Credit: Yusuf Omar (above) co-founder of Seen at Mojofest
“The whole world has realized that mobile journalism has become mainstream. Now we have to move on to the next thing. Spoiler alert: that next thing is augmented reality,” says Yusuf Omar, co-founder of Seen, Previously Hashtag Our storiesa first video media publication launched in 2017.
Omar was talking on the Journalism.co.uk podcast about his company’s recent rebrand. The new name comes from the publication’s mission to be a place for historically underrepresented communities.
Its unique business and editorial mission remains the same: to train local communities in the use of cutting-edge technologies so they can tell their own stories. The idea is to be a truly inclusive media company by passing the camera lens to community members, using a team of journalists to verify what is legitimate.
Only now we are talking about the camera lens in smart glasses.
It’s a type of wearable technology that lets you shoot through a built-in camera on a pair of glasses, getting a first-person perspective in your footage. The next iteration of the technology is augmented reality (AR) construction, so users can see real-world overlays.
Omar’s vision is a world where smart glasses can present information based on what the user is looking at. At a time when young people want colonial statues around the world to be taken down, augmented reality can provide the context behind the statues. Omar has also created an augmented reality app which, combined with smart glasses, helps Muslims understand the Quran.
These may all sound like innovative ideas, but Omar predicts that in eight years – by 2030 – it will be perfectly normal. And those who don’t dive could be left behind.
“If you don’t make those investments today, it’s going to be a tough curve to climb later, because this jump is bigger than any jump we’ve seen before. It’s a fundamental change, it’s a fundamental change radical, new companies will emerge that will be ready for this world based on the metaverse of overlaying stories on the real world.”
The lesson for any newsroom considering moving into the AR space is the same when it comes to weighing any other innovation; do your research on user habits and audience demands, review apps for your journalism, invest in technology and upskill your staff.
The future without a screen?
He is one of the biggest enthusiasts of augmented reality (AR). That’s understandable considering Snapchat invested $150,000 in its business through Snapchat’s startup accelerator, Yellow, in 2019. But is there more to it?
The Snap Consumer AR Global Report 2021, published by Deloitte and Snap, looked at responses from 15,000 consumers in 15 countries. According to this study, three out of four people expect to be avid AR users in the next three years.
This same study suggests that two-thirds of users will use AR primarily at home, primarily for communication but also for shopping, gaming, entertainment – and most importantly – media consumption.
The @weareseen_ crew @mojofestival a computer on your face by 2030 @YusufOmarSA @snap_sumaiya @CharMaher @biancaborissova @GlenBMulcahy @CScottVideo @mediaprodshow #mojofest pic.twitter.com/8WjIX445nr
— Mal McCann (@MalMccann) May 11, 2022
Omar says existing forms of media all require a screen interface or qwerty keyboard for input, but the adoption of QR codes is an early sign that the camera lens will eventually become the primary input to the technology.
“The camera will really be how you do everything. How you pay for things, how you add friends – we’re going to be moving away from the keyboard and that’s a good thing.”
Spend time on Snapchat and you’ll see users having fun with face filters. It may seem like a gimmick now, but it will eventually become a utility, he adds, predicting that the camera lens could one day be how people pull directions or check the weather forecast.
“That’s how things tend to be. When the internet came, it certainly wasn’t used for what it is today. When mobile phones came, they weren’t used for what they are today. Eventually, AR will go from novelty to absolute mainstream.”
‘You are not Seen nothing yet’
Seen, however, currently focuses on podcasts as a way for audiences to access content on the go. The growing daily use of AR will likely be associated with people being plugged into headphones, Omar says. He thinks artificial intelligence will make recommended listening much more sophisticated in the future, suggesting different shows based on location or activity, i.e. a different show when you’re on the go. to run, to the supermarket or on the way to work.
“The future of audio is incredibly bright because the reality is that while I’m obsessed with this wearable future, and I believe we’ll all have wearable glasses, I also don’t want a casino on my face. I don’t want to see screens all the time. But I don’t mind consuming a lot more audio. That’s why we’re going to make big investments in the audio space.
Seen will launch a podcast tentatively named Understood in the coming weeks, leveraging its huge catalog of interviews and stories.
He publishes around 1,000 videos a year and the team has had great success in social video journalism in recent years. On Snapchat, its main platform, the main account has 1.62 million followers. There are eight other verticals including Seen Money, Seen Health, Seen Sex Ed, Seen India. All of these series are led by voluntary contributors made possible through the provision of free training and toolkits, or paid for by NGOs or embassies.
Training and workshops will remain central to its business model, but there are other ways to Seen to make money, such as through syndicated and licensed content for the likes of NBC-LXbranded content for NGOs and paid time slots.
Here to stay will be its focus on educational content. Prior to publication, all stories are reviewed to ensure they contain what Seen calls a ‘TIL element (today I learned)’. Seen also wants to focus on solution journalism stories, or at least stories that offer a constructive narrative about what societies can do to solve big global problems, especially climate change.
Rejoin the Journalism.co.uk news channel on Telegram to receive news and updates straight to your phone every week
Free daily newsletter
If you like our news and feature articles, you can sign up to receive our free daily (Monday-Friday) email newsletter (mobile friendly).