded NAB Grant to Bring Augmented Reality to Weather Reports

February 27, 2019

New Media Innovation and Entrepreneurship Lab Director Retha Hill presents "AR stories" during the 2019 PILOT Innovation Challenge in January 2019. (Photo courtesy of NAB PILOT Innovation Challenge).

The National Association of Broadcasters has invested in an innovative project at Arizona State University that will use augmented reality for television weather reports.

The experiment, called “AR Stories,” will give viewers enhanced weather reports either through broadcast television or smartphones.

“Broadcasters have been doing weather the same way for decades, and augmented reality gives us a new way of presenting important news, both on-air and online,” said Retha Hill, director of the New Media Innovation and Entrepreneurship Lab at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication. “Our first responsibility as news providers is giving people critical information when they need it and on whatever device they use regularly, and this project expands the tools we have available to tell people about extreme weather events on any device and through an app.”

Hill’s lab received a $15,000 NAB grant, supported by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, as part of its PILOT Innovation Challenge, an annual showcase featuring member organizations across the country that pioneer advances in news delivery, innovation and production.

A prototype of the project will be presented at the Broadcasters Education Association Conference April 8-11 in Las Vegas.

“AR Stories” could warn viewers about dangerous weather events and show the likely impact of pending storms. Using augmented reality to add visual elements, such as street signs, trees or vegetation, “AR Stories” could provide templates for television producers to use in their own weather reports.

For smartphone users, “AR Stories” could display weather patterns or show users how to prepare for floods and other significant weather events. Hill will work with Cronkite graduate students Austen Browne, Kara Carlson and Jade Yeban to develop the project. Cronkite staff who will contribute include Chief Technology Officer Ian MacSpadden, Knight Professor of Practice for TV News Innovation Frank Mungeam, and Information Systems Architect Hari Subramaniam.

The New Media Innovation and Entrepreneurship Lab is one of more than a dozen immersive professional programs at the Cronkite School, in which journalism students collaborate with computer engineering, design and business students to create cutting-edge digital media products for regional and national media companies and other organizations. The lab has built augmented reality prototypes about the spread of Valley Fever, the extinction of certain species of wolves, and the life of the late U.S. Sen. John McCain.

“The New Media Innovation and Entrepreneurship Lab continues to find new ways to provide people with critical news and information,” said Cronkite Dean Christopher Callahan. “We are proud of Retha’s leadership in pushing the limits of journalism.”

The NAB is the premier advocacy association for America's broadcasters. It advances radio and television interests in legislative, regulatory and public affairs. Through advocacy, education and innovation, NAB enables broadcasters to best serve their communities, strengthen their businesses and seize new opportunities in the digital age.